Inside: Having a cluttered home office is a beast! Learn the exact system I use to decrease overwhelm and declutter the home office.
Growing up, my parents kept a pretty tidy home. That is…except for the home office.
The home office was a tiny unused bedroom that served as a storage place for an oversized desk, a couple of overstuffed filing cabinets and boxes and piles of paper. So. much. paper.
In the mid-90s, I sat in that over crowded closet of a room, listening to the familiar hum of the internet dialing in…only to have it interrupted by my mom trying to make a call in the kitchen.
“Mahhhm!” I called down the steps. “I’m on the computer!”
In college, my desk was so cluttered, I could only do homework in my bed. To get into my bed, I had to jump across a 3 foot pile of junk that cluttered the floor.
In adulthood, our “office” became a breeding ground for the stuff we didn’t know what to do with, but hadn’t yet built up the determination to get rid of.
To say I have struggled with home office organization is a massive understatement. I have drowned in the clutter that consumes my home office area.
This is the system I developed. Not going to make you any promises…but if this system can help a hoarder like me declutter my home office, I’m pretty dang sure it will work for you.
Here are the simple steps to take to declutter your home office.
How to Declutter Your Home Office: The Ultimate Guide
#1: Throw out Trash
The first step in any decluttering project is to throw out trash. We tend to keep things without even realizing what we’re keeping.
Odds are, one you start looking at the clutter, you’ll find loads of things you can throw out or shred.
It’s important to focus on “surface level” trash, meaning the trash you can see without digging in. You’ll continue to throw out trash as you declutter the office, but for now we want to get rid of the things we can see.
When you start with a small, easy to accomplish project, it’s called a quick win.
Starting with throwing out trash allows you to get a quick win done, giving you a sense of accomplishment and the motivation to keep going.
Think of it as a boulder rolling down a hill. At first, it takes an incredible force just to get the boulder to budge an inch.
But as the boulder rolls and gains momentum, it rolls quicker and quicker and quicker.
That’s what throwing out trash does when we declutter the home office. It allows us to quickly see progress, motivating us to go on to bigger and more complicated projects.
#2: Create a Decluttering Checklist
Once you get rid the surface level trash, survey everything you want to declutter in the home office.
Grab a piece of paper and a pen and create a decluttering checklist. Do a brain dump of everything you want to organize or declutter in the home office.
Don’t judge the thoughts or try to prioritize them. Just get all your ideas out on paper.
#3: Pick One Project
Take a look at your braindumped list. What do you want to work on first?
I know it’s tempting to do all. the. things. But you’ll see more progress if you pick one project and see it to completion.
Rachel Hollis has a great story to illustrate this. Imagine you have six soccer balls lined up. You get six opportunities to kick a soccer ball every day.
Do you think you’ll make more progress if you choose to kick each of six soccer balls once? Or if you kick one soccer ball six times?
In theory it doesn’t matter. You’ll get all soccer balls to the finish line either way.
But it reality, it matters a whole ton. Because when you have one project you can work on until completion, it will motivate you to keep working.
More than that, it will motivate you to work with joy and excitement instead of burn out and despair.
So, do yourself a favor. Pick one project.
You might like: How to Create a Simplifed Home in 4 Easy Steps
#4: Break It Down
Let’s break the giant project of cleaning out the office into several smaller, manageable tasks:
- Declutter desk.
- Declutter closet.
- Address unlabeled boxes in the middle of the floor.
- Go through the pile of random items stacked on the chair.
- Break down and recycle empty moving boxes.
Ask yourself, “Does this task take less than 15 minutes to complete?” If the answer is no, break it down more.
The project of decluttering the desk can be broken down like this:
- Declutter desk:
- Sort through papers piled on top:
- Throw out trash.
- Shred private information.
- Create folder with papers to keep.
- Create organization for pens:
- Find a cup to use as a pen holder.
- Gather pens.
- Take a piece of scrap paper and test out pens to see which ones work.
- Throw out pens that don’t work.
- Put working pens into pen holder.
- Sort through papers piled on top:
Do you see how breaking down the list can make each item feel less overwhelming? We took this giant project of decluttering the home office and broke it down until each item on the list takes 15 minutes or less to complete.
The idea is to make each decluttering task so small, you can’t convince yourself to skip it. A giant project like decluttering the whole home office might be something you push off indefinitely, waiting for the perfect time (which will never come, by the way).
However, if your task for the day is to grab some scrap paper and test out pens, that’s totally doable…even at the end of a long day.
Check out: 5 Awesome Tips to Declutter Your Life Now
#5: Focus on Progress, Not Perfection
If I was into face tattoos, I would have “Focus on progress, not perfection” tattooed backwards on my forehead.
Perfection is something that many of us struggle with, regardless of the state of our homes. And it’s terrible.
Perfection is a myth; it doesn’t exist. So if you expect perfection out of yourself, you’re playing a game you can’t win.
Instead, focus on progress. Focus on taking small steps towards your goal.
You will see more progress if you work on decluttering your home office every day for 15 minutes…than if you declutter a bunch over one weekend then completely desert the project before it’s finished.
Focus on breaking your list into small, manageable tasks and then taking steps on a consistent basis. Any steps — even tiny steps — will get you closer to your goal of a decluttered home office.