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Workable Work Spaces

As Published In Professional Organizers Blog Carnival
Workable Work Spaces

You don’t have to be Fortune 500 CEO to need a functional and organized office. Paying bills, filing, staying on top of phone calls, and tracking expenses — these activities all require an orderly workspace. And don’t forget your personal documents — no matter what kind of paper you accumulate, you need a dedicated space for storing and managing it.

Setting Up Your Space

Where is your “home office?” A corner of the kitchen? The spare bedroom? Or you might be fortunate enough to have an entire spare room set aside. In choosing your home office space, first ask how you plan to use it — for managing personal paperwork, occasionally bringing business home with you, or working full-time out of the house. Do you plan to bring clients or other colleagues to your home office? How you design your office depends on what you plan to do there. What keeps you busy — writing letters? Balancing your books? Calls? Computer work? Keep this in mind as you plan your space.

If you need room to spread out, include a large flat surface. If you have a lot of “peripherals,” bring in a printer stand or a bookshelf for your equipment. For each activity, ask what sort of space and equipment it requires. And whatever space you adopt, make sure to avoid any territorial disputes with other household activities. Your kids don’t need to play monopoly on your desk — and you shouldn’t have to move your work off the kitchen table to serve dinner.

Don’t think that you have to spend a lot of money on expensive furniture. You may have some discards that would do the job just fine. I have seen everything — from card tables to steamer trunks to old doors — used as office furniture. Be creative! And even if you do decide to go the traditional route, check the yellow pages under “office furniture:used” first — you can find some great deals on used, good condition items like desks, file cabinets, and chairs for fraction of what you would spend getting them new.

Storing Supplies

I must ask you a personal question — do you hoard supplies? Is there any logical reason for keeping 65 pads of post-it notes or 287 pens in your desk drawer? It’s good to have items you use regularly within arm’s reach, but storing everything you own near your desk is counterproductive. All this clutter makes it harder for you to find what you need, and may be distracting you from your work. You say you don’t have any place else to put them — well, let’s see what we can do about that.

Take a good look around your office. Where can we create some additional storage? Could we put in some bracket shelves above your desk or credenza — to hold books and binders? How about using a rolling drawer system to organize excess paper clips, thumb tacks, extra staples, and tape? And letter or legal size items (letterhead, sheet protectors, index dividers, manila folders) can always be stored more efficiently in stacking trays or a document sorter. Can you set up a bookshelf to hold these? Or even some shelves in that spare closet? Remember, your storage center does not have to be conventional — it simply has to be functional.

Ergonomics In Action

Does your office give you a pain in the neck — literally? You will work more efficiently and see your productivity increase when your office space is designed to be ergonomically correct. You too can have an ergonomic workspace if you set up your equipment in a way that prevents repetitive strain injury (like carpal tunnel), and allows you to get more done with less effort.

The first step is to make sure that all of your vital equipment and supplies (the ones that you use daily) are within arm’s reach. You should be able to get at everything you need without bending, squatting, or stretching. Now take a look at your computer — the monitor should be at eye level and your wrists should be flat when you are typing or using the mouse. If not, either raise up your monitor or attach a keyboard tray to your desk. Finally, have a seat. Are your thighs parallel to the floor, your calves perpendicular, and your feet planted flat on the ground? If not, adjust your chair or bring in a footrest. As you sit at your desk, pay attention to what your body is telling you. If it causes you discomfort, fix it!

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Ramona Creel is an award-winning 15-year veteran organizer and member of the National Association Of Professional Organizers. As well as having birthed “The A-To-Z Of Getting Organized,” Ramona is also the author of “The Professional Organizer’s Bible: A Slightly Irreverent And Completely Unorthodox Guide For Turning Clutter Into A Career”—and the creator of more than 200 “quick-start” business tools and templates for use by productivity professionals. She writes seven different blogs, has worked with hundreds of clients, and has delivered scores of presentations on getting organized. Ramona resides on the roads of America as a full-time RVer—living and working in a 29-foot Airstream. Learn more at and RamonaCreel.com.

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4 Responses

  1. Baila Feig says:

    I am a Professional Organizer in New York and I love your website. Do you have any tips how to get into the corporate world? There are a lot of messy desks out there!

  2. Ramona says:

    Hey Baila — it’s all about networking, talking to anyone and everyone about what you do, your passion for organizing, what you can do to make their lives easier. You never know where a door to a messy office is going to open up for you!

  3. A friend of mine created a desk by taking two inexpensive two-drawer filing cabinets and placing a large sheet of wood (maybe it was an old door, I can’t remember) across the top – brilliant!

  4. Jill Robson says:

    Great article Ramona, as I am looking at the Ergonomics in action drawing I am looking down at my hands at my desk and realized my desk is too tall. My chair fits me and my feet are flat on the floor but my arms are too high. I am going to trim the legs on my desk. I have tried using foot stools but they never work for me, and at 5 ft 1 I am always fighting with the right chair height.
    I am always telling clients to organize for them, I should take my own advice.
    Thanks for the visual.

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