Simple Living: Designing a Clutter Free Office

SillySimple:  Here is the second part of Mr. Silly Simple’s discussion of office organization.  Apparently while I was away last week he spent his free time simplifying and organizing our office space., am I complaining?  haha– no way!  Thanks honey!

A Clutter Free Office Part II

Truth be told, we’ve never really had a dedicated home office space.  Typically our “offices” consisted of whatever flat surface we could clear off for enough time to do some work at a computer, and always seemed to shift about from one room to another.  To curb this practice, we decided that what used to be our catch-all room was going to be transformed into an office.  In our previous space (before the relocation) we made great efforts to carve an office out of a spare bedroom we had used as a catch-all for far too long.  Ultimately our efforts to reduce clutter, organize and develop a usable office space in our old space were for naught.Clutter

So what was the reason for our initial failure?  In short, it was because the catch-all room had already taken root in the host apartment.  A catch-all room is a disease for the home.  It’s easy to get, painful to prevent, and quite hard to get rid of.  It gets worse if left untreated, spreads to other rooms, and seems to come back year after year.  When we moved to our current apartment, my wife and I made an oath that we would not allow our spare bedroom to once again become a catch-all.  We were faced with a blank canvas… and too much stuff to fit inside it.  This was the beginning of The Great Purge of 2011.

While I could go into detail of how we worked out the design and implementation of the office, I’ll spare you and just hit on a few helpful hints that aided our efforts:

1.  When you decide to redo your office–gut it.  Seriously, take everything out of the room.  This requires some empty space in an adjoining room and a lot of patience, but it’s ultimately a necessary step because it’s nearly impossible to move furniture and route cables with everything in place.  If you want to treat your potential as a blank canvas, you need to be presented with a blank canvas.

2.  Plan it.  For the longest time I had this swapped with #1 in terms of importance.  This resulted in more problems than it was worth.  You need to be able to see where things are located, and how they can possibly be maximally utilized for your needs.  Is there a power outlet near where you want to have your computer set up?  If not, what are your options for cable routing that won’t pose a health or visual hazard?  How is the air flow where you want to set up your desk?  You may also need to set up a fan.  Lighting?  Yeah, that’s important, too.  Will you be bringing in bookshelves or do you have built-in shelves you intend to use?  The key to all of this is that you want this space to be as comfortable as it is usable.

3.  Bring in and arrange the big stuff first.  And by “big stuff,” I mean furniture.  Our office is centered around our desk (a small, repurposed kitchen table) and a large bookshelf.

Binder Clip Cable Management4.  Install the cables second.  Before you bring in your electronics, route and arrange any cables that you have spanning long distances.  There wasn’t an outlet near where we wanted our desk, so we had to route a power cable running from the right side of the bookshelf to the left.  And since I was going to be setting my desktop computer on a third tier shelf, I had to run power cables from the bottom of the shelves up to where the computer was going to sit.  The difficulty with our new bookshelf is also one of its greatest selling points:  it’s finished on both sides, which means it doesn’t have a “back” and a “front.”  This means that any cables you have running up can be seen through the cubby holes… which just looks tacky.  We got around this with large binder clips, which were used for both cable routing and cable management.  Binder clips are much cheaper than modular cable solutions, and considerably less destructive than permanent solutions.  And if you’re mounting electronics on shelves with backs, chances are you’ll need to either remove the back entirely or install a new hole for cable access.

Clean Work Space5.  Go wireless when possible.  Fewer Tangles.  Cleaner lines.  No cable rerouting.  More freedom.  Enough said.

6.  Set up your desk with only what you need.  We’ve all seen them:  office desks that defy the laws of physics by cramming more framed photographs and knickknacks than can actually fit in the space they are given.  These desks are, for all intents and purposes, essentially unusable.  Identify what you need, and separate it from what you want.  Your needs go on the desk, and almost all of your wants will go on the shelf.  My needs were few:  a monitor, a mouse, a keyboard, a pen (or two), a stapler, and a coaster for my coffee (a coaster is essential for me because it reserves a place for vital beverages and helps protect the finish of the desk).  Once you’ve got your essentials in place, you can put one (ONE!) want on your desk.  The rest of the space is reserved for work.


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