How to cut the clutter from your home office desk

Do you struggle to get in the zone when attending to life or business admin at home?

Is it because the paperwork in your home office is piled way too high and out of control? Being productive when you’re surrounded by mess can be a difficult feat to achieve, even for the most diligent worker.

We spoke to Robyn Amott, expert organizer and productivity coach for Bless This Mess, to ask for her top tips on how to bring more productivity back into your life at home.

1. Get a system going

Before you begin to set out your desk, ask yourself: Am I left- or right-handed?

Robyn, a rightie, finds a left-to-right system works best in terms of taking action on paperwork.

She places in-trays and to-do piles on the left, then stationery and a filing cabinet to the right.

Then she makes use of desk drawers, floating shelves and nearby bookshelves to keep things in check, such as stationery reserves, printing paper and transitory paperwork (i.e. work that needs to be taken out regularly to clients).

Vertical space is underestimated in the home office. Picture: Kate Hunter

2. File paperwork

Ah, the old filing cabinet. Yes, there’s still a place for it.

The trick with paperwork is to choose one system of filing and stick to it, Robyn says. Go with either binders or suspension files, not both.

Then it’s time to start labeling everything and colour coordinating if that kind of system floats your boat. If you’ve got a two-drawer filing cabinet, the top drawer might be ‘Home’ and the second might be ‘Business’, for example. “It’s amazing how giving something a word identity can help,” Robyn says.

TIP: Going digital where you can will cut your filing time in half – and you’ll help save the environment in the process. Utility companies, banks, and even Medicare offer paperless billing/statements. But you’ve got to do what works for you, so only make the switch if you’re comfortable on the apps/websites offered.

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3. Streamline stationery

Ever noticed how you either have 50 pens or no pens?

The best way around this is to have a set spot for stationery reserves and keep your supply stocked at all times.

As for your everyday-use stationery – think pens, pencils and highlighters – choose one standard-sized receptacle and then tell yourself, that’s the limit.

Howards Storage World has a great clutter buster drawer divider that helps you make sense of those extra bits and bobs.

RelatedHow to work from home without losing the plot

4. Reconsider lamps

An on-trend desk lamp adds style and functionality. Picture: Temple & Webster / Denise Braki. Styling: Jonathan Fleming

Before choosing a desk lamp, consider the space you have available and whether any lamp at all is even necessary.

“Look to natural lighting and the power of your main ceiling lighting, as well as the position and layout of your items in relation to those light sources, rather than bringing in extra lamps,” Robyn says.

Centre your desk around existing light sources and close to a window if possible; this will help promote good energy for when you really need to get stuff done.

RelatedGlow-in-the-dark plants may soon replace your bedside lamp

5. Go wireless

It may seem like a small thing, but removing the wires from your mouse, keyboard and printer will free up visual space on your desk dramatically.

A wireless-connected printer will also allow you to print from any room in the home. Picture: Kate Hunter

6. Add floating shelves

Floating shelves are great for small desks with little or no drawers.

Robyn suggests keeping bundles of files on them, which you might need to grab on the go, such as client forms. Floating shelves are also a great place to add personal touches, like photos.

If you don’t want to install shelves, you can still make use of the vertical space by sticking a planner or calendar to the wall.

Originally published as How to cut the clutter from your home office desk by Alice Bradley.  Author at