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organized outlook - HARRIET SCHECHTER

An office space can be home’s mission control


Illustration by Jacie Landeros

Running a household is like running a small business. There are all those endless office tasks: dealing with incoming and outgoing mail, especially bills and correspondence; making phone calls and taking messages; budgeting, banking and other financial procedures; and, of course, filing.

Having an efficient yet comfortable home office in which to handle these chores can help keep your home organized.

If you think there isn’t enough room in your home to devote exclusively to an office, consider these options:

1. All you really need in terms of space for a bare-bones, low-tech office setup is a work surface (it doesn’t have to be a desk) and something in which to store files (it needn’t be a file cabinet).

There are even cleverly designed hideaway office armoires (available at retailers such as Crate & Barrel). They open up to provide a desktop, file drawers and cubbies for supplies, and they can be kept closed when not in use.

2. You can create a portable home office setup with inexpensive products such as Rubbermaid’s file boxes (available at most discount office supply retailers), which have handles for easy carrying. When they are not in use, you can tuck them away underneath a kitchen counter, for example. They can be used in conjunction with the kitchen or dining room table, which in many homes are the most popular places to do paperwork.

3. If you have a spare room that’s known as the “guest room,” consider whether you have guests often enough to justify that designation. You may be better off setting up the space for your office headquarters. (For the occasional guest, consider having a sofa bed or keeping an inflatable bed on hand.) No matter what size it is or where you locate it, an effective home office requires a few key elements: • Good lighting — an adjustable desk lamp is helpful.

• Comfortable chair — on casters, if possible.

• Adequate work surface — at a comfortable height

• Accessible storage systems — for filing, reference materials and supplies.

• Wastebasket — you should be able to reach it without stretching.

• Clock — within sight.

• Calendar.

When setting up your home office,choosing the right furnishings and equipment can help you avoid common problems such as:

• Work surfaces that are too small, too large, too high or too low — these often get buried in clutter because it becomes easier to dump things on them than to work at them.

• Filing cabinets with drawers that stick or drag instead of gliding open, or they only open halfway — guaranteed to help create piles of paper because it’s easier to put stuff on them than put stuff in them.

• High-tech systems that cost a bundle but that may be too complex for your household’s needs — these end up creating frustration as well as clutter.

2004 Union-Tribune Publishing Co.

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