8 Tips For Setting Up a Home Office

by Kerry Monaghan
photo by Cathie Urushibata

FA - Home office
I used to fantasize about my home office the way other women fantasize about McDreamy or Manolos.

These fantasies took root while I worked in a stressful New York firm. My cubicle walls closed in on me and I began to see the antique maps on the wall. The phone rang off the hook and I could hear the delicate sound of chimes outside the window. Deadlines loomed, my coffee spilled. And I could smell the subtle hint of lavender wafting in my home office.

I eventually quit that job, and with a naïve skip in my step started my career as a freelance writer and nutrition counselor. My original “home office” was a corner of my apartment on a noisy street with a car repair outfit (specializing in jackhammering) on the corner. I sat with a cushion under my tush on a metal folding chair.

Needless to say, this wasn’t an ideal setup. But with the following simple strategies I was soon able to create an elegant and efficient home work space.

Close Your Eyes

Every part of your business should be a reflection of your vision. So take a moment to close your eyes and imagine your dream home office. My dream office has antique maps, chimes in the window, and it smells nice (see earlier fantasy). It also has a Zen board, an uncluttered wooden desk, and bookshelves filled with my favorite titles. It’s a place where I can concentrate, and where my nutrition clients feel warmly welcomed.

Scope Out Your Space

Now, get back to reality. Scope out your house or apartment and figure out where your office will be situated. Keep an open mind, and bring in a friend to look at your living space with fresh eyes. They might see opportunity in a walk-in closet, a corner of your den, or a room in the attic that you hadn’t considered.

Know Your Limitations

Once you pick your work area, assess the pros and cons. If you choose the space that currently serves as your kitchen pantry, a plus is that you have a door to shut, which provides privacy and quiet. However, there may be bad lighting, little space, and no electrical outlets. These are bumps in the road. Pull out your measuring tape and figure out what you have to maximize.

Go on a Recon Mission

The next step is to go reconnaissance shopping. Visit a store such as Office Max, Home Depot, Target, or the Container Store. Walk around and look at supplies, ask questions, measure desks and cabinets, and imagine bringing it all home. Don’t buy anything.

Determine Your Organization Scheme

Now that you know what products are available to furnish your office, go back home and reassess your space. Consider:

-Where are the outlets in the room?
-Where will your desk go?
-Where will you place the phone and computer?
-Will you be seeing clients in this space?
-What kind of filing system will you use? (Paper or electronic? Chronological or alphabetical?)
-What items need to be readily accessible, and what should be stored in a cabinet?
-What are your lighting needs?
-Does the room need a fresh coat of paint?

Go Shopping–for Real This Time

Now is the time to make some purchases. Keep it simple—true organization requires a well-thought-out plan, not lots of props. You can always go back and buy more filing folders and blank CDs. For the time being, buy only the supplies and equipment that you need to get started. And save those receipts!

Edit and Revise

Every three to six months, take a moment to look over your home office. Is the phone too far out of reach from where you sit? Have you outgrown your files? Do you always lose a certain key document or phone number? You may need to invest in additional supplies, revamp your filing system, or put the floor lamp closer to your desk. By taking stock like this, you can fix what isn’t working and keep things running smoothly.

Get Inspired

Your home office is a sacred space: It is an embodiment of you and a reflection of how seriously you take your work. So create a space that shows who you are. Surround yourself with items that inspire you—art, music, books, a favorite quote, an hourglass to keep you focused, a photo that makes you smile.

Enjoy the haven that you’ve created, and share your gifts with the world. Happy launching!

Kerry Monaghan is a member of the New York Incubator and a writer/editor.