office clutter and more stuff

anrsazNovember 17, 2008

I see all these nice little desk areas, office areas, but yet I fail to see how everything can be compact!

What do you do w/the file cabinet? We have oodles to file; insurance, iras, house sales, house buy, warranties, current receipts, taxes this year for next year, last years, previous years, geez, I need a 4 tier filing cabinet. Just where does that ugly thing go? I have so much paperwork, I don't know what to do with it.

My dh has dr referral letters, but yet doesn't go, but needs them. We have a home business, but he has stuff that he wants in the house, not out in the office itself (we fight about this), homeschool stuff, cameras; digital, video, dvd-r's cd-rw's for movies and copying, cables, (yes he says keep them),the shredder, the garbage, the printers, paper. And of course never one spot houses it all so I have to look in 3 places. Then there's the photo albums, and crafts. Yes, I've gone through it all, but what and where do you put this stuff when you don't have an attic or basement? I'm ready to house it all in the shed and label the shed, "House stuff".

I am so drowning. I am a very organized person. But just where does all this stuff go? And where the $#%@! do you put a huge filing cabinet? I'm sick of it.

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We have oak filing cabinets in DH's office... six drawers total, all necessary.

I have one filing area in the family room, where my computer is and where I pay bills.
It is a flip-top ottoman on casters. Serves the dual purpose nicely!

Camera stuff in in the entertainment center.

Photo albums have a bookshelf.

My craft supplies are in a Rubbermaid tote, and I use the dining room table when doing a project.

Can't help with home schooling. Several friends who do that have a dedicated classroom.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2008 at 6:14PM
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I have one of those tall 5-drawer heavy duty filing cabinet. I was so excited when I got it, thinking it would solve all my paper problems. It is great for filing but it sits in my office and I hate looking at it. It is really ugly. Unfortunately, the configuration of the room doesn't allow me to put it behind me so I don't have to see it every time I look up. I've had it in other rooms away from my computer area but never could make the extra effort of walking to it to file.

I've often thought of painting it, thinking that would at least make it more cheerful. Now it's a deep tan color.

So my suggestion is to be sure you don't mind how the filing cabinet looks.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2008 at 9:46PM
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In my last house, I did not have an attic, garage, shed or much closet space. My solution was to make a 10' wide by 2' deep closet by installating curtains along the entire length of one room.

At the bottom of the "closet", I had file cabinets,a printer stand, paper and the shredder. Above those, I installed the 20" deep elfa shelves and stored a ton of stuff in wire baskets or clear plastic boxes. This closet held sewing supplies, fabric, craft supplies, coats and dresses on a rod, old boxes of papers........and a step ladder to reach the top shelves.

That's how I kept my small desk area clean :)


    Bookmark   November 17, 2008 at 10:32PM
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You could put files into wicker storage boxes that can also be used for seating. This is what I have.

Or just wicker boxes with covers.

For storage that you do not need to access daily get stacking boxes that hold files.

You can even get a matching little drawer stand and hide all your peripherals in the drawers and let the cords come out the back. Get one like this where the whole thing is open. Its way less messy looking.

I've got all my peripherals in something like this:

Here is a link that might be useful: Storage

    Bookmark   November 17, 2008 at 10:37PM
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Both my DH and I work in our house now. It's an old house with too little closet space, an attic too hard to get into very often, and a separate apartment (rented) in the basement. We keep the archival files in an old file cabinet in storage at a site nearby. Each of us has a 42-inch, two-drawer, legal-size lateral file cabinet in our offices, with a 48-inch table over each. We bought good quality ones in black from an office furnishings company for a couple hundred dollars each, which we think is worth it...they are sturdy and easy to use.
Printer paper and mailing supplies go on top of the file cabinet under the table. We are in process of reconfiguring the drawers to hold letter-sized files in three rows, front to back, instead of having to get into the legal-sized files sideways. This involves new racks to hold the hanging files, new hanging files, and me whacking the ends off of a zillion legal-sized regular file folders as I go!
But they look nice enough, and are really useful this way.
We also each have a tall bookcase for books, three-ring binders, and project boxes. I have a shelf on the wall over my desk for phone, stapler, dictionary, and the other things that I want at hand but off the acreage on the surface.
I also have a magnetic strip for little notes and reminders. I've learned to keep it small, because I will fill up whatever space I allow myself...

The arguments over what to keep and what to get rid of are another subject altogether, and every married one of us understands that this has to be addressed between you. At the risk of venturing where I am not invited, I'd suggest that you think about what it's really about. Why do any of us really balk at cooperating with each other, and what is our intention, anyway?

I shut up now.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2008 at 9:28AM
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Quote: The arguments over what to keep and what to get rid of are another subject altogether, and every married one of us understands that this has to be addressed between you. At the risk of venturing where I am not invited, I'd suggest that you think about what it's really about. Why do any of us really balk at cooperating with each other, and what is our intention, anyway? "

He gets annoyed, because he hasn't a clue what do to with a lot of stuff he gets and it's getting to the point that neither do I. It's frustrating to him because he's not a paper person and is horrible at it and he knows it and he doesn't know how to fix it, so I do. But then we cant' remember what we did with it all, because it's so much. LOL. He's one of those that will fill any and every horizontal surface unless I keep it clean. Ugh.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2008 at 3:08PM
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He gets annoyed, because he hasn't a clue what do to with a lot of stuff he gets and it's getting to the point that neither do I. It's frustrating to him because he's not a paper person and is horrible at it and he knows it and he doesn't know how to fix it, so I do.

I could have written this. For what it's worth, here's how we solved it. Anything that could be of mutual interest is my responsibility (household bills, investment statements, etc). I have a file system set up with labels and categories and color coded folders (yeah, I'm an office supplies junkie, what of it? LOL). Anyway, any of that stuff can be easily retrieved by either of us - I'm faster, but he can manage if he needs. I walked him through the system when I set it up, and asked if he had any input, but the routine maintenance for it is my responsibility - because I care more/am better at it.

Stuff that is just his - printouts from work (WHY?!), random beer recipes (he's a homebrewer), articles about who knows what - gets its own file system. It started as one folder [DH Stuff] and has now grown to three ([DH Work] [DH Beer] and [DH Stuff], with the latter being a catch-all).

When his papers start accumulating on the table, I'll give a heads up that I'm doing a filing so he has a chance to toss anything he doesn't want. Otherwise, "his" stuff goes in "his" folders. I never, ever throw any of it away, and it always gets put away the same place. That has greatly reduced the accusations of sabotage! :)

I think it was Tallysue who brought up the idea that you're always more motivated to retrieve things than put them away. In his case, a couple of really broad categories works - he's willing to flip through a stack of 50 papers to find the one recipe and then shove the whole mess back in the folder.

But then we cant' remember what we did with it all, because it's so much

One more point, before I shut up :) May I suggest you spend some time considering your overall storage needs and planning them out appropriately? Then group things in a way that makes sense for the two of you, label the daylights out of everything, and make a map or inventory (seriously). You can use that as a cheat sheet until you have it memorized. If you find that you're constantly refering to the cheat sheet for specific items, that implies that they aren't stored in a way that makes sense *for you*.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2008 at 5:05PM
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While the pictures of home offices in magazines or online articles are seductive, they are fantasies. Your original question very neatly outlined all of the things that the "modern" home office often contains. No charming little writing desk containing only a flower in a vase and three color-coordinated pencils in a decoupage cup will accomodate that.

Do everything you can to make your working space attractive, of course, but remember that this is a *working space*. There may be file cabinets, or book cases that are actually used for storage instead of staging the perfect accessories. If that mishmash of stuff you outlined above all makes sense to be stored in the home office, start with that idea and figure out how to make it work. Function first!

...this is as much a reminder to me as you, as tonight's my regular night for doing some maintenance organization/sorting in my office and I'm feeling a little self-conscious about it being seen by the Thanksgiving Army invading next week - LOL

    Bookmark   November 18, 2008 at 5:22PM
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You may also want to think about putting some stuff on a CD or jump drive, if you don't need the original. That is what I have been doing as I can't stand the site of paper anymore. They seem to multiply to fast.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2008 at 7:48PM
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I inherited from my mother the tendency to keep too much paper, believing that I will want to do something with it "later." The fallacy here is forgetting that another pile will come drifting in the door tomorrow, and "later" never comes.
I also inherited from her the habit of leaving things out on the table (and that table, and the one over there, and the counter...) because that will remind me to do it. Hah! Thanks to Julie Morgenstern, I now see that we do it because we don't have a system we trust. This way doesn't work, either, but we think it will!

For your DH, annellis, I would suggest beginning by giving him two good-sized bins. Just two. Then his "incoming" gets sorted into "This is important, and/or I know what to do with it," and "This can wait: I don't know what to do with it yet, but I want to think about it."
Then he can go through the first batch regularly, and handle those things, maybe with your help. He can mess about in the second on his own when he wants to. And the surfaces don't fill up, and you don't have that nagging sense that something important is being neglected.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2008 at 9:34AM
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The one and only organized room in my house is our office. On one wall, which is about 10 feet, there is a built in closet. It has a shelf on top (photo albums, maps etc). Just below the shelf is a hanging bar, which I don't use much, but do have 2 or 3 things handing on the left side of the bar. The bulk of the space is taken up by a sturdy metal adjustable shelving unit. The bottom space is tall enough for two, two drawer filing cabinets. Remaining shelves have things such as a unit I made out of foam core and pins then decopaged it (surprising sturdy)for different kinds of paper (photo etc)and the rest of the shelves have room for those prefab banker boxes in which we keep all those old computer games and cords we can't bear to part with, manuals, taxes, etc. THose portable plastic filing cases/bins would also fit. To the left of the shelving system is the shredder. The closet is probably two feet deep by 7 feet wide. All this is behind bi-fold doors. To the left of the closet DH has his desk, a small one that he mostly piles junk on. Cmeras etc end up here. It's somewhat hidden behind the closet, so I don't mind the mess. Above it, he built numerous shelves for CD's. Then I have a desk, that also has some filing space, the computer and printer are on the desk, along with address book, stamps, things like that. The drawer holds pens and pencils, sticky notes etc. It works well for us. Overall the room is probably 10 x 14.

    Bookmark   November 19, 2008 at 8:02PM
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You all have very good pointers and that was to either keep DH's stuff in a bin (2) or label it "DH" and keep it very simple so we can find it. Plus, good planning. It would be optimal to buy exactly what I need than to *try* to utilize the junk I have. But it's so costly that way. And then what if I want to rearrange it? I have two rooms I can rearrange...homeschool room/office/family room.

If you remember which you all probably don't, I moved our homeschool room into our family room, because we don't use it. I'm thinking of switching it back to the bedroom because of the constant interruptions out there, whether it's dogs or daddy coming in or cat's bombarding either other, it's just not condusive to good focus. It's also difficult to keep visiting kids out of it.

Anyway, that means I need to bring my computer out there and that entails his and mine. He has an armoire for obvious reasons, mine is an open desk. I often wanted to keep my area at the desk in the kitchen, so getting rid of clutter is important and so is hiding a file cabinet, actually one that needs to be larger. I think however I can put that into our front closet which is so nicely cleaned out :( although I'd much prefer it to stay that way. Otherwise I'll bring my metal desk out there which is no more unsightly than all our homeschool stuff.

I just have visions of that fantasy little desk w/the flower on it. LOL!!! But if I just had one more closet, I'd be so good to go!!

Awww, all you come over would ya?

    Bookmark   November 20, 2008 at 10:16AM
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Melissa Houser

Marie said something about not liking the way her behemoth of a filing cabinet looks. I have one of those as well and solved the problem by using the top shelf as a pretty area. I put a plant on top of the cabinet, ivy so it can expand and grow bigger, then put a few decorative items inside the top shelf. My top door lifts up and stays open.

It's not too difficult to paint metal filing cabinets and/or metal desks, either. Just use spray paint and do several thin layers of paint instead of trying to cover with one coat to avoid drips. I painted my old desk orange and then used some stencils to write my company name over that in white. You could put your surname on the front, or anything else you like.

My business partner actually mounted one of those plastic page sleeves on the front of hers and put different cartoons and such in there.

As for organizing things, I keep my checking account "stuff" in my desk file drawer, including deposit books, check books, and check registers. The other files in that drawer are all things I need to look at daily. Since I run my business from home, my categories are price lists, accounts receivable and accounts payable.

Anything else business-related goes in the second and third drawers of my filing cabinet. I scan 90% of the day to day invoices, so that I avoid paper clutter. The bottom two drawers of my filing cabinet hold household paperwork: insurance policies, warranties, service manuals, etc.

My 18 year old actually finds things faster in this system than we do! But, as long as we can find it, I'm happy.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2008 at 11:23AM
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The thing to do when you have so much necessary "stuff" and just not enough room, is (1) try to declutter again - throw out what you can live without, (2) separate "home" from "business" from "hobbies" (3) Within each one of those three sections are sometimes ten or so subsections.

Don't feel like we've all got the tiny desk with the 3 flowered vase on it and are just so content with that. At the moment, I've got a few rooms of disorganization spilled over onto the next (but I work almost 16 hrs a day and wait for weekends to catch up). Anyways, those magazine desk rooms are "staged" rooms - they don't exist. The minute you put a real person with real receipts and documents in those rooms, it will be a tornado.

Anyways, a few tips I've used that have helped me:
(1) Buy a photo album with the clear sheets: I put warranties, important receipts, important documents (deeds, mortgage transactions, etc.) in these bad boys because it lets me see instantaneously what I have.

(2) Get an accordian style folder. This is for coupons. Label the tabs by month, and put the coupons in that are due to expire in that month. We are never more motivated to use coupons then when their value will expire. At least that is the way for me.

(3) Get fancy (but cheap) bins to put "stuff to look over when I have a minute" and divide by type: business, home, play.

Organizing is very personal; make it the way you need to in order to retrieve documents quickly and to organize efficiently. If big color stickies are what grabs your attention, then do it! If you want that kind of attention-getting organization, but behind closed doors - stash your stuff in matching bins, cabinets, etc. You don't have to buy fancy stuff, just make it all consistent; paint the ugly file cabinet a nice brown to match the incoming & outgoing mail bins, that will match the accordian files.

Harmony is established visually through consistency. So, you can have alot of clutter, but consolidate it behind consistent color and texture and find a code of organization that works for you and your family.

Having alot of "stuff" isn't bad - especially if it is important documents or idea sheets or creative inspirations. The trick is to be able to devise a system to organize it so that you can retrieve it quickly, or flip through it to remind you of what is available. I have volumes and volumes of pictures I've cut out from magazines, because I loved the way a room looked. I have several albums dedicated soley to kitchens, bathrooms, bedrooms, bonus rooms, basements, mudrooms, and gardens. And in each one of those categories, I have several subcategories (paint style/color, furniture arrangement, etc.). As long as you organize in a way that you won't have to lose an inspiration idea, you are fine!

And you can do all this on a budget, and still be eloquent, and organized looking. Go over the system with your partner and make sure you two are on the same page in regards to (1) what needs to be filed and where they go (2) what things can wait and where their holding place is, and (3) not sure, but I'll ask my partner about this one bin. Remember that the "home office" is the "brains" of the house; deceptionaly pretty, but internally complex. Kinda like what my DBoyfriend calls me. ;)

    Bookmark   December 18, 2008 at 9:43PM
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This very much could have been my post. And we embarked on the organization project this weekend. My DH tends to accumulate "piles" and they drive me crazy. He also can never throw away a computer or A/V cable, or any kind of CD that ever came with any kind of software or piece of equipment. These things were stashed all over, or not even stashed at all.

We also had two ugly file cabinets that didn't even match. We had them in the closet (we actually have a lot of closets in this house -- two of them in our office), stacked, turned sideways (standard file cabinets are too deep to fit in a reach-in closet unless turned sideways). That meant that the space needed to pull out the drawers had to be left clear. Wasted space.

For a while I have wanted to get a nice tall lateral file, because it would fit in the closet. But then I had a brainstorm. Getting a big new shelf for a project elsewhere in the house freed up a tall rolling storage rack. We pulled out the file cabinets (yard sale bound), I bought a bunch of the cheap cardboard banker's boxes from an office supply store, rolled the storage rack into the closet and went to town.

Empty guitar cases that were piled in the corner are on the top shelf with little boxes that DH hoards because "they will be good someday" when he sells something on ebay (God love him). Extra monitor, speakers, desk lamps, etc., on the next shelf. The four shelves below that will hold 12 banker's boxes of retired files, DH's cables, and obsolete (IMHO) software CDs.

My DH also is not a stickler about every little thing being filed and labeled. He is happy to simply relocate his "pile" into a box where he can root through it. So I simply labeled the box "D - 2009." Works for him.

Here's the closet (just started putting boxes on the shelves):

    Bookmark   January 11, 2009 at 3:27PM
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I recently discovered this cool blog that discusses this very subject. I find the 'comment' section especially enlightening (and lighthearted).

Unclutterer is a website for home and office organization.

If you haven't already found this blog, I think many here would enjoy it too :-)

Here is a link that might be useful: unclutterers......

    Bookmark   January 29, 2009 at 11:10AM
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