Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Home Office Organization

Dear My Great Challenge readers,

Yes indeed, we are a mess and we need help!

Look at our home office, isn't it pathetic? Wouldn't you rather die than have to work in this environment? I can't say I would blame you!

This below was my attempt at providing our oldest son (10 years old in 2012) with an adequate space for homework...And here is what happened to it:  since it is now summer and most homework (yes we do homework in the summer) is done on the first floor, he no longer used this space. So it has been taken over by new office/school supplies purchased at the Back-to-School sale.  On the black chair is all the stuff I needed last week to make a DYI Thank you card (obviously I do not put things away, or there really is no place to put it away). There are plastic containers I had hoped to use, some day, but have remained empty, alas collecting dust for months; An organizing cube that is stuffed like an olive with whatever nick knacks I cannot find myself parting with stashed on top or it... It's just a mess!

Before we start with the blame game, I need to showcase Scott's desk because it really is no better! Here you have a metallic memo board I had created but fell and is now used as a tray on the desk where stuff is just piled on, there are books and envelopes I needed him to mail but were pushed to the side and later added to the pile! Somewhere in the vicinity of the two spare monitors is a pen with actual ink in it, I know you can't see it, trust me, it's there!

And here is my desk...I call it the creative desk where post its of various colors and shapes fight over space with all the other organizing attempts I have created: a metallic memo board that is so packed you can't find a thing on it, a couple of planners and agendas...My Home Management Filing System though continues to thrive and work for me...So I do encourage you to check it out here and see for yourself how I keep track of bills, receipts and day to day stuff. I believe the brown shoe box contains medications, though I can also imagine it to be blissfully empty, just sitting there waiting for its job description. Not a pen (working or not) in sight! Oh wait! Not true, I just spotted two next to the pink highlighter!


My Great Challenge is about me making the appropriate changes to simplify my life, become more efficient and therefore more productive. It is about doing away with old habits and patterns, the stuff that has been weighing me down physically and emotionally.

This office is periodically cleaned, however, we really do not tend to is as much as we should (shocking, isn't it?) and therefore while the rest of the house would be spotless, one would routinely find this chaotic contrast as a testament that we obviously are works in progress! The issue here is NOT the lack of space, it is the clutter and the amount of stuff we continue to bring in, with no real place to put it. Originally this home office was a spare bedroom and this is what it looked like when we bought the house in 2010, the room is 10.5 x 7.5 feet and is the smallest one in the house. It has two windows and one shallow useless closet I will not address in this post (mostly because it was organized three months ago and has stayed the same.

My goals with this office were simple:

  • William, our little one, is entering kindergarten this September (yeah!) and will need a desk to do homework. This meant that I had to create a space for two boys instead of one!

  • I need to attend to blog, budget and other business projects on my own computer, therefore supervising homework down on the first floor no longer works for me as I would like to have the boys do their work in the home office while I am right next to them doing my own.

  • We have oodles of supplies, some that are our own, others that were donated and most the result of double purchases because we could not locate the original item in the first place. So sorting, re-organizing and purging was another goal with this project.

  • Keep the re-organizing cost under $100! (which we did!)

Home Office redo PART I
(PART II will consist of making window treatments!)

First, I figured that the boys' desk needed to be moved to accommodate the two of them. This is how I positioned it, with the intention to place an office chair on either side. I also added shelving underneath it, using the horse stands (not sure if that is the name).

Next, I moved the storage cube to the other side of the room to use as a spare surface for Scott's personal items as well as a homework organizer for Edward.

Scott installed a new set of shelves (leftover from our previous home) on both sides of the room...

Before bringing any item back, I spent the entire day (Saturday) going over every supply we have around the house and consolidated everything into 6 assorted craft shoe boxes (I think they are actually called photo/picture boxes) I had around the house, here are the categories:

Pen - Pencils - Markers
Note Pads
Post-its - labels
Glue - Clips - Staples
School Supplies
Inks - Miscellaneous

This is how I organized the pens: I went around the entire house with a cardboard box and grabbed every pen, marker, pencil etc. I could find and place them inside the box.
I then sat at my desk with the box on my lap. In front of me I placed (left) an empty box, a pad (middle) and the box's lid (right).
I picked one pen at a time from the cardboard box and tried it on the pad in front of me. If it worked, It went into the box, if it did not work or was unpleasant to use, it went in the lid, on the right side. Items in the left box were designated as keepers, whatever was in the lid however, I threw away! It took one hour but we now have only working pens in the house and they are all in the same place!

Here are the boxes neatly stacked on one of the new shelves.

It was important for me to do that because we are constantly looking for a pen, a pad, a stickie note and never find one, yet they were all over the place. So now it is centralized and where they all belong: in the home office!

Next, I started de-cluttering and getting rid of miscellaneous items that either did not belong to the office or were completely useless and taking space...Here is one of those projects: Scott's spare change bowl!

In the bowl, I found these items...

A large button (no clue which item of clothing it belongs to), a set of spare keys to the Oldsmobile we sold last year, 5 spare keys leading to unknown locations, an expired medical insurance coverage card, a set of incomplete glass checkers chips, a used battery, some screws, an old Thomas sticker, the turn key to the attic Velux window (an item we had been looking for since last summer!), a doodle of William by Scott on a scrap of paper, a paper clip and an obsolete Library card.

Here is the change bowl now! OMG, there is just change in it? WOW! Another project of mine is to take the change to the supermarket sorting machine, get me a store credit and buy a nice bouquet for my desk (sounds like a plan!)

I showed Edward how to remove the used pages of his notebooks so that they can be reused...

And we covered the front with a new large white label...Like brand new, well almost, but why throw a notebook away when only 15 pages out of the 250 had been used?

I did not want the boys to have to go to the boxes to find their pencils, markers etc. So I used these leftover party favor mini pails ($1 at Target) as containers and hung them to the wall next to their desk. They are labeled and easy to reach.

The top pail contains non sharpened pencils only, but on their desk, I used an empty French Tea canister (my favorite brand) as a container for miscellaneous pens and sharpened pencils...

Following a good purging of miscellaneous papers and other items that did not belong to the office, I started bringing back what is needed and should stay there. I also decorated along the way...

On the boys desk, I placed a leftover wicker basket to use for tissues, disinfecting hand wipes and lotions, I also used a leftover box from a previous trip to Home Goods to organize their current work, agenda/planner, ruler etc.

Underneath the desk I used a leftover pretty storage bin to store some of William's Homework books and manuals. I have many, many more, and need a second basket for those, they will go on to the other shelf under the desk.

On Sunday, we went to Big Lots and found two identical computer chairs at $39 each. So we spent $80 total for this entire office redo. Here is the boys' desk after this big overhaul:

All the extra paper supplies (loose leaf, notebook, spiral bound notebooks etc.) are on the shelf above.

Of course we also worked on our own desks...Here is Scott's:

The magnetic memo boards made out of cookie sheets are back on the wall!

And my space...

I am using a document holder, under the lamp, for my weekly Home Management folder, that way, it is right in front of me, at all times!
I also cleared out some of my books and cleaned my custom made magnetic memo board!!

We did not add shelves with the intention to bring more stuff into the home office, instead, I wanted to space things out a bit and also decorate to reflect of our own style...

Under Scott's lamp...

Under my lamp...

Sure enough, the boys love their new desk!

Here are the before and after pictures:

This was hard work and I learned a valuable lesson:

"Buy it today - pay for it later, way way later!"

I am done with buying useless stuff to add to the clutter!!!

Also, we do not need any new office supplies for quite a few years, that's for sure! I am hoping this post inspired you to do the same with your Home Office!

Thank you for following My Great Challenge on Facebook and sharing my page.

Sophia, NJ.


  1. This post is written well and the thorough explanations as well as the images helped a lot! :) Thanks

  2. “….I would like to have the boys do their work in the home office while I am right next to them doing my own.”---- This is a great idea! You get to do work on your business while you supervise your children on their studies at the same time. And, you really showed creativity here. I like those pails you used to organized pens and markers. :D

  3. Thank you Clayton, it does make a huge difference when the boys are gently supervised...Thank you for sharing the blog with friends and family.

  4. Thanks Sophia. I'm so inspired by your posting. Love it very much!

  5. Nice work. It looked so much better now that it's decluttered.

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I welcome your feedback and comments. If you have a question or a specific request, do not hesitate, I am here to help! Thanks, S.

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