While working remotely, you may be the type who prefers to work from coffee shops, coworking spaces, or perhaps even more unconventional locations. I’d be willing to bet, though, that you have a home office space set aside for those times you’d prefer privacy over social interaction. Answering a client’s call or going head-down on a tight turnaround project can be a lot more comfortable when done from an environment of your own design and, ultimately, within your control.
If said environment is littered with papers and odds and ends—and if you often find yourself wasting time hunting for things—it’s probably time to pay it some attention.
So when it comes to spring cleaning, don’t neglect your home office. Establishing and maintaining a clean, organized, and uncluttered workspace will do wonders for your peace of mind and your ability to get work done. This includes your physical office as well as your laptop’s many files, too.
Here are seven tried-and-true steps for bringing order out of home office chaos:
Stand back and survey your space. Notice where items are stored, and also where they have migrated while in use. Take stock of what gets in the way versus what you’re often reaching for. Identify wires to be rerouted or tech that belongs here.
Think about what you wished you had but currently don’t. Acknowledge what might be better placed in another room, or what items first need to be tested (pens, dry erase markers, etc.) in order to determine if they’re worth keeping.
Start with what occupies your desk and any drawers. Be swift and ruthless. Hang onto physical documents only if it’s absolutely necessary; otherwise, take photos of them for your records and place them in a tossing pile.
The earring backs, stray caps, and random pennies can be returned to their rightful match or location, or they, too, can be tossed. (Whatever you decide to hang onto will be organized later.) Aim for growing any empty space; it frees up room for your mind.
Toss the items from your pile of discards into the garbage or set them aside for recycling or donation.
Important: do not leave the non-trash items sitting in your office for weeks on end. Make immediate plans to rid yourself of them so that the purge is complete. This stage is liberating. You’ll truly feel as if a physical weight has been lifted from your shoulders, and you will be even more content if some of it went to charity.
Gather the necessary cleaning supplies for surfaces, including window cleaner and dusting wax, along with cloths or paper towels. Before spraying anything, open the windows to allow fresh air into your space even if it’s a cooler day.
Then go to town wiping away the dirt, dust, and coffee rings that have accumulated over time. Thoroughness is key here; leave no paperweight or knickknack unturned!
Sort items into specific categories based on functionality. Separate those that you use daily from those that are accessed weekly, or are sought out only on rare occasions.
Think of your desk as being within your personal orbit; place the materials you most frequently use within arm’s reach from where you sit or stand. The rest can be located much further afield—in drawers, on shelves, or in bookcases.
Question why certain things stay in the same place. Is there nowhere else they’d fit, or no spot that’s better suited?
This stage is especially helpful with regard to your laptop; examine your folder hierarchy (or lack thereof) and institute deliberate changes. Rename files so that they fall into chronological order and more accurately describe their contents. Test out your new virtual or physical desk organization to gauge whether or not it’ll work for you in the longer term.
Commit to preserving your newly organized and clean workspace. Be conscientious of what new items you bring into your home office, and think carefully about their placement. Take the time to clean up small messes or toss unneeded mail or paperwork before it begins to pile up. This ongoing attention will save you time, and will enable you to continue working in an environment conducive to greater productivity and mental concentration.