Organize Your Home Office for Optimum Productivity

By Nancy Moffett

Here we go again…after summer vacations and lazy days at the beach, we’re back to school and work. Sometimes it’s hard to wrap your head around the busy months that lie ahead. Just dealing with paperwork the kids bring home the first few weeks of school can be a hassle, let alone keeping track of household mail, bills, etc. Before the madness begins, take time to set up and organize your home office.


Many of us use a spare bedroom for our home offices. That’s fine if you have the extra space. Where should it be if you don’t? It’s important to carve out a space away from the ebb and flow of family activity so the person using the office isn’t constantly distracted. Distraction means lost productivity.

Bob McGinty, owner of Basement Builders, recommends taking any unused space that’s at least 12 x 12’ and turning it into an office. Basements are good candidates, especially if you’re going to finish the rest of it. “We put in recessed lighting, lots of outlets and cable for computers and other equipment,” he says.

One of the main objectives is to make the room part of the upstairs by using the same trim, doors, handles, etc. “Or, if you’re going to finish the basement, that may free up room upstairs for an office,” he explains. However, remember if you decide to move a bedroom to the lower level, it requires direct egress (an exit from the basement level), while an office does not. Built-in shelving or cabinetry can be added during construction, McGinty notes.


Diane Albright, Certified Professional Organizer and owner of All Bright Ideas, says the key to being organized is having a designated place for everything–papers, files, supplies, extra wires, phone messages. And, to keep the things you use most often within arm’s reach.

Start by grouping like items together (i.e. office supplies, cords and cables, mailing supplies) Then decide on the best spot for each group, depending how often each is used. Things used less often can be stored up high or down low. Maximize storage space by going vertical. Add shelving, tiers, bins or baskets to unused vertical spaces, including walls, doors and the inner walls of your desk. Wall-mounted or magnetic file holders and hooks are helpful, Albright adds. “3M’s line of Command hooks and organizing units are a great way to get extra storage where you least expect,” she says, “because they don’t require making holes in surfaces.”

When you’ve got everything organized, label it. Albright recommends buying a P-touch label maker because the tape is laminated. Use it to mark every drawer, shelf, file, basket or bin. “We typically use only 20 percent of the items on a regular basis,” she explains, “So it’s easy to forget the correct location of the other 80 percent.”

Have you ever crawled under your desk trying to determine which cord to unplug? Albright suggests labeling cords with the device’s name on the end that plugs into the outlet. Do the same with USB cables for things like cameras, GPS, phones and iPods. Keep those cables together in one place.

Use a “Pending” folder for papers waiting for another person’s response or action and revisit it often. Use the task and calendar tools in your email program to keep you on track as well. “I recommend a telephone message log to write down voicemail messages and notes during phone conversations,” she says. “That way, you’ll have a record of all calls in one location instead of pieces of paper floating around.”


The heart of any office is a good desk. While some very organized people can function with a small rectangular desk, the ideal is either an L or U-shaped desk. This allows you to have sufficient space for a computer and to keep often-used items right at hand. Most important is to maintain a clean work surface for such chores as opening mail, paying bills, etc.

Next in importance is having a good desk chair. For maximum comfort and productivity, an old kitchen chair just won’t do. Any office store has many chairs to choose from at all price ranges. Most important is that it swivels, has wheels and is adjustable to give you the most comfortable fit.

Position your chair and monitor correctly for good ergonomics. The monitor should be about two to three inches above eye level, while the chair should be adjusted so arms and elbows are level for typing. A foot board helps maintain good posture.

What about accessories and files? If you don’t have space on your desk for a printer or other equipment, make use of wireless capability and stow them on a shelf or in a closet. As for filing, you can go as low-tech as metal file cabinets to customizable storage units such as those sold by IKEA (a favorite of this writer).

Albright recommends placing your desk against a wall so your back isn’t against a door or window. This allows you to give your eyes a break by looking up and focusing far away to avoid eye strain, another link to increased productivity.

So, take time to shape up your home office now. It will help reduce stress and increase your productivity during the precious time you spend there.

Inside and out, our “Home” department offers sound, practical advice for every budget, providing the Lehigh Valley’s best resources to get your projects in gear, from start to finish.

All Bright Ideas
308 Main Street
Emmaus, PA 18049

Basement Builders of the Lehigh Valley
4310 W. Saucon Valley Rd,
Coopersburg, PA 18036

Follow @LehighValleyMarketplace on Instagram