Organizing a home office can be a more taxing job than one expects since most office-related belongings, such as files, papers, receipts, and the like, take a long time to sort, read, categorize, or shred. Additionally, designing your office space to operate effectively and efficiently involves careful planning, which also takes time. One of the hardest parts of organizing a home office is determining where to start. The following list of organizational steps is designed to guide you through the home office organizational process. The best place to begin is organizing your paperwork.
Organize Your Paperwork
Paper proposals, receipts, invoices, schedules, and so on are typically the most important articles in a home office but are challenging to successfully organize. Realize that plenty of time is wasted searching for a piece of paper in disorganization. Money is lost when late fees are accrued due to overlooked bills that were simply misfiled or lost. Neglectful paper management also can lead to identity theft. Therefore, properly organizing your paperwork is the key to saving time, money, and aggravation.
All kinds of papers tend to scatter throughout a home. When you organize a home office, it’s important to hunt for all papers around the home that are not currently in a file or organizer. Often, desks, shelves, hutches, credenzas, and sometimes floors are overtaken by piles of papers. Once you tame paper piles at the start—by incorporating a well-managed filing system—you can prevent them from sprouting again. Then, once the floor, desk, and counters are clear of paper, everything else is easier to organize.
As you gather your papers, quickly glance over them and put aside those that need immediate attention, like bills. Likewise, a paper that is clearly trash should go in another pile. It’s important to move papers that can easily be recreated online to the trash pile. After you have collected all your important papers, unfold them and press out creased corners so they stack neatly.
Get into the habit of filing everything—or at least the important documents—in two different digital formats, such as online storage and an external hard drive backup. All hard-to-replace legal documents should be digitally scanned. Consider using a write-once Blu-ray recordable optical disc, which can last up to 150 years. An optical disc is a physical storage that can be secured in a fireproof safe. Then incorporate a digital storage solution since no one storage plan can offer a 100 percent guarantee for the safety of your data.
This also makes it easier to discard useless papers. Successful sorting means attending to urgent things (like bills) while systematically discarding overwhelming junk. The trash pile should be shredded since you may have overlooked some paper with confidential information. Shredding should be done with a crosscut blade shredder, thus making it impossible to put a piece of paper back together. Personal information is being hunted, so be diligent about destroying yours.
All other papers that need further sorting can then be turned into manageable, medium-size stacks and bound with a binder clip to stay put. Next, determine a place to sort these papers. Large amounts of paper will need a big, flat surface to spread out, like a dining room table or another uninterrupted space.
Create Appropriate Files
Begin sorting papers into general piles, which is less overwhelming than trying to make specific classifications right away. Use broad categories, such as bills, auto, receipts, warranties, doctors, and so on, to get the ball rolling.
Next, further, break down the general classifications into subcategories. When forming these categories, keep them specific enough so they remain exclusive. For instance, just creating an “automobile” file is too general if your household has three cars and the separate insurance paperwork could all wind up in the same folder. Chances are when your categories are too vague, you’ll wind up with catchall folders that promote misplaced or forgotten papers.
It’s best to arrange folders by creating a logical main header file that groups a series of related folders. Therefore, the main subject or umbrella term would encompass several subcategories. For example, a header classification name like insurance would have many subcategory folders that might include: medical, dental, or homeowner’s insurance.
When managing many individual client/ business jobs or household projects, it’s best to file them individually. Don’t categorize them by creating folders pertaining to particulars, such as the project or job’s contractors, presentations, spreadsheets, quotes, drawings, graphics, and so on; this makes it more cumbersome to pinpoint specific paperwork. In these cases, it’s best to create a general classification, such as “business jobs” and subcategory folders for each client, which can then be filed alphabetically.
It’s common for people to create files but not sort and organize the paperwork first. Or they decide that any new paperwork that comes along needs a separate file instead of checking with what files already exist. However, inventing categories with these approaches may generate duplicates, and overall system logic is jeopardized. Before you place papers into their final destination folders, start with piles of papers that are already broken down into their furthest possible point for optimal file accuracy. It’s best to set up your file system so the general header classification clearly stands out from the subcategories. All paper organizational file systems on the market are capable of accomplishing this goal.
A good way to make file folders easy to locate is by using different colors of file folders for each subject matter. For example, green file folders could hold investment documents. Color coding files easily leads the eye to the correct file, because of the mind associates color quicker than black and white. Most office supply stores carry color-coded hanging file system kits. Arrange labeling tabs in a uniform row, positioned on the left side of the folder to make searching easier; it can be harder to scan for a particular file when the tabs are staggered. Using file labels printed from a label maker is often easier to read than most handwriting.
The hardest part about organizing paperwork is choosing the right classifications for the different subjects. The following are common household paperwork categories.
- All bank accounts and investments documentation and statements
- ATM receipts; store withdrawal and deposit slips separately in a file box
- Mortgage and other loan documents
- Ownership investments like stocks, businesses, real estate, and precious objects
Bills and Papers Involving Credits or Monies Owed
- Claims awaiting payment
- Invoice statements
- Designer contact information
- Fabric, furniture, and accessory stores/ websites contact information
- Magazine clippings of decorated rooms
- Room drawings/sketches
Entertainment and Travel
- Airline information and travel agent contacts
- Destination literature and vacation specials and rates
- Dining guides and restaurant brochures
- Sports fields, maps, and game schedules
- Theaters, concerts, comedy clubs, shows, and ticket brokers
- Landscape design drawings and ideas
- Magazine subscription information
High-Ticket Items: Individual
Folders for Each Product
- All product warranty paperwork can be attached to the original receipt
- Authenticity documents/appraisals
- Store product directions, manuals, and service center information
- Repairs and service agreements
- Service center numbers
- Warranties and manuals Home Maintenance
Contractor receipts and service agreements
- Lists of contractors
- Snowplow and landscaper service information
- Adoption and custody papers
- All titles or deeds
- Birth, death, marriage, and divorce certificates
- Certificates of US naturalization, green card, passports
- Military documents: ID cards (copies) and discharge papers
- Social security cards, copy of driver’s license or state ID, and passwords/PIN #s
- Trusts, wills, and burial and medical instructions
- Vehicle registrations
Medical and Dental
- Dental records
- Medical records/allergies/DNA swabs/ record of immunizations
- Medication directions
- Club handbooks, memberships, passes, and rosters
- Pro shops, uniform stores, trainers, and class schedules
- Medical records
- Ownership paper
- Veterinarian and animal hospital contact information
Retirement and Pension Plans
- 401K, IRAs, and annuities
- Employer/union/government pension plans
- Scheduling: Use This File to Record or Check Your Calendars
Concerts/plays/shows information and tickets
- Copies of work, school, sport, and activity schedules
- Invitations: always respond immediately and then file
- Special events: information on events like seminars, workshops, etc.
Schools: All Schools or Students Have Their Own Folders
- Placement information and special program literature
- School transcripts, parent handbooks, diplomas, and curriculum guides
- Magazine clippings and ads for items intended to purchase
- Product brochures/pamphlets
- Wish lists
- Employment, self-employment and income papers, and homeowner and rental data
- Financial assets and liabilities, automobile deductible expense, deductibles
- Personal record