What to Read Next

6 Tips for Organizing Your Home Office

Lorie Marrero
July 21, 2011

One of the most common questions I hear as a Professional Organizer is: "Where do I start with organizing my home office?" The best approach is to think in terms of SYSTEMS, so here are the Basic Six systems to set up:

1.  Daily Personal Information: Whether you choose a traditional paper planner or a smartphone, having one place to capture each of these elements and make them portable will make it easier to find what you need and to prioritize.

  • Calendar - Google Calendar is an easy option because it can synchronize with other calendars like Outlook and can be accessed on any smartphone or computer. You can also manage other calendars simultaneously and overlay them, meaning you could set it up to see your spouse’s schedule too.
  • Tasks – One of my favorite apps for keeping up with my to-do list is called Remember the Milk. You can synchronize it with Outlook, and it exists on the web and on your smartphone too. Other popular task apps are Awesome Note and ToodleDo.
  • Contacts - Centralize all contacts into one system, and delegate the data entry if necessary to make sure everything stays updated (a great job for a teenager or babysitter!). Once a year, print out your personal contacts and put them in a family binder for everyone to reference quickly.

Related: Grocery Shopping Lists: Are You Old-School or High-Tech?

2.  Electronic Documents: Throwing everything into one big "My Documents" folder (or worse, onto your desktop) makes it difficult to find files. Create a file structure of folders and subfolders that makes sense for your home and business needs so you (and others sharing the information) can file and find things quickly. Quick trick: Force frequently used folders to the top of an alphabetical list by naming them with a symbol like a plus sign (+) as the first letter.

3.  Data Backups: It's not a question of whether your hard drive will fail, it's a question of when. Ideally your backup system should be remote (not under your own roof, in case of emergency), automated (so you won't forget to do it), and secure (safe from prying eyes). We like Carbonite.com and Mozy.com.

Related: How to Fix Clutter Trouble Spots for Good

4.  Password & Software Information:

Don't use the same passwords for everything. Create a secure system for tracking them like SplashID software, an old address book, or the Internet Password Organizer® book. You can use the same system for tracking software license information and other account numbers, frequent flyer information, and identification numbers. Here's a YouTube video I made about keeping passwords.

5.  Bills & Finances: Software like Quicken (for home use) and QuickBooks (for business use) makes it easier to budget and track your finances. You can store receipts and statements by month with simple January-December accordion files. For bill paying processes, here is an article I wrote here on the Good Housekeeping Home Style blog with 5 steps to organizing your bills.

Related: Organizing Tips for Summer Travel

6.  Paper: One of the biggest mistakes people make is not separating Action papers (those that require you to do something like fill out a form, make a call, pay a bill) from Reference papers (those that do not require anything except that you keep them and can find them later). Think Action – Reference – Trash (ART) as you sort through your piles. Your basic equipment is letter trays for the Action items, a filing cabinet and folders for the Reference items, and a shredder and recycling bin for the Trash.

What are your biggest home office challenges? Share in the comments!

More from Good Housekeeping:

Reprinted with Permission of Hearst Communications, Inc.

How to Relieve Your Joints with Just 1 Pill Daily

Doctors reveal a joint health discovery that delivers power relief to your joints in just a few days.

Pay off your high interest credit cards and save

Borrow up to $35,000, with rates as low as 5.99% APR. Consolidate credit card debt and save with a cash loan. Compare rates and save at LendingTree.

Airport Car Rentals

Cheap Car Rentals From $11/Day. No CC Required. Free Cancellation!

Banks "Outraged" by Brilliant Home Payoff Method

Before you pay your next mortgage you should see this. Millions of homeowners are already amazed. If your bank knew you did this, they'd freak!

Do NOT pay your insurance until you try this.

If you drive less than 55 miles/day OR have no DUI's you can get auto insurance for as low as $29/ Month! See if you qualify.

Hilton HHonors™ Card

Earn 40,000 Hilton HHonors™ Bonus Points. Apply for Your Card Today.

An Overlooked Method To Pay Off Your Credit Card

If you're paying credit card interest, you could save hundreds or thousands of dollars by transferring your balance to this no-fee card.

Banks Are Worried Homeowners Will Do This.

Homeowners are surprised and furious. If you owe less than $625,000 on your home, you better read this.

HPE Helps Enable Workplace Productivity

Hewlett Packard Enterprise helps you deliver rich, secure digital experiences to employees and customers.

How Older Men Tighten Their Skin

Men, reduce the look of wrinkles, sagging skin and fine lines with this affordable and effective skin tightening treatment without leaving your home.

Powerful Tactical Flashlight Flying Off Shelves!

This new tactical flashlight was just released to the public and is flying off shelves in the United States. Limited supplies left, act quick!

Drivers With No Tickets In 3 Years Must Read This

United States drivers are surprised that they never knew this. If you drive less than 50 mi/day, you better read this...

For Men Only: See Tighter Skin In One Easy Step

How older men tighten their skin and reduce the look of wrinkles without cosmetic procedures.

How Can Refinancing Your Student Loans Save Money?

SoFi can help you reduce your student loans and help you pay off your debt hassle free!