Vicki  Norris

Article Summary:

Home office organizing tips for self-employed people.

Home Office Organizing

Self-employed professionals usually run their businesses and their homes out of the same office space. This convergence of the personal and professional life in one space can cause disorder for even the most conscientious.

I recommend the following strategies for the self-employed to create and maintain order: 

1. Invest in adequate furniture
Often, those running home-based businesses or tele-commuting just patch together a home office, rather than investing in the appropriate furniture. Every office needs a clear work area, space for peripheral equipment and computer hardware, a spot for reference materials, file space, and a location for frequently referenced supplies and paper.

  2. Properly place hardware and peripherals
Once the right furniture is purchased and put in place, place peripherals and hardware by frequency of use. If the printer is used daily, it should be within reach. If the CPU is only accessed for troubleshooting, it can be placed under, or next to, the desk. If a scanner is rarely used, it can be placed outside the work area. Sometimes peripherals can only be located as far away as cords allow. When setting up hardware, be conscious of access to drives, trays, and cords. Do not block access to drawers or leg room with tangled cords. 

3. Establish centers
The efficient office is zoned into activity areas: the work center (usually the desktop), the reference center, and the supply center. The work center should include clear work space, the computer, and accessible office supplies. The items in the reference center will vary from person to person, but usually includes binders, manuals, dictionary, and professional books and materials. Reference materials are commonly stored on bookshelves or in cabinets. A supply center could contain office and paper supplies inside a cabinet, or within a bank of drawers. 

4. Make paper work for you

Multi-tasking is the name of the game for self-employed professionals. This often results in a desktop piled high with paper. In order to clear the desktop for ample work space, some key paper management systems must be established to tame the paper pile-up and allow the professional to work on one thing at a time. The successful professional needs to process actionable paper, store projects (like client or administrative matters), and access a permanent filing system built around their specific job and needs. Without proper paper management systems, the self-employed will struggle in a sea of confusion, ill-equipped to capture information and documents. 

5. Consolidate calendars
The family calendar, the PC calendar, the PDA, and the paper planner all hold various appointments and events. The savvy professional will choose one calendar system, and consolidate personal and business items. This way, no events "fall through the cracks," and all commitments can be viewed simultaneously. 

6. Carry in the car only what is necessary
Some professionals find that their office is morphing into their car. They haul around files and materials, but find that they rarely use what they transport. Once effective office systems are established, paper, reference material, and supplies will find "homes." These items can be removed from the car, and stored in their appropriate home. Using a simple, consolidated calendar system, the professional can now plan ahead for appointments, and bring with them only the necessary files and materials. This approach also eliminates searching for things between office and vehicle.

Vicki Norris is a dynamic entrepreneur, speaker, television personality, and author who helps people live out their priorities. The founder and president of Restoring Order®, an organizing services and products company, Norris teaches others how to identify priorities and create change in personal organizational habits. For more information, visit

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