Home Office Tips & Tricks to Master Working at Home

Updated: 7 days ago


Steve Bechen home office

Good morning from my husband Steve's recent small home office makeover in Arizona, USA, my dears!


I know many of you are working from home now. I have been interviewed by the media numerous times over the years for my home office tips, especially for small spaces, and I have consulted over the years with clients on their home offices both in person and virtually, so I'm developing something right now from my home-office archives to share with you in the next couple of weeks or so, but 'til then, I am sharing here some tips and tricks and products below that we just used for Steve's home office makeover to give you ideas for your own home office.


(We all have our gifts and trust me, you wouldn't want me for your body's doctor, but being your "home office doctor" -- now that I can help you with! :)


Use your own ingenuity, my dears, to create a home office space for yourself that is both functional, and attractive. You can do it!


Also, Chapter 9 of my Small Space Organizing book/eBook is all about home offices and has many easy tips to get you started.


IMPORTANT NOTE ...


You don't have to spend a lot of money to set up a functional and attractive home office. I once covered a piece of plywood with fabric to make a desk that was cute, functional, and affordable for my slim budget at the time since we had just bought a new home. You might have a table in your garage, some empty bins in your bathroom, some baskets in your bedroom etc. that can be repurposed to your home office. Why not cover a card table with your favorite quilt or fabric and use it for a desk! Repurposing keeps things out of our landfills too, as well as helps your budget.


For us personally at this time, we had been planning and budgeting to upgrade Steve's office a bit this year anyway since moving into this home two years ago, so we went ahead and did it now since he is working his banking job from home now and needs and wants to be productive and comfortable working there full-time several days a week. We had the money in savings to do this because we plan ahead and work together as a team on our finances. My favorite practical and simple manage-your-money-well books.


Our tips and tricks for Steve's tiny, narrow, and tricky home office space:


Steve Bechen home office/den

Function comes before aesthetics.  Always.


Much as many of us love colorful and artistic aesthetics, function is the cake/foundation, and aesthetics are the frosting.


Think of it that way, and you can't go wrong. :)


ROOM ROLES ...


Part of function in a home office is also naming what "roles" your home office must play as you plan your room, because in the real world most home offices play more than one role.


Example:


Steve's home office is used for several roles/functions:


1. His personal laptop desk where he manages our personal budget and investment spreadsheets and plans out his week in his planner and with his Post-it Notes.


2. His entire wardrobe of clothing, shoes, ties, his memorabilia treasure box etc.


3. Our marital communication-command center with a joint wall calendar of appointments that affect us both. We keep our own individual calendars, but if an appointment affects us both, we enter it on the joint calendar too now, and that is working great for both of us to date.


4. Our marital in-boxes where we put papers that the other person needs to look at, because we don't want them floating around on our chair or desk from the other person and only causing clutter, confusion, and/or annoyance.


5. A space for extra sleeping in case of illness and  we don't want to bother our mate, and want to close the door to rest in private while ill etc., so we keep a comfy futon and cozy quilts on the top of his wardrobe for situations like that. I bought the nifty mega- storage baskets when we moved in two years ago. Similar.


6. Overflow pantry food storage. We have a small 3.0 cu ft freezer in Steve's office that we already had, and we ordered another freezer that has not arrived yet, but Steve allowed space for the new freezer when we were planning his office makeover, and he created the safety brace for the shelf already too so it's secure when our new freezer arrives soon from Wayfair. We also put the brown Sterilite drawers below in the leftover skinny space near the freezer to store lightweight pantry goods like extra pasta, bread mix, etc. All of this is in a small nook at the opposite end of the room from his work area since they are personal things.


USE EVERY NOOK & CRANNY ARTFULLY WELL ...


Don't waste space; every little nook and cranny can be used without it looking overly cluttered. Store things in drawers and cabinets and bins (neatly!) so visual clutter doesn't overwhelm your brain.


7. We downsized to one printer when mine kept going on the fritz, so Steve' s office printer must also serve my printing needs which means I have to go into his office while he's working. (He was not working from home, nor did we think he ever would be when we did that m.o. earlier this year, but we're both okay with one larger and reliable printer so it's not a big deal.)


That's a lot of "room roles!" We had to take all of that into consideration before we began his recent home office makeover.


What variable roles will your home office have to play? Think it through and write it down before you start moving things around or buying things.


Steve Bechen home office/den storage

I labeled these drawers for overflow food/pantry storage. I have found Sterilite drawers of all sizes to be an economical and neat-looking storage solution all around our home, and we have them in our Master Bedroom and bathroom too.  Example of many of them in our Master Bedroom which is also my home office.


Steve Bechen home office/den storage

These Sterilite drawers sell in banks of three, but they come apart easily, so we took them apart to fit our particular space and placed five drawers on the bottom and two on top of the shelf. Flexible!


I love these as they really pack a lot of functional bang for your buck! No, they are not elegant wooden furniture you'll keep for five generations, but they do the job when your budget is a consideration, are easy to keep clean, plus they are easy to move because they are lightweight. (Have you ever moved heavy chests of drawers repeatedly?!)


See the window there? Steve had already put window film on our windows a couple of months ago as our windows face our front street and we both like privacy, but he chose to leave the top bare so that if he chooses, he can lift the shade and get some direct sunshine while he's working. And also see some greenery/nature.


Steve Bechen home office organizing

This size of Sterilite drawers are great for a variety of things. They fit an 8 1/2 x 11 inch size paper just fine. Steve uses his for his in-box, projects, extra copy paper etc. We use a labeler like this to make it easy to see at a glance what's in there. You could name the drawers by client name, or project name too. Label names are up to you; name your drawers and files what you will remember.


The Sterilite drawers also come in see-through, but to keep visual clutter under control, we both prefer the opaque. (Sometimes, though see-through works great -- like for toddlers' small toys since they can't read labels -- but that's another organizing topic!)


Also, see that cute cat under his desk? It's actually a door draft stopper!


Steve Bechen home office organizing

The small size Sterilite drawers work great for items like binder clips, paper clips, rubberbands, ear buds, chargers etc. Steve didn't label these drawers as he knows what's where, but you could label your drawers if you want/need to.


Steve & Kathryn Bechen home in-boxes

A small bulletin board keeps our ongoing Household Upkeep lists and any time something needs fixing or buying for our home it goes on there. And it's updated periodically.


Steve told me the other day: "I love your lists." Yay! Lists are just a mode of communication, and they work well for couples trying to coordinate schedules/projects so things get done in a timely manner and without frustration.


We each have an inbox wall pocket, and the bottom pocket is for our housing subdivision newsletter/events etc. We attached these to the end of Steve's wardrobe, so it functions just like hanging something on a wall.


Use every space you have creatively, my dears!


(Oops, I see in this pix there's something on a chair in my living room -- well there you go --even my house isn't always perfectly organized, so hope that makes you feel better!) :)


Steve & Kathryn Bechen command center

Steve's office is on one end of our living room and opposite our in-boxes hanging on his wardrobe end-wall is our command center with joint calendar, emergency contacts, etc., and a sign that says: "It's a good day to have a good day."


Steve's office also has a bathroom door we had to work around, but we had a small wall space by it, so we used it!


Steve Bechen home office

Okay, now for the yummy frosting on the home office cake: art and personalizing your space!


Steve loves this golf picture I had painted for him as a surprise about 25 years ago by an artist we became friends with. I took a photo of him golfing while on vacation and had her paint it for him as a surprise. When we were re-hanging it this time he said: "I still love this picture especially because I remember when you had that done for me as a surprise."


It's important to have things around your home office area that feel like YOU. Unlike working in a corporate office, where you might be prohibited from having personal things in your work area, at home you creatively can!


The other two pix I bought for Steve for his office as birthday gifts I bought at Wayfair because he loves the artist Monet and his birthday is April 7 so I had been collecting small things to give him for his birthday. He loved these pix and they are really nice quality! The purple card box looks like a Monet painting (but it's not.)


The small white wall shelves we found a couple years ago on Amazon and they work great for the small things he wants to access daily, but not hide in drawers. There is a light switch on that wall we had to work around too -- notice below the shelves.


Steve Bechen home office

He needed another mouse pad so I found this succulent pad for him as one of his birthday gifts. His favorite color is green, plus we live in the desert where succulents grow profusely so that made it fun too.


Steve Bechen home office

I also found him a Monet mouse pad and a new drink mug he said he loves because it doesn't drip and keeps things hot or cold a LONG time. (He said to tell you 12 + hours!)  

I showed Steve many years ago when I was teaching organizing classes and clients the same how to set up a Franklin Planner and he uses it still to this day and still loves it. He writes small and when he showed me how much he has in there recently, I am amazed at all the info he packs into that thing!


Steve Bechen home office organizing

One of the reasons we bought two more of these desks, (he already had one), was all the shelves for extra storage. We found the decorative boxes and books at Tuesday Morning a couple of years ago and they work great for storing projects.


Steve Bechen home office

We chose an L-shaped desk arrangement for Steve so he could keep his personal laptop/work on one side and his banking work-work with two big monitors on the other side. We ordered one desk to go with the one he already had, and then decided to order another. By then, the same color top was sold out so we said, "Oh well, we'll order the darker color and call it creative!"


This happens sometimes, but remember I said function first, and then aesthetics? The size and shape matched the other two desks so the two-toned-wood colors still worked fine and actually kind of provided a "one side is work and one side is personal" vibe.


NOTE: These are three individual desks, not one desk set already in an L-shaped configuration that's already made to be in an L-shape. We did this for three reasons: He already had one desk like this, so we figured just add two more. And, should we ever move again, (!), we could alternatively place all three of these along one wall as a long desk/table/work bench in a garage etc. They would work nice as a sofa table behind a sofa or a foyer table too. We prefer multi-purpose furniture when at all possible. Also, we bought Steve's particular desk too because the top is real no-odor wood vs. pressboard that stinks like chemicals.


Steve wanted me to tell you to be sure to use a comfy office chair and also buying a floor mat is really smart to help you move around properly/smoothly in the chair and also save your carpet. I heartily agree! (Prefer to not have a black office chair in your home office? Me too! So maybe do this, my dears!)


Also, Steve is our cord control and electricity guru. I don't do anything with that; I'm spacial planning and product sourcing and he's our electronics and electrics and build-a-shelf guru and he calls it all fun! He likes these cord covers and he used these clamps to hold all three desks together sturdily.


Steve Bechen home office L-shaped work area

I'm showing you this photo a second time to end this post because I want to share with you some other important things to consider when setting up your home office or doing a makeover.


1. Don't be deterred by a small space. Instead, get creative!


2. Organize and decorate around the particular space you have, which will almost always have some challenges. Our challenges were: three windows and a door along one whole wall. A narrow room due to the bank of wardrobes that covers the whole opposite wall. A bathroom door on the opposite end with a small narrow nook indent.


Here's what we purposely did to "outsmart" our tricky narrow room with just 8' x 6' 8" of space to work with ...


1. We put the desks in front of the door because we don't use our front door to enter our home anyway, and in case of emergency, there are three windows to exit.


2. We positioned the three narrow desks along the wall rather than fight that the room was narrow. You can't fight the space; you need to creatively work around it.


3. Steve covered just the bottom of the windows in window film, but not the top, so as to let in appropriate sunlight. He can use the shade on top if he wishes to as well.


4. Since storage was non-existent, we chose desks with shelves to expand the storage for his work area, and we bought the Sterilite drawers for more storage. These wardrobe cabinets we bought two years ago when we moved in.


5. Since we prefer to have a second room to sleep in when one of us is sick, we used the top of the wardrobe for storing an extra futon and cozy quilts.


6. We used the end of the room/the nook for our small freezer and extra food storage, keeping it out of his work area so I do not disturb him if I go in there while he's working. Steve built a shelf two years ago which will now work to hold the new freezer on the shelf over the top of the current freezer.



Interruptions can be a big challenge when two or more people work from home. We discussed this as I don't want to disturb Steve when he's on the phone. And, when I am deep in thought writing an article, I don't like to be disturbed either or it breaks my train of thought.


So, enter our DO NOT DISTURB CATS! Aren't they cute?! We simply hang them on the wall or door by our respective home offices and when they are turned this way it's do not disturb time! And if it doesn't matter really if the other person comes in to say hi or ask to take a snack break together, we simply turn them around to the plain white side.


Meow!


I hope you will be able to use some of my tips and products to create a home office where you can function productively and happily.


Home office blessings,


Kathryn :)


P.S. If you need more organizing tips for your home and files and business, I have written several dollarwise eBooks to help you.



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