Standing in the space that will soon be your home office may feel a little strange at this point. Most likely, it just looks like a lot of work. But if you handle things right, it can be a fun and very rewarding experience.
Be honest with yourself about what you really need versus what you really want. These decisions will affect both the use of your space and your budget. A simple two-drawer metal filing cabinet from a department store costs under $ 50. A base on wheels can be purchased for about $ 15 and if you need more than two drawers, you can stack one cabinet on top of another. A wood lateral filing cabinet is a real find at under $ 250 and takes up almost three times the floor space. Make a list of all the things (not furniture) that will go into your office, and how each item can be kept. Very often offices end up with too many options for keeping the same items. Purchasing based on thought out needs will keep your costs down, maximize your space, and help keep you organized.
Make a plan of your office on a piece of graph paper. Draw each piece of furniture that you are contemplating, or have, on another piece of graph paper at the same scale – for example, 4 squares = 1 foot. Cut the furniture out and play with the placement on the floor plan. Here are some tips for a successful layout:
> Do not have your computer monitor facing the window. The glare will be unbearable.
> To make the room look larger, locate the largest (especially the highest) furniture farthest from the door or entry.
> If you have a computer desk and another desk or work surface, try to have them back-to-back with about 2 feet in between, or in an "L" configuration so that you will only require one chair.
> A drawing / drafting table, or desk for doing detailed work of any sort, should have the window it's left if you are right-handed, or vice versa if you are a lefty. This will minimize shadows on your work.
> Use closets as storage space. Either wall-mount shelving or store bought storage cabinets work wonderfully. Keep books, extra office supplies and other such items accessible but out of your way.
It is a good idea to try to keep all computer-related things near the computer, telephone directories near the telephone, and so on. If this is not possible, set up a centrally located storage center and pay extra attention to organizing it well.
In a home office, where space is really at a premium, creativity is the key. Not only can it help you save money, but it can add a personal touch to your office. A revolving spice rack with eight jars (about $ 25) is a perfect solution for storing paper clips, elastics, thumb tacks, staples … Mini clothes pins (about 15 for $ 1) can be strung on a cord and hung (on a wall , side of a desk …) to hold memos, thank you cards from clients, family photos, etc … A small black- or white-board near the phone for note taking can save you tons of paper each month – Plus when you get off the phone, you're more likely to rewrite your notes in the right place rather than misplacing small papers that you had scribbled on.
Poor planning and impulse shopping tend to be costly. For furniture and other large items, look into purchasing second-hand. For smaller items be sure to compare prices between office supply stores and large department stores. Smaller accessories can sometimes even be found in dollar stores. Most importantly, don't forget to look in your storage room, attic or basement for things that can be used in your office that you may have even forgotten you have!
A final note: If you are interested in purchasing second-hand items, or if you have things you no longer use and live in the Greater Montreal area, a booklet titled "The Reuse and Recycling Directory" is available at most city halls. It is published annually and it is organized by region, and lists which items which places buy, accept, sell, and more.
Look for Part 3 of this 4-part series: Style and Color for the Home Office.