14 Things a Professional Organizer Says You Must Have in Your Home Office

iStock
iStock

Whether you work from home full-time or use your home office to catch up on nights and weekends, having a clean, orderly place to get down to business is key to actually getting stuff done. We spoke with Erika Salloux, a professional organizer and the founder of Living Harmony, about the items you need in your home office to maximize your productivity and minimize clutter.

1. DESK

Stop trying to get work done from the couch: Typing away with your laptop on your lap not only makes it difficult to focus, it puts strain on your back and neck. “A really good desk is really important and it should be the right size for the space that you’re in,” Salloux says. And she recommends skipping the huge desks with tons of built-in drawers, dividers, and file cabinets—all of those can be purchased separately to best suit your needs. “Just a simple, table-top desk, and you can add whatever you want to it,” she says.

Buy It: Amazon

2. DESK CHAIR

When it comes to chairs, go armless, Salloux recommends. “When you have arms on a chair, people don’t sit up straight; they lean on the arm. Then they’re leaning forward and they’re doing their body a major disservice,” she says. Also, for the most ergonomically friendly choice, pick a chair with an adjustable height—not one that belongs at a dining room table.

Buy It: Amazon

3. PAPER TRAYS

In order to keep clutter at bay, Salloux says you need to stay on top of your paper. She recommends using what she calls the FAT system—each time you find yourself holding a piece of paper (a piece of mail, an invoice, a report, etc.) decide whether you should file it, act on it, or toss it. Use desk trays to store papers you need to act on. “I recommend ones that stack on top of each other and that open the longer way, like the landscape way. The way where the paper goes deeper in,” Salloux says.

She recommends four trays: one for business-related papers, one for anything personal (your kid’s permission slip, a wedding invite you need to respond to), one for bills, and one for “pending” items—things you’ve acted on and are awaiting a response.

Buy It: Amazon

4. FILE CABINET

“People think we’ve gone paperless in this society but we really haven’t. That’s just a myth,” Salloux says. So you’re going to need a file cabinet to hold everything. Salloux cautions you to buy a full-extension cabinet. “Just the other day I was working with a client who had a really nice file cabinet. But when I pulled [out the drawer], you couldn’t see all the files in the back,” Salloux says. “Every time we opened it she would forget that she had more files back there.”

Buy It: Amazon

5. HANGING FILE FOLDERS

Salloux swears by Smead FasTab hanging file folders, which have the tab built right in for easy labeling.

Buy It: Amazon

6. PAPER SHREDDER

For the T portion of Salloux’s FAT system—toss—you need a quality paper shredder. “Use a cross shredder not a strip shredder,” she says, and “shred right away” so papers don’t pile up.

Buy It: Amazon

7. RECYCLE BIN

No need to put less sensitive paper trash through the shredder, but you do need a good-size recycle bin. Don’t get a small little trash can, Salloux says, “but a really big, nice basket that you could put the rest of the recycling in that you don’t have to empty out every day.”

Buy It: Amazon

8. SUPPLY ORGANIZER

“The other thing that I also see that people don’t have in their office that they really need is some sort of supply organizer that’s within arm’s reach,” Salloux says. “Something where they put all their things like their stickies, their tape, their paperclips, stapler, scissors.” You can waste valuable time rooting through your desk for a paperclip or sprinting to the kitchen for a pair of scissors, so keep everything you need close at hand in one neat spot.

Buy It: Amazon

9. COMPUTER

Having a computer to do your work is a given, but Salloux notes that you should work from one computer. “It sounds like a no-brainer, but I oftentimes am hired by people who have three computers, or they [hold onto] an old computer that has the old data on it that they’re not using,” she says. “I recommend that people get down to one computer where all their documents are backed up and stored. That way, you know where your documents are and you’re not like, “Oh, wait, that old document is on the other computer or on the other backup drive.”

Buy It: Amazon

10. BACKUP HARD DRIVE

Anyone who has ever lost a report the night before a big presentation or their whole album of vacation photos knows how important it is to back up your files. But here’s a friendly reminder that a backup hard drive is a necessity. “In addition to a hard backup drive that lives in your office you should have a cloud backup as well,” Salloux says.

Buy It: Amazon

11. EXTRA SET OF CABLES

We’d never heard this piece of organizing advice before and now can’t believe we’ve lived without it: Keep a second power cord and any other cables you need for your computer in a bag or case next to your desk. “You don’t want to have to unplug all your cords, go under your desk and pull them all out, every time you go on a business trip or go somewhere to work,” Salloux says.

If you work primarily in an office but bring a laptop home to work frequently, keep one set of cords at work and one at home.

Buy It: Cords will vary by computer, but we found a cute felt case on Amazon

12. WIRELESS PRINTER

Salloux tells us printing should be easy—so why add the extra step of having to plug your computer into the printer every time you need to?

Buy It: Amazon

13. NOTEBOOK OR NOTEPAD

Salloux is a fan of making lists in order to help stay focused. “I think that it helps people stick to the most important tasks as opposed to the easy stuff,” she says. There’s no one right way to create a to-do list (here are seven ways experts recommend), but Salloux says it’s best to find a system that keeps you accountable for tasks that are important but not particularly urgent. “That quadrant is one that we a lot of times have trouble with,” she says.

Buy It: Amazon

14. SUPPLIES

Your home office doesn’t have a supply closet you can raid, so don’t forget to stock up on all the fun little supplies! Salloux says they’re just as important as the others. “It sounds crazy, but it’s really super important to have the right tools at hand,” she says. “Those things like stickies and having tape—those items can be super helpful in an office so you’re not looking for them every time you need them somewhere else. That’s super essential.”

Buy It: Sticky Notes; Tape; Ruler; Stapler; Staple Remover; Pens; Scissors; Memo Pad; Paper Clips

Friday’s Best Amazon Deals Include Digital Projectors, Ugly Christmas Sweaters, and Speakers

Amazon
Amazon
As a recurring feature, our team combs the web and shares some amazing Amazon deals we’ve turned up. Here’s what caught our eye today, December 4. Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers, including Amazon, and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Good luck deal hunting!

Google Is Tracking Everything You Do With Its ‘Smart’ Features—Here’s How to Make That Stop

Maybe you don't want Google seeing how many exclamation points you use in your emails.
Maybe you don't want Google seeing how many exclamation points you use in your emails.
Taryn Elliott, Pexels

Since we don’t all have personal assistants to draft emails and update our calendars, Google has tried to fill the void with ‘smart’ features across Gmail, Google Chat, and Google Meet. These automatic processes cover everything from email filtering and predictive text to notifications about upcoming bills and travel itineraries. But such personalized assistance requires a certain amount of personal data.

For example, to suggest email replies that match what you’d choose to write on your own—or remind you about important emails you’ve yet to reply to—Google needs to know quite a bit about how you write and what you consider important. And that involves tracking your actions when using Google services.

For some people, Google’s helpful hints might save enough time and energy to justify giving up full privacy. If you’re not one of them, here’s how to disable the ‘smart’ features.

As Simplemost explains, first open Gmail and click the gear icon (settings) in the upper right corner of the page. Select ‘See all settings,’ which should default to the ‘General’ tab. Next to ‘Smart Compose,’ ‘Smart Compose personalization,’ and ‘Smart Reply,’ choose the ‘Off’ options. Next to ‘Nudges,’ uncheck both boxes (which will stop suggestions about what emails you should answer or follow up on). Then, switch from the ‘General’ tab to ‘Inbox’ and scroll down to ‘Importance markers.’ Choose ‘No markers’ and ‘Don’t use my past actions to predict which messages are important.’

Seeing these settings might make you wonder what other information you’ve unwittingly given Google access to. Fortunately, there’s a pretty easy way to customize it. If you open the ‘Accounts’ tab (beside ‘Inbox’) and choose ‘Google Account settings,’ there’s an option to ‘Take the Privacy Checkup.’ That service will walk you through all the privacy settings, including activity tracking on Google sites, ad personalization, and more.

[h/t Simplemost]