5 Quick Tips for Home Office Organization

Is your home office sharing space with the family or living room? Professional organizer Vicki Norris gives tips to help you organize your home office no matter what room it's in.

Invest in Adequate Furniture

Vintage Wood Door as Desk in Contemporary Home Office

Vintage Wood Door as Desk in Contemporary Home Office

Design by Meredith Perdue

Design by Meredith Perdue

Home offices need a clear work area, and that means providing adequate space for computer hardware and peripheral equipment, a spot for reference materials, file space and a location for frequently referenced supplies and paper. Make sure your office furniture provides ample space for work and storage.

Establish Activity Centers

Neat Home Office With Global Touches

Neat Home Office With Global Touches

Design by Luis Caicedo

Photo by: Style Me Pretty; photo by: Ruth Eileen Photography

Style Me Pretty; photo by: Ruth Eileen Photography

The efficient office should be zoned into three activity areas:

  • The Work Center, which includes a clear workspace, the computer and frequently-used office products.
  • The Reference Center, which includes binders, manuals, dictionary and professional books and materials.
  • The Supply Center, which contains office and paper supplies.

Clever Uses for Everyday Items in the Home Office

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Unscrambled Office Items

Get your desk drawer organized by putting an old egg carton to use, like Michele Pacey did here. This project is an eco-friendly solution for eliminating clutter and keeping all of your smallest office supplies in one place. Paint the carton a cheerful hue and make it an attractive addition to your desk space.

Photo By: Photo courtesy of Michele Pacey

No More Tangled Cords

It's frustrating enough to have to dig through drawers and find a cord, let alone to discover it's a member of an intertwined mess. Keep unruly cords organized by using media boxes that are divided into "cubbies" with scraps of cardboard, like Jennifer Jones did for her home office. Label each section, so you'll never confuse the camera cord for the phone charger again, and give the boxes a bit of color by decorating the cardboard with scrapbook paper.

Photo By: Photo courtesy of Jennifer Jones

From Cookies to Cards

Use colorful cookie tins to store larger desk items, like business cards, print cartridges and labels. Label each tin and choose colors that will put a smile on your face while working. Like Serena Thompson said of her project, "I love feeling happy, so my office nook needs to look that way and be organized at the same time."

Photo By: Photo courtesy of Serena Thompson

No More Laundry

Trade your dull garbage can for an easy, upcycled hamper-turned-wastebasket project. Sarah Ives added a splash of color to her office by painting an old hamper bright red, then giving it a fun touch by adding graphic letters to the lid. Who would have thought throwing away "rubbish" could be so fun?

Photo By: Photo courtesy of Sarah Ives

Office in a Closet

Turn an unused closet into a clever office area with these tips from Jennifer Jones. Using wallpaper, shelving, paint and even a shoe shelf, Jennifer transformed her master bedroom closet into a beautiful, compact office where she can get work done once her kids are asleep. She concealed the office area with budget-friendly tension rods and a curtain, but can immediately pull the curtain back with twine and a hook when she's ready to get to work.

Desk With a (Welcoming) History

A simple trip to a salvage yard or antique store is all it takes to discover an interesting door that can easily be turned into a gorgeous desk. Photographer Meredith Perdue used three items to create the centerpiece of her home office: a door, glass for the desk surface and two sawhorses. Her desk is not only creative and functional, but a budget-friendly way to recycle an item that might have otherwise ended up in the trash.

Call Off the Search

No one likes to rummage through a desk drawer in search of something as tiny as a paper clip. Organize your smallest office items, like rubber bands, staple refills and thumbtacks in clear jam jars, like Lindsey Cheney. This makes the contents of the jars easy to identify and keeps them neatly separated for reach-and-go simplicity.

Photo By: Photo courtesy of Lindsey Cheney

Memos at Hand

Paint an old picture frame to add a colorful outline to a ho-hum cork board. Or, consider removing the corkboard and attaching chicken wire to the back of the frame and clipping memos or favorite photos to it, like Ashley Campbell. This simple project requires paint, chicken wire, a staple gun and a bit of creativity, and you'll have an interesting way of keeping up with important meetings and appointments in no time flat.

Photo By: Photo courtesy of Ashley Campbell

Coffee Alternatives

Use old mugs or garage sale finds as containers for holding office items, like pens and pencils, and even eye glasses, like Sherry and John Petersik. This option gives mugs with small cracks — no longer usable for liquids — new life and is a fun way to store everyday office supplies. Consider also potting a small plant to bring a bit of green oxygen to your work environment. Just add a little gravel to the bottom, and be careful not to overwater since there are no drainage holes.

Photo By: Photo courtesy of Sherry and John Petersik

Office on the Ceiling

A tin ceiling tile makes for a beautiful and one-of-a-kind magnetic board to post ideas, reminders and even a few of your favorite photos. Place the tile on a picture frame holder, and then use magnetic clips to pin items to the surface. Learn how to make your own fabric-covered magnetic clips with this tutorial from Little Birdie Secrets, as featured on Make and Takes. Photo courtesy of Little Birdie Secrets

Photo By: Photo courtesy of Little Birdie Secrets

More Than a Step Stool

The official purpose of a ladder might be to help you reach high things, but it turns out it can also make a rather nifty decorative shelf. Melissa Michaels spotted this old ladder at an antique shop and decided to hang it on her wall as a place to display a few of her favorite items. Consider using this idea in your home office and add accents that inspire you, like framed quotes or family photos.

Photo By: Photo courtesy of Melissa Michaels

Properly Place Hardware and Peripherals

Home Office With Wall-Mounted Monitor

Home Office With Wall-Mounted Monitor

That screen doesn’t need to grab precious space from your desk — and it looks like art on the wall (not to mention it’s better for your posture).

Photo by: Sett Studio / Blake Gordan

Sett Studio / Blake Gordan

Position your equipment by frequency of use. If the printer is used daily, it should be within easy reach. If the CPU is only accessed for troubleshooting, it can be placed under or next to the desk. If a scanner is rarely used, it can be placed outside the work area.

When setting up hardware, be conscious of access to drives, trays and cords. Don't block access to drawers or take up leg room with tangled cords.

Conceal Cables and Wires

Binder Clip Cord Organizer

Binder Clip Cord Organizer

With so many new gadgets these days, wires can make your home office desk look cluttered. To keep them at bay, attach binder clips to the edge of your desk, and place the cords through the clips. This will also make it easy to plug in your electronics.

Professional organizer Tom Nevermann, The Moving Doctor, shares seven tips for containing unruly wires and caring for media and computer equipment.

  • Fold mailing labels back on themselves around each cord and label the wire. Don't forget to label the cords that connect different components to each other, as well as the cord to the electric supply.

  • Bundle like wires together to cut down on cord clutter. For example, keep computer speaker wires with stereo speaker wires.

  • Use a surge protector for all delicate electronic equipment. Check the back to make sure it's UL listed and is a transient voltage surge protector. High-end protectors are built with replaceable fuses and will last longer than less-expensive models that might not work after a large surge.

  • Used fabric softener sheets are the perfect lint and static-free rags for cleaning CDs and DVDs. Handle CDs by the rim to cut down on fingerprints. The backside of the CD carries the information and is the side that needs cleaning. Use the dryer sheet and stroke out to the edge from the center of the CD, instead of a circular motion.

  • Stacking equipment makes the most efficient use of space in a media center or office space. Be careful not to stack any equipment with venting on the top (such as amps or satellite receivers) because they might get too warm. Use chair-leg protectors (small plastic cups) as spacers between these pieces of equipment when stacking.

  • To clean a TV screen, use a lint-free cloth such as an old T-shirt. Spray the cloth with water (instead of spritzing the set itself) and wipe clean. Never use an abrasive substance on the screen. Never use window cleaner to clean a computer screen; stick to a lint-free cloth and consult with your monitor's manual for the proper way to clean it.

Establish a Paper Processing Area

Short-Term File Storage in Organized Home Office

Short-Term File Storage in Organized Home Office

Files for active projects should be easy to access. Add a small desktop file storage area to prevent papers from piling up for each project.

Photo by: Melissa George, Polished Habitat

Melissa George, Polished Habitat

Separate paper clutter into three distinct areas:

  • Create an area within your Work Center for papers that need immediate action.
  • Store paper associated with clients or ongoing projects in an area that is easily accessible and within your view.
  • Establish a permanent filing system for papers you will reference, but not on a regular basis.

12 Things Every Organized Home Office Needs

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Short-Term File Storage

Files for active projects should be easy to access. Add a small desktop file storage area to prevent papers from piling up for each project. Get more desk organizing tips.

Photo By: Melissa George, Polished Habitat

Medium-Term File Storage

For files you access monthly, use a file cabinet or wall-mounted file system. This will free up space on your desk but keep your documents easily accessible. Get more home office organizing tips.

Photo By: Melissa George, Polished Habitat

Printer Station

Consider picking a printer stand that incorporates closed storage. This lets you create an organized printing station. You’ll want space for extra paper, new ink cartridges and old cartridges ready to be recycled. Get more home office organizing tips. Get more tips for creating a home office printer station.

Photo By: Melissa George, Polished Habitat

Mailing Station

Much like the printing station, designating a mailing station will save time and unneeded frustration. Gather various envelopes, stamps, return address labels and note cards in one place. Sending a thank you card will be easier than ever!

Photo By: Melissa George, Polished Habitat

Big Ideas Notebook

Have you ever ended up with scraps of paper containing the various thoughts and ideas that come up while you are working? Designate one notebook to write them all down. It will keep the ideas safe and your office organized. 

Photo By: Melissa George, Polished Habitat

Memo Board

A dry erase board is a great way to keep your weekly goals at the forefront of your mind. It’s also great for task lists and brainstorming. Make this custom message board.

Photo By: Melissa George, Polished Habitat


Paper is the biggest organizing challenge in most offices. Make sure you have one designated location for all incoming papers that need your attention. A second tray is helpful for items that no longer need action but need to be filed. Just make sure to set aside time to file each week. 

Photo By: Melissa George, Polished Habitat

Divided Pencil Cup

Not all pencil cups are created equal. Try a divided version to hold pens, pencils, highlighters and sticky notes all in one spot. 

Photo By: Melissa George, Polished Habitat

Open + Closed Storage

Look for bookcases that provide a combination of open and closed storage. The open area helps the room feel larger and provides easy access to books, while doors and drawers hide items that could make the space look cluttered. See this home office before and after.

Fire-Safe File Box

Papers you are keeping for long term storage are generally the most important, but you don’t need them at your fingertips. If you don’t have a safety deposit box, keep your most important documents in a fire-resistant box.

Photo By: Melissa George, Polished Habitat

Drawer Dividers

Drawers can quickly become a disorganized mess. Separate small items like paper clips and pushpins with a drawer divider. When each item has its own place, keeping things organized is easy! 

Photo By: Melissa George, Polished Habitat

Magazine Files

Much like papers need an inbox, magazines and catalogs need an assigned location to prevent them from cluttering up the office. Use a pretty magazine file to gather incoming unread magazines. When you need a break, you’ll know where to find the latest issue. Get more desk organizing tips.

Photo By: Melissa George, Polished Habitat

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