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Posted on May 11, 2011

Who Controls Your Home Office, You or Your Possessions?

Home Office ClutterPossessions have a way of ganging up to control your time, budget and stress level.  If you're not careful about reigning it all in, your franchise home office could soon become overwhelmed with clutter.  Take a close look at your own home office: is it packed with everything from extra furniture to stacks of old magazines and miscellaneous papers?  Sometimes, when you work in the same space for so long, you cease to notice how it really looks.

Take a step back from your office and notice how cluttered the space really is.  If it's well past time you cleaned up the mess and returned to maximum home office productivity, here are a few simple steps you can take to get started:

•  Designate specific places for incoming magazines, reference materials and sales materials. Stacking bins work well for magazines and papers to file (they're larger than stacking trays).  Place them next to or under your desk and label them  "to read," "to file," "information to enter," etc. for later reference.

•  Go through your reading bin and get rid of the newspapers and magazines that you haven't read for the past year. If they’ve been in your office for several months and you haven't read them by now, you won't read them in the future.  If you find an article you want to read later, clip the article and recycle the rest of it.  Also, consider converting your print subscriptions to an online version.

•  Fix or donate broken equipment. You may have an old computer that you've been meaning to fix or a printer that quit working a year ago.  Instead of wasting valuable space in your office, donate anything that you know you won't use again.  If a piece of equipment can be fixed and is worth fixing, make plans to get it fixed within a week.  Keep in mind that the price of office equipment drops often and it may be cheaper to buy a new piece of equipment than to fix it.

•  Keep track of what you own by using a combination of open and closed shelving to store supplies and information, especially if you follow the "out of sight, out of mind" philosophy. If supplies and information aren't hidden behind closed doors, they'll need to be more organized than if they were hidden (not a bad idea anyway).

•  Make decisions about paperwork.  When a piece of paper crosses your desk, follow my P-A-P-E-R method for handling paper. P-Put the paper in a file (either current or reference file) or bin (for reading materials); A-Act on the piece of paper;  P-Pass the information on to someone else; E- Enter (on your To Do list) any action you need to take with regard to that piece of paper, then file or toss the piece of paper; R-Recycle (or "round file") as many papers as possible.  Get out of the habit of keeping papers you know you'll never need.

•  Take items out of your desk drawers that you’re not using regularly and replace them with supplies, current files or other information that will help you stay productive. Anything you don’t use often should be stored in your credenza or on a nearby bookcase.

•  Spend a few hours each month organizing your office (or less frequently, if your office is in good shape). As much as possible, don't take any phone calls or answer e-mails during this organizing session. Maintain your office by spending a few minutes at the end of each day putting away files and preparing for the next day.

Possessions can help you be more productive and make your life easier until you collect too many things and lose sight of their purpose.  Make the decision to keep your office clear of any unnecessary items and you will be left with more space and more time to work.

Lisa Kanarek is one of the nation’s leading home office experts and the author of five books, including Working Naked: A guide to the bare essentials of home office life and Home Office Solutions. She is the founder of HomeOfficeLife, a firm that advises corporations and individuals on all aspects of working from home and is founder of the blog

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