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Organizing Your Home Office

© 1999, by Lisa M. Roberts

As I spend this morning gathering material together for this issue of EPnews (and wondering what I'm going to write about this week), I have been engaged in a battle of sorts. My whole body has been involved in the struggle -- my feet are kicking things, my fists are crumbling things, my arms are shoving things, my waist keeps bending over, my legs keep pushing my chair backward to re-strategize, and my face periodically contorts in little fits of anger, frustration, impatience and infinite procastination.

What's all the fuss been about? You guessed it -- my waste basket is overflowing and paper keeps leaping out, attacking both my feet and my concentration! I know all I have to do is find a huge bag that could fit this unwieldy mass of POB junk mail, pre-school crayon doodles, printer casualties, and used email print-outs and toss it all in the recycling pile in the garage, but the morning goes by and it just doesn't happen. Meanwhile, as I kick around the used paper under my desk, there's more denial going on in plain view. While I do keep a handy accordian folder on
EP on top of my desk (with files like: EP Expert Questions, EP Idea Folder, EP Contacts, EP Links, EP Volunteers, etc.), I am crowded by five stacks of paper as I type that yet need to be processed.
In striking contrast, behind me is my husband's side of the office, neat as a pin. Granted I don't know what his desk in "corporate America" looks like, but my guess is it doesn't look like mine!
Luckily, life has a way of working with you sometimes. The moment I realized that this was the topic I wanted to cover in this week's "EP Times" was the moment I remembered that one of our original EPs, Debbie Williams of "Let's Get It Together," is being featured in our "We Recommend" column this issue. Debbie specializes in offering home organizing and time management skills for busy parents and is sponsoring her first ever Online Organizing Expo in less than two weeks away. Debbie was happy to come to my aid -- and any other disorganized procastrinators like me who are determined to avoid, tackle and finally beat office clutter once and for all. Her advice follows:
To keep your home office clutter free, provide a dedicated place for everything:
  • Store hanging folders in file cabinets or in portable crates under the desk.
  • Purchase stackable bins for processing paperwork.
  • Purchase a drawer divider for stationery and desk supplies.
  • Utilize a master calendar or wipe off board for coordinating special projects.
  • Clip or scan articles, and file in a folder for reading at a later date.
  • Maintain a workable follow up system with an index card file or accordion file. The dividers are numbered 1-30, and documents (or note cards) are filed on the appropriate day of the month for future action.
  • Now that you've set up your personal space, take just a few minutes a day to preserve it:
  • Write your "to do list" for tomorrow.
  • Straighten your desk before you leave the office.
  • Purge your files on a consistent basis.
  • Begin each day with a clear desk and a clear mind, and find renewed fervor in the work that brought you here in the first place.
If you, like me, feel like you've been in the boxing ring with the paper opponent one round too often, try following the above tips. And some time soon, let's think about scheduling a monthly "EP Office Clean-up Day" -- one morning a month that all members of the EP Community commit to cleaning up their home office. What do you say? Should we host an "EP Office Clean-up Day"? Mailto: [email protected] with your vote...!

Lisa Roberts is the mother of four, owner of The Entrepreneurial Parent, LLC and the author of How to Raise A Family & A Career Under One Roof: A Parent's Guide to Home Business (Bookhaven Press, 1997). Copies of her book are available for purchase at EP and through Amazon.

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