How to keep your home office organized

By John Goddard, Toronto Star

home-office clutter

People fall into four main categories when it comes to arranging desk and drawer space, says a Toronto professional organizer.

“There is no point for an organizer to come in and say, ‘Do it this way, ‘ ” says Isolde O Neill, who works with businesses and homeowners.  “People will not stick to a solution if it doesn’t match how their mind works.”

She identifies four main personality types. See if you fit into one of the categories below and use her tips to help save time on your housework:

The Spreader: Often highly intelligent, with a head full of ideas, such as artists and professors.

Spreaders let their belongings migrate. Open a drawer, look under a desk – their stuff is everywhere. If they put anything away it’s only to lump everything into a cluttered mess.

Tip: “They stick to systems, they just can’t create them, ” O Neill says. “You need to say, ‘This is where you put books. This is where you put pencils. Develop the habit of putting items back after use.”

The Nester: Likes to personalize.

Under the guise of making a work space welcoming, this type of person can sabotage a work-friendly atmosphere. Photos, clothes, food, holiday snapshots, children’s artwork can all be distracting.

Tip: Limit your desk décor. A digital photo frame can display hundreds of rotating photos of family, pets and children’s artwork in one eye-catching location.

The Filer: Can be found among stacks of paper-filled storage boxes.

Efficient, productive and agreeable, people in this category have one downside – they may be resistant to change.

“They have a system that has worked for them, ” O Neill says. But are they stuck in the pre-digital age?

Tip: Purge. Do you really need to keep every receipt back to 1987?

The Piler: A master of multi-tasking.

Distrustful of systems and afraid to discard anything, pilers stack things on the desk, the floor, the window ledge – on any flat surface that keeps their material apparently in sight and close at hand.

Tip: Create an “action folder” of priority work at the front of the nearest drawer. Organize other papers into trays marked, “work in progress” and “to file.” Do not let the second tray exceed two inches high before material really is put away in filing cabinets.

“Pilers don’t think alphabetically, they think chronologically, ” O Neill says. “You have to reinvent what a filing system is to them and there are a million ways of doing that.”

Check out this video for O Neil’s tips for organizing the rest of your home.

First published in the Toronto Star on March 12, 2012.

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