Article: An Orderly Office? That’s Personal

Sara Rimer at the New York Times recently published an incredibly in-depth article about her time spent with a professional interior designer who specializes in work spaces. It contains some anecdotes we can all relate to, and is a great read for anyone looking to re-do their home office.

When Sara first had help organizing her office, she felt great about it. Her filing cabinet was organized, her desk was clear, and everything was in its place.

She had accomplished what many people consider to be the goal of having a tidy home office: she had gotten the clutter out of her sight, and for all intents and purposes, out of her thoughts. A lot of people take this step and feel like they’ve done all they need to do, but even Sara’s friends were skeptical:

“I did that once,” said one of the men at the table, a computer consultant, with a skeptical tone in his voice. “I got everything put away. And I never opened the filing cabinet again.”

“That,” I said serenely, “won’t happen to me.”

A few months later, it had. The cabinet was again serving mainly as a place to put notebooks, scraps of paper and letters I was planning to file tomorrow. The clutter had not only returned but multiplied. I was back to where I’d started, or worse.

In the end, she realized her solution was not going to be hiding everything away in a filing cabinet, but keeping it out in front of her, where she could look at and visually sort her materials without having to root around for them in a drawer.

Employing a label maker and some storage and “bin boxes”, Sara created the perfect organizing system to match her needs and her space.

After that, personalizing the decor and updating the furniture were all that was left to finish off her perfect, customized home office. She even had space to invite her boyfriend to set up his own office space in the small room (though that ended poorly, highlighting another concept touched upon in the article: the need for a personal office space.)

Lisa Whited, the designer who helped Sara, has these tips to share regarding designing a home office:

• The No. 1 rule is clear out the clutter. Get rid of broken things that you won’t ever get around to fixing. Karen Kingston’s book “Clear Your Clutter With Feng Shui” is a helpful guide.

• Color can help make a small or confined space feel more livable, and paint is the cheapest way to get it. “I painted the walls of my home office — a five-by-seven-foot, windowless walk-in closet — yellow,” Ms. Whited said. “I like yellow, and we had leftover cans of Behr’s Cornmeal in the basement.”

• Lighting is important: beyond a room’s general illumination, which could be overhead lighting, you can use task lighting, to work at your desk, and accent lighting, like a hanging light, to create an inviting space.

• Choose containers that are an appropriate size to hold what you’re putting in them. They don’t need to be fancy, but if they are going to be visible, they should at least look similar, so the space looks more organized.

• Get the best chair you can afford. “It’s like your bed,” Ms. Whited said. “You spend a ton of time in it.”

• Always have extras of whatever you usually run out of on hand. “I have at least one extra printer cartridge,” she said, “two reams of paper, staples, tape, etc.”

• Don’t dismiss the importance of candles, flowers, a great piece of art — whatever inspires you. It all helps.

All in all, an amazing piece for anyone looking for stories about redoing a home office, looking for inspiration or helpful hints.

Please note, the links I’ve included in my re-telling of the article are used for sample purposes to give you an idea of the look and feel of the office being described; no specific stores or brand names were mentioned in the New York Times article.

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