Working from home is a great leveler for moms (and an increasing number of dads). While the kids are at school, you get to make a living without the commute, office politics, and expenses such as a huge professional wardrobe. And, even when your kids are home, you can still get things done if you’re smart about it and plan ahead. While working from home is full of perks, a home office isn’t automatically one of them.
However, with a little effort and some careful planning, you can design a home office that’s functional without costing an arm and a leg. Check out these tips to revolutionize your home office space if you already have one, or help you carve one out if you’re not quite there yet!
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1. Kill the Clutter
You can’t work if you don’t have space. And clutter not only takes up space, it’s downright distracting and energy-sucking – whether you’re into feng shui or not. When you’ve got heaps and piles everywhere, it’s hard to get anything done.
The obvious solution seems simple: get rid of the mess! But in some cases, it’s not that simple. Depending on your profession, you may have an inventory of supplies, or of merchandise, or file cabinets’ worth of old documents that you’re required to store for a certain length of time.
Maybe you have a place to put it that works at home – such as an attic or guest room. But if you don’t have space in these areas, you need to ask yourself, “How can I find storage near me?” Consider renting a small storage unit offsite, whether for a few months (e.g., before the holiday rush) or as a long-term solution. Although it may expensive at first, rates are often more affordable than you’d think. Plus, the increased productivity that will come from having more home office space means you’ll make that money back (and more besides!) in no time.
2. Consider Built-Ins
Another way to improve your home-office space – or to create one where you didn’t have one before – is to consider installing a corner or wall of built-in units. This is a perfect solution for those odd, hard-to-utilize spaces around your house.
For example, you might add a desk that folds up when you’re not in the office, and folds down when you’re working. Other examples include tabletops, furniture (e.g., think of a futon built into the wall), or even cabinets and bookcases. We installed custom built-in cabinets and bookcases in our living room several years ago, and it has made a HUGE difference in making that space more functional. With some thought and planning, built-in units can do the same for a home office space.
3. Reclaim A Closet or Hallway
If you truly can’t find another space for a home office, consider whether you could carve one out of a closet or hallway. In my last apartment from my student days, I had my desk against a wall and my bookcase behind the chair as a room divider – in a space that was otherwise a hallway!
If you’re trying to transform an actual closet, after you empty it, you can add a desk or table, then install shelving (including on the sides and up high) for the storage you’ll need. And seriously consider removing the doors, unless you want to be able to shut the office out of sight when not in use.
Similar principles apply if you’re working with a hallway. When my husband and I moved into our current house, I took one look at a tiny back hallway that wasn’t fit for anything else and thought “ooh, perfect home office space!” With the addition of some sturdier shelves, a cabinet, a piece of countertop atop two matching file cabinets, and a chair, I had a workspace with more storage than one could imagine.
Think Storage and Functionality
Unless your only supplies for work are a computer and internet connection, you’re going to need some kind of storage space for work-related materials. Don’t forget to plan for this, or you’ll be right back where you started with piles of clutter.
And make sure you have what you need to get your work done, too. If your work-at-home career involves a lot of time at the computer, an ergonomic, comfortable office chair is just as important as a desk, if not more so – don’t skimp on this one! On the other hand, if you need a large work surface like a long table, failing to account for this in your plan is a losing proposition. (Trust me, your family won’t be happy about you taking over the kitchen table day after day.)
Add Color and Light
Once you’ve got your space, furniture, and storage figured out, it’s time to think about lighting and color. A fresh paint job in a neutral hue, your favorite color, something calming, or something uplifting – whatever will help you be most productive – is always a good idea.
You’ll need decent lighting as well, so you can see what you’re doing. And don’t forget that the right lighting and paint color can not only increase your productivity, but even create the illusion that your workspace is more than a tiny corner or closet. Little tricks like using mirrors to reflect light are also important. (I haven’t used this one in my home office, but I regularly use it in other areas of our home.) Not only will strategic use of mirrors make a space seem larger, but it can also highlight the nicest parts of the office, too.
If you work from home, do you have a dedicated home office space? What’s your favorite hack you used to create it so it would work well for your needs? Let us know in the comments!
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