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Make Your Office Work For You

Make Your Office Work For You

By Marni Jameson - Arizona Daily StarNovember 12th 2006

My husband's moving out. Me? I'm helping him pack and taking back the bonus room. Two years ago, Dan promised that when we finished building out our basement, he would move his office out of the bonus room and into the new quarters.

I see his moving out as a second chance for both of us. He gets a fresh crack at setting up his home office, and I can reclaim the bonus room, which I'm renaming the game room, the salon, the study, anything but bonus room.

It's my fault. I never should have called the 16-by-16-foot room at the top of the stairs a "bonus room." The term implies a room where everyone can have their way. My family did just that. Dan declared the space his office and parked his desk, phone and computer there, along with a few boxes that multiplied like rabbits on Viagra. The boxes claimed an entire wall and threatened available floor space. This is the male version of middle-age spread. It did not deter my children, however, from claiming the room as their upstairs TV lounge, homework station, caterpillar farm, boxing ring and cheese-puff arsenal. For them, Dan's stacked boxes doubled as a climbing wall.

I deemed the room a default guest and game room. I put in a rollaway sofa and stuffed board games in the closet. Along the way, someone figured the treadmill belonged there and stuffed that in, too. Eventually, the only way to find anything was with a metal detector and K-9 Patrol. Because this room/eyesore has no door, just an arch, there's no hiding it. When visitors touring the house get to the threshold, they run fresh out of politeness and say something like, "Oh, and here's where you keep the hostages."

"Will you move this downstairs for me?" Dan asks. He keeps handing me boxes he has supposedly gone through for me to take to the basement. But I know him. This is a man who hoards gas-station receipts and stubs from his airplane boarding passes.  "Sure thing." I trot straight out the front door and toss it in a trash container across the street.

To further help Dan, I asked Barry Izsak, president of the National Association of Professional Organizers and owner of Arranging It All in Austin, Texas for some pointers. Izsak’s company specializes in organizing people’s offices. "The systems he puts in place now will have a big impact on Dan's productivity," says Izsak.  "And our marriage!" I add.

Here are Izsak's basic office organizing rules:

Pick a layout that suits your work style. The parallel workstation has a desk with a credenza behind it. The L-shaped has a desk with a return for a computer. And the U-shaped layout has a desk in the center and two returns, one for the computer and a second work surface. Don't place your computer on top of your main desk.

Keep office supplies in your desk to a minimum. Don't store all 24 pads of sticky notes in your desk. Have one or two there, and the rest in auxiliary storage. Likewise, put items you don't use often, like your hole punch, in a supply closet.

Create a two-part filing system. One for active files, such as bills to pay and new business; and one for reference, or any information you may need later. Keep active files close by, either in a desk drawer or in a vertical, stair-step file on your desk. Archive reference files elsewhere.


Get machines off the desk. Move them to nonwork surfaces, like the top of a file cabinet.

Go paperless. As much as possible, store information on your computer. Don't keep hard copies of material you can easily retrieve.

Exercise cord control. Have holes cut into your desktops and shelves to run cords through. Put cord wraps on visible cords so the back of your desk doesn't look like a scene from "Snakes on a Plane."

Practice magazine management. If you want to save magazines, get decorative magazine holders. When the holder gets full — say, after you accumulate a year of issues — toss the oldest issues.

Start clean habits. Clear your desk after each workday. Sort and toss unnecessary papers at the end of each week. Pretty soon, you'll feel like Izsak, who says, "Being organized isn't an option for me; it's a necessity."


If only that were true for Dan.  Once we'd moved the last box out, Dan looked longingly back at the upended bonus room. "What are we going to use this room for now?" he wondered. 


"Don't worry," I said. "I've got plans."

The Arranging it AllSM team is mentored and trained by a Certified Professional Organizer.

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