Approximately 3 weeks ago, my niece was born and I reorganized my office supplies and closet. Somehow one of these events overshadowed the other ; ). I wanted to share a few small tips for organizing, since it seems like this area of the house is especially prone to becoming a clutter magnet. We live in a 2 bedroom house and are fortunate to be able to use one of these rooms for my office and for storage. Aside from the closets (one in each bedroom and one linen closet in the hallway) there is little storage in our tiny house. This means that many different items need homes in one space. The first part of this project involved assembling EVERYTHING that needed to be stored in the office closet. I had accumulated years worth of office supplies, craft supplies, papers and records and more from the time BT (before Tyler), and on top of that also had to incorporate Tyler’s stuff as well. My goal was to get rid of at least 1/3 of this stuff and simplify so that I had only what I needed, and so that I knew what I had. This way, the space utilized for storage was *useful*, active space. I sorted old VHS tapes, CDs, electronic equipment, stereo equipment, a bazillion computer cords, cables, and cases, craft supplies, scrapbooking paper, office supplies, and more.
One of the challenges I have encountered in the past is the difficulty of maintaining organizational systems. Everyone always wants to “get organized” but it’s difficult to stay organized. I chose to employ a very literal interpretation of “a place for everything and everything in its place,” by creating labels not only for the storage containers but for their places. This way, an empty shelf won’t seem like an inviting place for clutter, but is instead waiting for its box to come home again. I also noticed that when I need something like a camera charger, batteries, or a USB cable, I am usually in a rush and so even though these things were stored neatly to begin with, their infrequent use combined with my haste usually means I am tearing open boxes and throwing contents around in my frenzied hunt for my charger/cable/whatever. Soooo – I labeled the OUTSIDE of the storage so I know immediately where my desired objects are stored. This is also useful for a multi-member household. I do the organizing- but that doesn’t mean Tyler never needs to find something. Labels are so communicative. : )
I took this process a step further by labeling my computer cables. I used small zip ties to loop the cables together, taking care to ensure the ends remained “out”. (I rarely need an extended cable, as long as the male/female ends are exposed [that sounded dirty] they are just as useful to me as if their full length were snaking around in a drawer. Then, I used common white labels to create an easy-to-read description. The looped cables are stored neatly leaned against one another inside a white tray inside a labeled drawer. Easy!
Finally, here is a glimpse of the closet, as you view it from the front. It is (not so surprisingly) difficult to get a good photo of a closet, so there is a lot more storage you cannot see. On the bottom, out of sight, sits the paper shredder and the cabinet houses computer cables in the drawer and craft supplies below. The shelf features the all-in-one printer, extra printer paper, and metal magazine files holding extra notebooks, envelopes, folders, and other office accessories. Candles and lighters are neatly labeled in pull out drawers next to a file box that holds ‘important’ papers (this bin needs its own organization day). Lights and electrical components are in the top bin. To the left shelves house a few more trays of craft supplies and the vacuum cleaner has its own permanent spot out of sight. The high shelves feature a few long-term projects I don’t need frequent access to as well as storage for music CDs and backed up data CDs. On the right, mailing/packing supplies (for my occasional ebay sales) sit next to drawers that store blank media (burnable DVDs etc.). A small space between the cabinet and the wall leaves just enough room for my fancy paper cutter and hooks on the wall store our laptop cases, my DSLR camera case, and magazines-to-be-read sit in a bin on the floor.
You probably stopped paying attention long ago- but here are a few tips for organizing your own office supplies:
1.) PURGE. Pens, papers, and labels are fun- but do you REALLY need 12 packages of college ruled paper when you’ve been out of school for a decade? Even if it’s useful, ask yourself: how often you use it, can you afford to replace it if you developed a need in the future, is it worth the space. If you still can’t let go– limit yourself to a certain number of the item. For example – I am allowed to keep 3 packages of paper. The rest have to go. What you have left will be high-use items that will allow you to maximize your storage and your daily efficiency.
2.) ORGANIZE By USE. Put frequently used items in the most accessible places.
3.) LABEL. Label, label, label, and label some more. The place you put your measuring tape seems obvious when you just organized your closet yesterday, but will you be able to find it three months from now? Give your brain some help and write it down, neatly, legibly, and visibly.
4.) REINFORCE THE SYSTEM with more labels. Set yourself up for success and make it easy to put things away and easy for others to do the same.