This NYC Professional Office Organizer hears this question all the time – how do I keep paperwork organized when I work in my home office? It can be overwhelming when sorting through your business files, your personal bills, and all the other papers that find their way into your home. But you can take back control! In just 4 steps, you can go from overwhelmed to efficient in your home office.
Step one: Create an incoming paperwork system
Before you can even begin to tackle the piles of paperwork in your home office, you need to come up with a plan for handling them as they cross your desk. The only way to stay ahead of paper clutter is to attack it head on as it enters the office. Though your home office is the central hub for your business, it’s also the center of your household as well. Because of that, it’s important to create separate spaces for all incoming personal and business paperwork. Use separate inboxes to collect personal and business paperwork throughout the day. Have a clear location for all incoming mail and then file it or put it in an appropriate pending area if action is required.
Step two: Let’s talk filing
Ideally, it would be great to have separate filing cabinets for personal and business paperwork. If you use a shared filing cabinet, make sure that you clearly label each file so there is no confusion. Create labels with words or phrases that allow you to quickly find documents when needed. Another way to keep the files separate is by using colored file folders to distinguish between business and personal files. Or use a two-drawer filing cabinet where the top drawer is business and the bottom is personal. When finding a space for your files, make sure it’s easily accessible. If it’s hard to get to, then odds are you won’t use it and the papers will be piled up somewhere they don’t belong. No matter which solution you go with, it’s important that it’s clear and that you explain the system to those who live in your home so that they can follow it as well.
Step three: Be selective
We have a tendency to save paperwork in case we need it. Especially in a home office where space is limited and you have both personal and business documents coming in and out, it’s important to clear out anything that you don’t need. Items like junk mail, catalogs, and magazines you are not currently reading have no place in your workspace. Get rid of them immediately before they end up cluttering the area. When appointment reminders or invitations come in, add them to your calendar and then recycle the paper. In many cases, you can scan paperwork and save it on your hard drive or in an online storage system like DropBox, and then dispose of the original. Before you just throw away or recycle paperwork be sure that it doesn’t have any identifying information on it. If it does, or if you aren’t sure, make sure to shred it.
Step four: Be consistent
The most important step to organizing paperwork in your home office is being consistent and following the established systems. When you are finished processing a document, file it. When you are finished with a file, put it away. Schedule time at the end of each work day to process and file any documents in your inbox. Consistency will keep the paper clutter away!
These four steps will put you on the right path to an organized home office and a functioning paper management system. For more hands-on help organizing a home office, reach out to this NYC Professional Office Organizer.