Want a Clutter-Free Office? Start By Asking These 8 Questions

Those gold scissors might have to go.

Home Office with blue wall with decorative moldings

Somyot Techapuwapat/Getty Images

With more people working from home or following a hybrid work schedule, a tidy home office is more important than ever. Even if yours is a bedroom corner or a caddy you tote from room to room, it should be streamlined for optimal function. Not sure where to start? Begin by asking these eight questions—they will guide you through the office organization process step-by-step.

Ask Yourself...

What do I actually need to do in my home office?

Make a list of your assigned job duties as well as your regular household-management tasks. If you share the space with someone else, add those needs to your list. Use this list as your guide as you refine your work space.

What surrounds me?

Sit or stand in your main work spot. Extend your arms out to both sides and rotate like the hands of a clock. Relocate anything within this zone that you don’t use daily. Further prioritize the zone between 10 and 2 by stocking this area only with absolute essentials. Add shelves, hooks, cubbies, and bulletin boards to tap into any unused space. Dedicate a basket, drawer, cabinet, or closet (not necessarily in the same space as your workstation) for extras and infrequently used items.

Surrounded by sticky notes? A work space awash in stickies is distracting, so schedule a reminder to tame yours for 10 minutes every week. Touch every note in your office and ask whether you still need to keep it.

Does it work?

Every item in your office must work. Test every writing implement and electronic gadget/component. Toss (never donate) dull scissors or a broken stapler. Furthermore, a desk isn’t about display; winnow to one or two personal items and move the rest of your tchotchkes to shelves or display ledges.

Do I need more than one?

Office supplies are almost always sold in multiples or include refills. You need only one filled tape dispenser, stapler, etc. at your desk. Multiples can go into an office supply drawer or cabinet elsewhere in the room.

Is there an app for that?

Scanners, faxes, elaborate file cabinets, calculators, and business card organizers are just a few pieces of office equipment that can be replaced with a free or inexpensive app.

Short-term or long-term?

The quickest way to cut through piled home office papers is to sort into short-term (bills, invitations, events, assignments) and long-term (financial reports; insurance, medical, household, vehicle statements). Organize short-term papers with vertical solutions (a bulletin board above your desk, wall pockets) and long-term papers with horizontal ones (sorting trays, a file box, or a file cabinet with hanging folders).

Can I minimize cord chaos?

Take five minutes to untangle every cord. Dust them (you know they need it!). Label them at both ends with an adhesive label folded over on itself. Bundle excess cords with hair ties or a strip of hook-and-loop tape.

Do I even need a file cabinet anymore?

Maybe not. A set of high-quality file boxes, sturdy enough for stacking, may take care of your paper filing needs. Try professional organizer and owner of Organized Joy Kate Martin’s filing challenge and see what happens: “Sort the documents you need to reference by month, not type, in 12 folders you keep on or near your desk. Review folder contents at the end of the year. Most items can be shredded before heading into your official file cabinet."

From the Pros:

“Limit the number of desktop items to just those you use on a daily basis. That pair of gold scissors may look nice, but may be taking up some valuable real estate. The less cluttered your work space, the less distracted you’ll be, and the more productive you’ll become!”
— Kay Patterson, Professional Organizer

"If you have an overabundance of notebooks and journals, look through them, decide the style you prefer, then purge all other styles immediately. Keep an extra on hand, but you don’t need a bookstore-level inventory of notebooks in your home office.”
—Tanisha Lyons-Porter, Professional Organizer

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles