The new year is a perfect opportunity to take stock of the items in your home office and clear out some space to grow your business. However, lots of entrepreneurs don’t know where to start when it comes to decluttering a home office.
If you’re looking to declutter your home office in 2020, here are 10 actionable tips to help you along that journey.
How to Declutter Your Home Office
Go Through Section By Section
Decluttering your entire office at once can seem a bit intimidating. But you can get a lot done over time if you just do one area at a time. For example, you might start with just your desk top, drawers, or filing cabinet. But make a list of every section so you can cross them off as you go.
Kelly Jones, owner of The Cleaning Girl, Inc. said in a phone interview with Small Business Trends, “Pick a section and start with just one area. Then you can work your way around the room, top to bottom, left to right and really dig into that section to figure out what you need to keep and what you can do away with.”
Only Keep Essentials
It’s easy for documents and random supplies to build up over time. It’s also easy to think you should hold onto things “just in case.” However, the likelihood that you’ll need that paper from two years ago is pretty low. So try to just hold onto things you’re actually working on or anything that you may need for compliance reasons. You can always scan other items to keep digital copies just in case you need them.
Make Use of Tech Options
In fact, there are plenty of tech tools you can use to reduce clutter in your home office going forward. Sign up for a cloud storage service to back up documents so you don’t need to keep as many hard copies around. You can also use collaboration and project management tools like G Suite and Asana to manage communication with team members and clients, which can ultimately eliminate the need for you to keep as many physical items around your home office.
Sort Things into Categories
Once you’ve gotten rid of the things that are not essential, it’s time for you to find homes for everything. This means you need to sort them into categories that make sense to you. There isn’t just one right way to do this; it all depends on how you operate your business.
Jones says, “We have this system I call the ‘Seven Systems of Success.’ It’s a perfect way to organize my brain and keep track and remember all the different areas of the business. And if I ever need to tell anyone about it, it’s really easy to understand.”
For your business, you might have different sections for each of your main clients or sort things between areas like marketing and finance. If you’re not sure where to start, start going through your items and make note of the things that most of them have in common.
Create a System for Storing Physical Files
Once you know the scope of how many items you need to store, you can start looking for a filing cabinet or physical place to keep all of them so that they’re out of the way but still accessible when you need them. It doesn’t need to be a full piece of furniture if you don’t have a ton of documents. You might just use a few folders in a desk drawer or an organizer that hangs from the back of your door. Just make sure that whatever you choose has enough room to house the sections you’ve sorted your items into.
Jones says, “You definitely need a storage system, even if you’re a minimalist. You should use the cloud to back up important files, but you still need a place to store those things that need to be there for day-to-day access.”
To help you find things when you need them, you need to clearly label everything. Make sure it’s easy to read and see from your workspace. You might even color code things if you tend to make strong color associations.
Keep an Outbox on Your Desk for Urgent Items
No matter how organized the majority of your files and supplies are, you’ll be constantly getting new things that need your attention right away. And it doesn’t always make sense to sort those things right away, especially if you need to be reminded to address them. For those items, Jones recommends keeping a small basket or tray out on your desk or somewhere that’s very visible from your workspace. Then you always know what needs your attention right away and continuously work through those items to get to the bottom of the pile.
Keep Style in Mind
Whether you’re picking out a tray for your desk or a filing cabinet for your larger storage needs, both form and function are important. You already know that it’s important to get something that can actually hold all of what you need to store. But opting for something that you actually like the look of can give you the motivation needed to keep your space clean.
Jones says, “Find something cute so you actually want to clear it out and keep your desk looking organized and free of clutter.”
Schedule Days to Keep Up
Once you get everything organized, you need to actually keep up with it. Jones says she usually sets aside a day about once a month to go through the items on her desk and in her files to continue keeping everything organized.