Surprising lessons from an extreme home office makeover expert
by Alina Larson — Posted on Jul 15, 2010
When I heard that home organizer Leslie Jacobs would be featured in Guideposts magazine, my first thought was: That’s what I need: a professional.
I wasn’t always so disorganized. But the uses of my home office had grown over the past few years; my organization of it had not.
My husband Tom uses the computer for his job at an advertising agency, and it’s a place where he pays bills and does our taxes. We have a four-year-old son, Luke, and the office has become a repository for memos about school activities, brochures about fun classes and his artwork—piles of mementos of his life. As for me, the office was where I’d stash mail; read catalogues; write articles; pay bills; and toss ads for upcoming plays, concerts, seminars and vacation ideas.
In the past six months the mess had gotten out of control. I’d been late with a few bills; I missed a seminar about Luke’s school; and Tom and I spent hours one night searching for an important receipt. Disorganization was costing us time, money and peace of mind.
So when Leslie offered to help me I was thrilled. Since she lives in Connecticut and I live in New York City, this powerhouse of an organizer had to channel her talent through the web. I emailed her photos of my disarray and she responded with tips and product ideas. After two weeks tossing, sorting, filing and labeling, I finally got to meet Leslie in person for her final tweaks.
The result? It’s actually a pleasure to do work! Our home office is now neat and inviting, and I know where everything is.
Here are 5 practical things you can do to transform your study or home office.
1. Be prepared.
That’s going to mean going through stacks of papers and making decisions about what to toss and what to keep and file. When you’ve organized categories of things—bills, catalogues, artwork--you can then begin to think about what organizational supplies you may need.
Also, before you go to the big box department store or Container Store, be sure to measure—your drawers, desk, wall space, shelf depth—before you buy.
2. Put everything in its place.
My disorganization starts right at the front door. The mail piles up alongside sunglasses and keys. Leslie suggested a wall pocket, where I could easily separate mail and save space.
Then it was time to move things around on my desk so that things that I needed on a daily basis were close by, while things I used weekly or monthly could be put up on shelves or in file cabinets.
Putting reminders and coupons up on a cork board with the calendar has made a huge difference because now those things are literally in my face as I walk by.
3. Label it.
I was skeptical about the necessity of a label maker, but I’m now a believer. There is something about seeing your files with that perfect, uniform font that makes you feel secure and motivated to stay organized.
4. Find a home for everything.
When your stuff, properly sorted, is in its rightful spot, all feels right with the world. My son’s artwork has a box, as do all our chargers.
The stuff that needs to be dealt with each week, is within easy reach, neatly filed and sorted.
That huge tangle of cords from the computer and printer under the desk? Wrapped up in this cool little device.
Our phones and cameras that used to mysteriously disappear each morning now have a comfortable docking home.
5. Reuse, Reduce, Recycle.
When you purge, whether it’s paperwork, socks with no match, old Chapstick or rubber bands, you’ll end up with containers. Bowls, baskets, trays, even a napkin holder can be re-purposed. For me, a little basket once filled with loose change became a great spot to stash business cards.
Getting organized really has created a positive change in my life. Instead of spending time stressed while I search for something, I now spend a calm 15 minutes a day sorting mail, filing, and reviewing my to-do list. No more late fees or apologies for forgetting an appointment. Who knew an Extreme Home Office Make-over would make over me!
Watch Leslie Jacobs help Alina Larson organize her home office.
Read more organizing tips from Leslie Jacobs!