My Office is a real challenge for me. I have worked from home for over 22 years. I have usually shared an office, since I would use it during the day when others were gone. However, this made it really hard to hold myself accountable since I could tell myself that the mess was a shared effort. Early in the pandemic, my office became my own, so I could no longer blame anyone for the mess… and yet it continued to expand across the room.
My office is near the front door, which makes it the perfect place for me to store all the clutter that is ready to leave the house, otherwise it blocks the entryway. In order to work from home effectively, I have had to learn to ignore the household chores during the work day or I would never get anything done at work. The tricky part is teaching my brain to see these things when I am done for the day and deal with them.
These are currently the functional areas of my office…
- Desk (computer with 2 monitors)
- Rolling Cart (my most recent attempt to keep the clutter off my desk)
- Bookshelves (4 of them, holding mostly books and other clutter)
- Scanning Station (to preserve pre-digital family photos, and 20+ years of kid’s artwork)
- Shredding Station (shredder tends to overheat, so I keep a tote of docs that need to be shredded but then don’t get to it)
- Printers Station (laser printer for normal stuff and a sublimation printer, sitting on 3 Drawer units to hold their supplies and paper)
- Stack of items to list on eBay
- Dog bed and Cat tower
I have decided that there is a “Law of Horizontal Surfaces” that works like a magnetic force to attract clutter. I have a attempted to use a rolling cart to keep the clutter off my desk yet close at hand, but this just seems to give me more space to put clutter. I think I am going to use the areas defined above to try and break up my office into sections and work on one at a time, so I don’t get overwhelmed. This will also allow me to decide if each area really needs to be in my office and whether it is serving its intended purpose.
Day 1 of “Operation Office Rescue”… (January 6, 2022)
My desk is a sit/stand desk, but when it gets this cluttered I can’t raise and lower it easily without things falling off. I have tried a lot of different methods for keeping it cleared, but I get busy and it slowly piles up again. My most recent attempt has been to add a handy-dandy rolling cart. It has helped contain the things I needed to be able to find, but it really doesn’t prevent the clutter from returning. I am not sure what the ultimate solution will be yet, but I will keep you posted. I also want to reposition my desk to work better on zoom videos, but first I need to get it cleared off and find the floor of my office.
I started by grabbing a tote. As I sorted the papers and office supplies, toys and dog treats, I put the things that would be kept into the tote. I know that if I try to put these things where they should live, I will get distracted and wash a load of laundry, do the dishes, or some other activity. I will plan to sort this tote as task for a different day. I continued until everything was removed, so that I could have a clean slate to work with.
I am not feeling confident that I have a system yet that will prevent me from returning to my wicked ways and cluttering it up again, but for now it is pretty. I have my planner and journals that I use daily. I am going to set myself a goal to leave it this way each night so that it welcomes me each morning, setting me up to have a more productive day.
Day 2 ( January 8, 2022)
This area started out as a scanning station to deal with decades worth of photos and papers, then ended up just being a convenient place for things to stack up.
The second day I worked on my office space, I focused on getting this side cleared so that I could start rearranging the space to work better for me. I posted quite a few items on my local buy-nothing group and was able to remove a desk that was buried under the clutter.
Some of the items that had piled up in this area of my office have been moved to the closet for now. This was a self-contained project, scanning family photos (from pre-digital times) and 20+ years of kid’s artwork. Normally I would not justify shoving stuff in a closet so I don’t have to deal with it, but I decided that it was appropriate for this project since it cannot be given the proper attention until I have the clutter better under control.
I found girl scout cookies buried here.
Day 3 ( January 9, 2022)
The third day, allowed me to actually rearrange the furniture. I spackled and touched up the paint on the walls. I still want to move one of my printers to this side of the room, so it won’t remain this open. but it feels SO less cluttered when I can see the baseboards. I am really looking forward to using my desk in the standing position again too. I am lucky that the desk raises and lowers easily, when it is not covered in clutter, so I am hoping to stand at least 3 hours each day (in hopes of removing some of my body’s clutter as well).
Funny thing: My desk has been cluttered for so long that I had forgotten that it had lights. I ordered new batteries for the remote control, and it feels SO much fancier now.
Day 4 ( January 12, 2022)
This desk side of the office is nearly finished. I really needed the printer on this side to facilitate scanning documents directly to my computer, so I moved this shelf from the other side, and got some sorting done. I still need to do a lot more sorting and decluttering of the other side of the office yet. It has to get worse before it gets better!
Day 5 ( January 13, 2022)
The opposite side of the office is really crowded (if you can see the bookshelves under all the clutter).
As much as this project would have been easier if I could have taken everything out of the office and started with a clean slate, I just didn’t have a good place to stage all the clutter. I started by shifting the drawer units to the left temporarily, and proceeded with my game of office furniture Tetris.
I then moved the pink shelves into place on the left, and the drawer units to the far right side of the room with the large laser printer. I am hoping this will also add a bit of balance to my “zoom” background when I am done.
I still have a lot of clutter to sort through, but I am glad that is a job for another day (or days). I am just happy to have all the furniture moved into their new locations, so I will have somewhere to put items as they are sorted, rather than just shuffling the boxes and piles around.
Day 6 ( January 16, 2022)
Decluttering is SSLLOOWW! Slowly putting like items with like items, and aggressively getting rid of as much as possible. I love taking pictures as it allows me to see that I am really making progress and helps me stick with it enough to finish. The end is in sight at least.
Day 7-ish ( January 31, 2022)
It probably took 3-4 evenings over the past 2 weeks to finish the sorting and decluttering, but it is finally done. I still need to hang the rest of the art, but it feels SO much more peaceful now. I really tried to put some thought into how I really use the space, and how I could make the individual functions work better.
This is my printer station with drawer units to hold special papers, stickers, and toner/ink. I like that the cubbies give me a bit of display space without being too much. The top of the drawer units were a bit scratched, so I added a vinyl protector that matches the one I have on my desk. This also seems to help tie in a consistent color theme.
My sublimation printer needed to be moved closer to my desk so that I could better use the scanning functions. I also added a free-standing hanging file box and an in-box to keep the paper clutter from piling up on my desk.
I have had this organizer near my front door in an attempt to contain mail as it comes in the front door, but it wasn’t really working there, so I repurposed it here to contain office supplies that I need more often (envelopes, stamps, paper pads). I also created a small charging station. I am on the lookout for something a bit more attractive, but I really like having a dedicated space for it now.
Ultimately, my only real concern was how my co-workers would respond to the workplace changes. I can only assume that they are pleased with the results.
This room was hard in a lot of ways. I think I was trying to do too many things with it, which was just causing things to pile up. I am hoping with less stuff in here, and dedicated functional spaces, that I will be able to maintain this a lot easier. Feel free to reach out if you have any ideas for me, or want to brainstorm ideas for your space (it is SO much easier to play with someone else’s space). Thanks for following along on my journey.