Understanding the Way you Work in Your Home Office By Sandra Beck

by Sandra Beck 

Last week, I mentioned that I am a messy office owner. I am disorganized and no one is allowed to clean in there but me. And after 40 years on this planet I own that part of myself.  I am proud of it. It is me. I will never be neat. There I said it.

I am however an organizing professional so I understand fully that it takes all kinds.  When you set up your home office, you need to get real with yourself .   You need to make your office work with you — not work with your office. I find this too stressful. I am sloppy and successful. All that matters at the end of the day is I can get my work done and I can collect my money so I can live my life with my family. Period.

If you are the type of person who bounces from project to project, has tons of ideas, and wants to accomplish everything but rarely has time to do anything, you are the Messmaster Elite.  Contrary to most of the home office books I have read, you need to have lots of bulletin boards, places to stick postit and bins to hold research, junk and papers.  Be proud of being a Messmaster Elite Member. Its the way you work. So go with it.

If you have polished and dusted your desk since you have read the last paragraph then you are the Perfect Organizer.  Again, contrary to most of the home office and organization books I have read, you need to invest in pretty boxes, file drawers, a label maker and Pledge.  I live with a Perfect Organizer and work with one who is delightful in her own neat and tidy way.  Trying to initiate a Perfect Organizer into the Messmaster Elite is like getting a cat to swim.

Most of us fall in between the two groups…there is The Stasher, the Stacker, the Re-Organizer, the Paper Chaser.  The whole point is to set up your home office space to serve you – your work habits and how you work. Tell the others to go jump in a lake if they don’t like it. Your home office is about you, not them.   And if your family gets on, just post your a copy of your first check on the wall and point to it when they comment.

Running the Household and a Business by Sandra Beck

 By Sandra Beck

Many of you reading this blog are trying to run your business — large or small — while you run your household. In the beginning, I tried to do both of these from my office.  All that happened is everything got all mixed up and I was constantly running from the office to the kitchen and back. Multi-tasking is all the rage, but it just turned me into a raging lunatic!

I ended up setting up an organization center for my household by my kitchen phone. It is here where I taped to the inside of my cabinets lists of frequently used phone numbers. I put a cork board on the back of the wall by my phone and tacked school forms, permission slips, raffle tickets and all the other stuff that I need to keep. 

Putting it in the drawer underneath the phone for me meant forgotten. I also have a family calendar there where we all record our appointments. My husband’s travel schedule is there, along with mine.  The days our babysitter is unavailable is there.  The kids school events along with my son’s preschool calendar.  It is a messy master plan of our life — from St Patties cookies required to speaking engagements — its all there.

An organization center doesn’t need an elaborate set-up, but I do like the expensive items in the site. I just can’t part with my hard earned money for something that glamourous when I need to pay for summer camp.  Whatever your setup, just make sure that everything that is managed by the “family organization center” goes there — and not on the hall table or in your office.  I did find some neat organizers at TJ Maxx that look like the Pottery Barn stuff but much cheaper. 

I am proud of it. It keeps us all on track – and it allows me to think about work while I am working and my family while I am working for my family.

Setting Up the Part-Time Office and The Full Time Officen By Sandra Beck

 by Sandra Beck

There are a few things to think about when you are setting up your home office.  There are some minimilist people — let’s call them freaks — these are the people who carry around a pretty little bag (usually crocodile embossed) computer bags and say things like – isn’t the computer wonderful? all I need to run my business is this? Then they hold up the bag and I usually try not to punch them.

I am a little slips of paper, multiple spiral pads, pink, yellow and blue ink pen kind of worker.  Buried under my mounds of papers are fancy colorful clippies, highlighters, gum and a few Thomas Trains. Mine is a full time office and I have actually moved to a new house to accommodate my business.  I rarely see clients, only the virtuals who come to pick up work.  I have no need to be neat and no need to have an office that is perfect for a client visit.

Some of you might not be so lucky.  When you need to see clients, you need to make sure your office is presentable and that they have somewhere to sit. I find that the two client chairs I do have fit the bill. I got them at and they are parsons chairs with fabric slipcovers. Initially I bought them for my virtuals to sit in and they do. Mostly they hold bags, jackets and the sticky remains from my kids last visit.  Slipcovers allow me to change the look – though I haven’t  and to put them in the wash (which is like weekly).

The thing is — you need to think about how much time you will be in the space.  The part time office that is only used once a week or for a few minutes every other day may be a space that you can put in a box or a shelf and pack away. Like I have set up in my kitchen. My full time office is in a storage room that was part of the new home.

I have built in desks and wall units to hold my stuff. I lock the door when I leave because my kids are fascinated with everything sharp, important and that belongs to my clients.   Being able to shut the door at the end of the work day or work period is a relief. 

Some of my mom friends share a home office in one of the woman’s home.  This is a unique choice that would personally drive me nuts, but for some, it might give them the comraderie they need.

What Kind of Home Business is Your Office Designed Around by Sandra Beck

 By Sandra Beck

Many of you have been following Beth’s Blog. Because of a recent family illness, Beth will not be blogging under home office for a while so I will be taking over as she helps her mother recover from Breast Cancer Treatment. To all the friends and family of Beth and her mom, we are thinking of you and all Breast Cancer Fighters and Suvivors!

Some of you may be starting a web business, a real estate business, a writing business, a virtual support business or a tutoring business or translation business. The opportunities are as endless as your talents, but it is imporant to think about your business because each type presents certain challenges.

In my writing and design business, I have tons of books. I use the internet greatly, but I really love my book collection on various topics that serve my clientele. I find that at night I like to thumb through lots of my books for ideas and for resources.  I have found that in addition to lots of book shelves, I am a person that is afraid to throw anything away.

I watch the organization shows and cringe when they throw almost everything into the throw away bin or the donate bin. I have this feeling that I will need something as soon as I throw it away and can’t retrieve it.

For this phobia, I have found a solution. I have my “pre-trash box”.  The organizers and the Feng Shui people may think this is crazy, and perhaps the mental health professionals as well, but I love it. It is a simple card board storage box without a lid that is tucked under my desk near the back wall by my feet. When I can’t throw something out and think I might need it, but don’t really want to file it I toss it in my pre-trash box. 

I toss items in there until the box is full. When the box is full, I take it to my couch and dump it upside down so the oldest items are on top.  One by one I go through this box with papers that are usually 3-6 months old — and I toss what I know I won’t use.  Any of the unsure papers go back into the pre-trash box.  I usually get rid of 80% of the papers at that time.

This may sound silly, but it works with who I am . I also then can retrieve precious papers that I need and honestly, after about 3 months I am pretty sure I won’t need most of them.  Check back with me in a few years and I will probably have the pre-pre trash box!

The Beauty of the Home Office

The beauty of the home office is that it can not only reflect your personality and your favorite style, but also it can reflect the way you work.  If you enjoy working in the morning, then it might be a good idea to try to find a workspace or room that gets the early morning light.  If space is really limited, try to find a way to position your workspace or desk so you can capture every bit of sunlight if that is what you enjoy.

Sometime, I prefer to work on my sofa or at the kitchen table. No matter how lovely an office space is, it gets tiring day after day looking at the same walls.  My space is just large enough for me to fit my desk and a comfortable chair and ottoman.  Though small in scale, they fit nicely and give me a break from sitting at my desk.  Certain tasks lend well to sitting on the couch or in a comfy office chair: making calls, writing on my laptop, researching,  but my other tasks — billing and my technical computer work needs to be done at my desk.

The whole point is to create an environment where you can think, where you can work and that when you close the door or put your items away that they blend in with the rest of your home.

Cynthia's Home Office Solutions

My “Office” is a decorative desk with hutch that goes 6 feet across and it is in my living room so you see this in plain site when you enter my home AND it is a decorative focal point so I MUST keep it neat (a challenge for me too but I make it a priority).

I measured my space and had a custom desk made for my needs. I have two very large drawers that are really files cabinets and the other side one large door that swings open to reveal my scanner and printer on slide out shelves.

I had this made at Ambiance in Valencia they will work with you to design your desk to suit your needs any color you like… it was very reasonable it looks very Ballards for half the price or less…additonally I purchased(at Walmart!!) some very nice quality dark wood rattan cubes (3) and placed along side under window, looks like a simple seating area but in fact is hidden paper supply storage.

I have adjustable shelves on hutch- 6 in all, that I also use for storage in a clever way, think Big Items that look simple and clean forgo all the obvious “office” looking storage things. For example I have a simple decorative(Homegoods) large white soup terrine that I store my discs and ipod stuff in, a nice large woven basket that takes up half a shelf holds my arts and craft like supplies BUT I cover with large fake green apples on top (easy enough to move when I need craft supplies)

Think outside the office, and go for a nice quality piece of furniture, you know you will spend more in the long run by buying all those other ugly exposed office pieces at an office supply store…plus you’ll love to sit at your chic desk!

Fitting in a Home Office

You do have space for a home office, even though it may not feel like it as you wade through the mounds of laundry, the undone homework, and the toys that litter the floor of your home.  If you just plan to work occasionally in your home office, then a corner of a room, kitch, breakfast or dining room is ideal. As long as you can close up your area to keep prying hands away, this can work for you.  Before I began working full time from home, I went to Walmart and bought a big green tub — the kind with the top that you can store just about anything in and I loaded in my office supplies, my laptop, my resource materials and anything I was using on a project into the tub. Though I did have to unload it for each use, I found at that time that I only used the box about once a week – I would have liked to use it more, but with two kids under the age of 3 it was unlikely. I was either busy, too tired or both.

For a while I had my office in the bedroom. This was nice because I had a quiet place, free from the noise and distraction of the rest of the house. This also meant my husband, my mother or a babysitter had to watch the kids because I could not see or hear them.  Also, it became difficult to fall asleep because as I lay there drifting off, I could see my undone work and too many times I crawled wearily out of bed, switched on a tiny light at 2am and finished up just one last thing.

Yes, you could say I didn’t have self control, but it’s like that spot on the carpet that is there — and your eye goes to is.  Then you use some cleaner…then you trim away the stained part…then you still notice it…and it goes on and on…

I felt that I needed to keep an eye on my household, so I selected the kitchen as my office — the lifesource of our home – and it allowed me to hear and monitor what was going on in my own home.

I bought a tiny little rolling computer cart and with my green tub, that got me through a lot of days.  I also got rid of everything on one shelf in my kitchen that I rarely used – I tossed plastic tubs I didn’t use and I moved some of my nice dishes (carefully wrapped for storage) in to yes, another plastic tub from Walmart. This one was blue.

I found that I could store my office supplies on that kitchen cabinet shelf and it kept me from “unloading” my desk each time from the box. I also kept postits of important information –like log in and passwords for my accounts on the inside of the kitchen door. That became my office supply closet –  I still used my tub for reference materials, but it was much easier because it now contained folders, books and my legal pads.

When I needed to print, I simply went into the area where the kid’s computer was and hooked up my computer.  I suppose I could email it to their computer and print from there, but keeping all my files on my laptop — and having it be my laptop only – not shared with the kids or my husband — gave me a mental break – a physical distance between my work and my family life.

I do have to say I love my kitchen and to sit at my table at night and write with a cup of tea as the children do their homework is really fun. I find the fuss a lot less when they know Mommy is doing her homework, too.