By Lisa Kanarek
You know that deer-in-the-headlights look that some people get when they're scared? I've seen people get the same look when they think about making changes to their home office and when they visit an IKEA store for the first time.
When you work from home, changing the way your home office looks and functions can be challenging. While you can't change everything about your home office in one day, there are a few simple things you can do now to make your home office more productive.
1. Start with four boxes and a trash bag
Label the boxes: 'Keep', 'Donate', 'Recycle', and 'Other Room'. Then start with your desk. Give yourself a time limit and turn on some tunes. As you move through the room, don't be surprised at how many times you say, “I was looking for that!" and realize you've bought the same supplies several times throughout the year. When you've filled the boxes (and more importantly a trash bag or two) it will be easier to organize what's left. Don't forget to shred sensitive information like your credit card bills and anything with account numbers or your social security number on it.
2. Take anything off your desk you don't use weekly
If you have personal items that are taking up valuable space like photos, oversized desk organizers, and your collection of snow globes, move them to a nearby shelf or bookcase. If you don't have enough storage space, add floating shelves near your desk. Installing shelves is an easy fix that you can do in less than a day. It's especially easier when you hire someone else to do it.
3. Move extra furniture out
Take a close look at your thighs. Check for bruises on either side from bumping into furniture that's crammed into your home office, or what I like to call “the old furniture dumping ground." Maybe you inherited an old chair your mom didn't want or a cabinet your neighbor left you when she moved and neither currently serve a purpose in your office. Either donate the furniture and accessories or store them elsewhere.
4. Move things around
Move your desk to a different wall or to the other side of the room. If your home office is in a guest room, get rid of your desk completely and convert the closet into a small office or use a computer cabinet so you can literally close your home office door at the end of the day. If guests never visit, take over the entire space for a home office. Separating two bookcases and putting your desk in between them will give you room on either side of the bookcases to hang a bulletin board or pictures. What you do in your home office doesn't have to be interesting, but where you work should be more inviting than your old corporate office.
5. Contain it all
Gather loose supplies. And by loose, I mean the stuff rolling around in your drawers that you know you don't need to keep, but can't stand to toss, and then put them in clear containers. If you're a Lookout—someone who fears that the minute they put something away it disappears forever, use baskets and decorative containers to store similar items together.
6. Store items where you'll use them
Just as your dishes should be stored near your dishwasher (they are, right?) store the items you use often near where you'll use them. You shouldn't have to continually leave your desk to get more paper or ink when you could store your supplies near your printer/scanner/copier. If you want to make sure you take breaks often and move around throughout the day, store everything in your basement or garage.
7. Create a more inspiring place to work
Replace old photos on the wall with a large bulletin board or colorful artwork. If you're feeling Pinterest-y or Martha Stewart-like, paint your home office a new color or buy a rug in a color or print that makes you happy. Save money by enlarging photos from your last trip and framing them.
Making changes to your home office doesn't have to take a lot of time or be as painful as it used to be to work in a corporate office. And you can accomplish more in one day than you think you can. The best part is that any changes you do make will get you that much closer to a productive and comfortable home office where you'll actually find what you need, when you need it.
Lisa Kanarek is a freelance writer, the author of five books about working from home, and writes the work-from-home blog Working Naked. Her work has been featured on Good Morning America, CNN Financial News, websites BonBon Break, In the Powder Room, Grown and Flown, Ten to Twenty Parenting, MockMom, and in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and Newsweek. She is the mother of two sons in college and lives in Texas.
A version of this article was originally published on Working Naked.