News Column

How to Organize Your Home Office

November 12, 2013

Linda A. Thompson-Ditch Special to The Capital-Journal

hispanic businesswoman

In the black-and-white television shows of the 1950s and '60s, the home office was called the den. It was also a man's domain, with lots of leather, wood and books -- more of a refuge from the family than a necessity. However, with the demands of today's modern lifestyle, a home office needs to be an efficient work space for the entire family, accented with the comforts of home.

Designer Leslie Hunsicker helped create two home offices for Mark and Sharon Boranyak. Mark's features Stickley furniture in deep cherry wood with Tiffany-style desk and floor lamps. Sharon's office also features a cherry desk, credenza and tall cabinet with double doors to hide the fax machine and office supplies. Some of the couple's favorite artwork and photos adorn the walls in both spaces.

"What I like most about my office is the view of the woods through the large double windows above my desk and computer," Sharon wrote in an email. She runs her own freelance writing and editing business. "The space is quiet, which is ideal. The type of work I do requires intense concentration. I also like having all of the desk- top space. Between my paid work and volunteer work, I need plenty of space for all my stacks of projects."

To get started, the first step is to consider who is using the office and why. Professional organizer Patty Hoyt, of Abundance Organizing in Olathe, said, "It may seem that an office is just an office, but it can have many functions: employment space, bill paying, homework space, craft area. Being clear on what you use the space for and who will use it, are keys to making a space work for you."

Rebecca Miller, professional organizer and owner of Space for Life in Topeka, noted, "If more than one person will be using it, you may need more than one workspace and different types of storage. If you are running a business or working at home, you may need to be able to shut a door or find a way to ensure privacy for phone calls and concentration. You may also need to consider data and document security for sensitive information."

The creation of a home office is a project do-it-yourselfers can tackle with relative ease. Plus, the new space doesn't have to cost a lot. Re-using existing furniture in a new way turns your whole house into a furniture showroom. A desk can be as simple as placing a laminate countertop on two inexpensive file cabinets. Plus online sites such as Craigslist, or local flea markets and garage sales, are also great resources for furniture, storage and design elements (wall hangings, lamps, file cabinets, etc.)

Once it is ascertained who will use the space and why, next are some key design elements to consider:

- How do you work? Sometimes the more traditional office furniture doesn't fit with a person's work style. Hoyt noted some people need to move, which makes sitting for a long time difficult. They will need more open space. "You will also want excuses to get up! So, don't put your printer right next to your desk. Put it on the other side of the room so you can get up to get printing," she said.

- What tools are necessary? Topeka professional organizer Rhonda Cathey, of Love Your Space, said, "If you are paying bills, have a calculator, stamps, return address labels, envelopes and pens gathered together. Keep your address book and greeting cards handy. A stapler, post it notes and paperclips are all part of setting up the office space work zone. Having all the supplies nearby will make the tasks less frustrating and make better use of your time."

- Storage: What type of storage is necessary? Do you have a lot of files? What resources, such as books and magazines, will be stored in the space? Hoyt noted the type of storage often depends on the working style. "Let's say you are what organizers call 'Oosoom' (out of sight out of mind)," she said. "Storing paperwork in closed filing cabinets won't work for you. Try open baskets with color coded files for paper you access regularly and bulletin boards for visual reminders."

The most common storage is the file cabinet, but there are other options. Cathey suggested file box systems that fit on shelves, or pieces of furniture, such as ottomans or cedar chests, that are designed to hide files. "Some homeowners find that notebooks serve as a good filing system," she added.

- Electronics and office equipment: With the advent of wireless computers and all-in-one printers, it is now possible to store some of these items out of sight. Also, don't forget a shredder. It is important to safely dispose of papers that contain account or social security numbers.

- Style and comfort: Though an efficient work space is important, style and comfort can make getting the job done more enjoyable. Miller said, "Regardless of who is using the office and why, do your best to make it comfortable and enjoyable. Good lighting and comfortable seating are keys. Make your desktop and storage work for you, and don't forget to use shelves on empty wall space! Paint your walls a color that you like."

Once the home office is set up, the task becomes keeping it organized and functional. Cathey said, "Whatever system you choose, the papers aren't going to magically file themselves. The real key is allowing 20 minutes once a week to file, purge and shred the barrage of paper that comes into our homes every week."

Hoyt offered a system to keep things tidy. "If you use it everyday, keep it on you desk. If you use it every week, keep it in your desk. If you use it once per month, keep it in the office but away from your desk. If you use it less than once per month, store it elsewhere."

(c) 2013 ProQuest Information and Learning Company; All Rights Reserved.

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Source: (c) 2013 ProQuest Information and Learning Company; All Rights Reserved.

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