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Decluttering Your Home Office: 8 Weeks at Home Series

Welcome to week 7 of the 8 Weeks at Home Series! We’re spending eight weeks decluttering, simplifying and cleaning up room by room in preparation for summer. This week, we’re heading to the home office. Whether you have an entire room dedicated to being a home office or a desk tucked into the corner of another room, everyone should have some spot set aside to work, pay bills and just keep up with the paperwork of modern life.

We’ll have two posts this week to help you get your home office space clean and functional. In the first post, we’ll talk about decluttering and simplifying. In the second post, we’ll clean it all up and get it looking nice and shiny. While you’re working in each space, keep some paper and a pen handy and make note of any repairs that need to be made, any supplies that need to be restocked, or any decorating changes you’d like to make. As you decide to get rid of stuff, remove it from the space right away and get it out of the house ASAP so that it doesn’t worm its way back into the space. Take out bags of trash and recycling daily so they don’t pile up in your workspace.

Decluttering Your Home Office: 8 Weeks at Home Series

Let’s declutter your home office!

See that picture above? Yeah, that really was the state of my home office. I’m mortified to admit that. It had gotten so bad that I’ve been taking my laptop to the kitchen table or to Starbucks to work. My husband and I share a very large media room as our office, with separate desks and work areas, and that big media room tends to become the dumping ground for everything else in the house that we don’t know what to do with or that needs to be dealt with “later.” Well, later finally showed up. After years of helping others simplify and organize, I know I’m not the only one that uses their home office as a catch-all. The office seems to be the most popular dumping spot in most homes.

Grab some boxes or bins for sorting and a large trash bag. Here is how I set up my sorting area:

  • Stuff that belongs in another room — bin
  • Paper that needs to be filed — bin
  • Immediate action required — bin
  • Projects in progress — bin
  • Donate — box that I can get rid of
  • Books to donate — box that I can get rid of
  • Stuff to sell — bin
  • Recycle — bin
  • Papers that need to be shredded — box
  • Trash — bag

It can be overwhelming seeing piles of clutter and not knowing where to start. When I declutter an office, I like to start with the desk and work my way out from there. The first goal is to get the desk cleared off so you have a place to work, then work your way around the rest of the room. If you’ve got a large room or a mess as big as mine, be aware this could take a few days to get through! That’s OK — just set aside 15 minutes to an hour a day to work on it until you get through it all.

It’s time to sort!

Starting at the desktop, begin sorting. Don’t spend time reading all those papers, just make quick decisions about which bin they need to be sorted into: recycle, to be filed, or immediate action. If it’s a paper you no longer need but contains sensitive information such as account numbers or personal info, put it in the shred box. Sort objects as you find them — pile up books that need to be put away, drop donation items in the donation box, trash goes in the trash bag, projects that need to be finished go into the projects-in-progress box.

Don’t spend a lot of time on each item — sort quickly. Don’t stress about all the paper, just sort it. Sorting is probably the biggest time commitment in decluttering the office, so go quickly and rely on your first instinct with each item. If your impulse is to let it go, then let it go without a second thought.

Make sure to also take a good look at the furniture in the room. Is there anything you really don’t use and can get rid of? We decided to get rid of a printer shelf that took up too much space and collected clutter and dust instead of being usable workspace. Taking out extra furniture can open up the room and make it feel larger, plus it gives you one less place to stack crap on later. Keep just the stuff you use and unload the rest.

Put it all away

Once sorting is complete, take out the trash and remove the recycling. Set the box of shredding aside to do later if you have a shredder. Our city offers a free shredding service every three months, so we drop the shredding box off with them. Remove the donation boxes, and put them by the door or in your car to drop off, or call your local charity and arrange a pick-up day. Don’t forget to get a receipt for tax deductions!

Take that bin of stuff that belongs in other rooms and go deliver it, putting each item away in its proper place. If it doesn’t have a place, consider whether it can be donated.

If you have stuff to sell, grab a camera and take some photos now, then put the stuff back in the bin. Post those items for sale as soon as possible and get them out of the house. I like to use Facebook neighborhood and city sale groups — they tend to be more reliable than Craigslist. More expensive items might be appropriate for eBay. Set a deadline — if the item doesn’t sell in X number of days, drop it off as a charity donation and be done with it.

Set aside that box of projects in progress, and mark a date on your calendar to get those finished. Make it a deadline — if the projects haven’t even been worked on by that deadline, perhaps it’s time to cut your losses and let them go.

Grab that box of Immediate Action Required and take care of it!

Now, your home office should be fairly clear, with just a box of paper filing to take care of. Sort through those papers, file the keepers and unload anything else that your truly don’t need. Get more tips for conquering the file pile here. One final area to consider decluttering is your computer itself.

Next time: We’re going to clean the office and get rid of all those dust bunnies.

Looking for the rest of the 8 Weeks at Home series? Post links will be added here as they’re published!

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