We’re going to organize the office today! And I don’t just mean putting our supplies in an orderly fashion in the drawer, I mean purging paper, getting important documents safe, even clearing off your computer and phone! And you know I have a ton of free printables for you.
When Marcello and I decided to turn our home office into a guest bedroom, the only space left for our desks was our bedroom! We decided to make it work and so far it’s been great.
I kept it neutral and mostly white so it would be a calm and serene place. Eventually we’d like to put hardwood floors in here. You can see we have strategically placed rugs for most of the spots in the carpet. Kinda gross because they’re not our spots, but it’s not in the budget yet.
I have had neck and back problems for years and my computer set up was not helping. I decided to raise my monitor a bit to prevent slouching.
I used this small tray I already had (Ross Dress for Less) underneath the computer. The handles provided the perfect ins and outs for cables. My external hard drive fits underneath and cords for my phone and camera poke out the side.
That and a pillow behind my lower back have made such a difference!
The first step in getting my little office space organized is to go through the year’s accumulated papers. I file what we need to keep and recycle what we don’t. After all, the easiest way to organize is to have less.
I also take this opportunity to declutter drawers and baskets of random pens, cards and other things that get thrown in them.
Empty drawers and toss:
- old papers
- broken or excess pens and pencils
- old/unused cords and gadgets
- things you never use but keep thinking you will (you won’t)
Next comes what to do with the papers that go in the save pile. I keep folders in two places to avoid that annoying pile of random papers on the kitchen counter (you know, the one that has junk mail mixed in with important documents so you can’t throw it away, but it keeps growing):
Easily accessible folders
The folders in the basket above my computer have the following labels:
- The current year’s medical receipts
- The current year’s home and car repair receipts
- A folder for tax documents that filter in after the first of the year
- And one for miscellaneous papers we need to revisit
Keeping folders like this makes it simple to gather necessary documents when it’s tax season. And after tax season, I sort through my white folders and add what still needs to be saved to my file drawer, below.
File drawer folders
My file drawer is more for things we need to keep longterm. In my file drawer I keep a folder for each of the following:
- medical (one per family member)
- house (documents and repairs)
- past five years of taxes (one per year)
- financial (investments, accounts, etc.)
- receipts for purchases under warranty
- scrapbook (for things like our family Christmas card, a magazine clipping a family member was in …)
When we evacuated for a hurricane, I was shockingly aware of how scattered our documents were, and if I couldn’t get to my computer I would have no access to my passwords.
I started printing out my passwords once a year and sticking them in our family binder.
A family binder holds important documents and information. Ideally it would be stored in a fire/waterproof bag and stored someplace safe.
Here is what is in our family binder:
- social security cards
- birth certificates
- marriage/death/divorce certificates
- print out of passwords
- car titles
I try to keep things simple in my little office, so I opted for plain folders and file folders. And as a bonus, the plain white office supplies are the cheapest!
The binders I keep on my desk are:
I have also included some printables for spines if you’d like to do the same. I added some other options in case they’re useful too — budget, family and calendar.
Put only what fits and what you will use back in your drawers. Hint: It’s less than you think.
- Buy stamps.
- Check ink levels in the printer and copy paper supply.
- See how many checks you have left and order more if needed.
- Restock envelopes, post-its, pens, paper clips, staples. (You know I head to the dollar store for these.)
- It’s nice to have cards on hand for various occasions too.
I have a small drawer unit from IKEA (sorry, it’s been discontinued) where I keep blank DVDs, markers, labels, copy paper, laminating sleeves, cards and stationary.
My laminator, fabric, crafts, ribbon, paint and such are in a closet off the kids’ playroom, hardly organized at all. A post for a far off distant day.
I like using the back wall of this setup as my command center.
(Let’s not look too carefully at the incorrect months on some of the clipboards! My printer died and I haven’t ponied up the money for a new one yet.)
In my command center I like to have:
- weekly dinner menu
- monthly budget tracker
- a checklist of some sort (cleaning, prayers, inspiration …)
My printable library is big! Check it out, you’re sure to find something that works for you.
Computer, camera and phone clean up
Oh yes, I went there. It seems daunting at first, but it’s feels so great when it’s done! And then when you start doing it once a year, it doesn’t take long at all.
- Throw away all desktop items you no longer need.
- Organize what’s left into folders.
- Empty the trash.
- Upload photos to computer (to have them all in one spot).
- Delete all notes you no longer need.
- Delete very old emails and texts.
- Delete apps you no long use.
Organize photos and videos
I know this is a touchy subject. Some people feel panicked about deleting pictures off their desktop or phone. Some feel overwhelmed about what to do with all the photos they’ve taken over the years.
As a graphic designer and blogger, I have SO many files and the space is just not there for me to keep every photo and video I’ve ever taken. This is how I clean up my computer, phone and camera.
I do this at the start of every year:
- Upload photos and videos from my phone and camera to my computer.
- Select my absolute favorites (be ruthless) and color correct them if needed.
- Save my favorite photos onto an external hard drive with the labeled year. Make a DVD with the same photos. And finally upload them to a digital library such as Google Photos or Flickr.
- Make a yearly photo book.
- Put all the year’s videos into a one-hour video.
- Save the video to my external hard drive and on a DVD.
- DELETE all of them off my desktop, cell phone and camera for a fresh start.
Here is my back up system in more detail.
While you’re cleaning off your computer and phone, this is a good time to check for any updates in software.
When the office space is comfortable, simplified, organized and pretty, it makes me want to work! Take the time to update and refresh your office space. I promise it will make you want to sit there again!
Check out my Ultimate Planners!
Black pitcher: Target ($5 in dollar spot now!)
Scripture sign: Hobby Lobby
Faux plants: Ross Dress for Less
Faux fern leaves: Dollar Tree
Be sure to follow me on Pinterest and Instagram! I share a lot of ideas and frugal tips on Instagram (especially in stories) that don’t develop into full posts here.
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10 thoughts on “Office organization ideas and minimalist checklist”
What external hard drive do you use (and do you recommend it) for a Mac? I am in the market for one but it has to be very user friendly:)
Hi Tracy! I have this one: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00KWHMQV2/ref=oh_aui_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1
I love the clean and simple look of your office. You’ve inspired me to clean out my desk! I would love to know what program you use to create your one-hour video for the year. Thanks!
Hi Kindra! I’m so glad you’re inspired by the post! It sure does feel good to work in a tidy spot after the chaos I had let it become! haha! I use iMovie to make my videos.
Now I‘m really inspired to clean up my desk – thanks for that! ☺️
I was hoping to know where you got that black/gold documents holder from, I can’t open the link if it is one, so could you please tell me where I could get it? Thanks in advance!
Hi Maria! Glad you like the post :) Here is the link to the gold hanging files: https://rstyle.me/n/deu7iecdhz7
I haven’t even finished reading this post yet, but I had to come down here and comment. That upside-down tray hack is genius!! I am brainstorming how I can do something similar to corral the family charging pile currently junking up my dresser. Also, when I read this sentence: “I also take this opportunity to declutter drawers and baskets of random pens, cards and other things that get thrown in them,” my brain read, “… and other things that GROW in them,” and I was like, “Yup.” Ha! :) Can’t wait to read the rest!
One more thing… :) Instead of (or possibly in addition to) printing out your passwords, you might consider signing up for an online password vault. I use LastPass (the free single-user account), and it’s been great.
Thanks for the tip, Jenny!
Thanks to this blog and now I’m really motivated to organize my stuff. As an office worker of one of the best universities in the Philippines. This is really a big help for me when it comes to organizing the paperwork and the file drawers.