Design a Productive and Stress-Free Home Office in 6 Easy Steps

May 8, 2011

Design a productive and stress-free home office in 6 easy steps (with pictures):
1. Make your cable clutter disappear.
2. Get the biggest desk you can fit in your office.
3. Make a peripherals playpen.
4. Use multiple monitors.
5. Store documents and tools in filing cabinets and sorters.
6. Keep frequently-used tools in a desktop swivel organizer.

A year ago my home office was a mess.

It was full of clutter. It didn’t have the tools and supplies I needed. I felt overwhelmed just walking into it.

One day I decided enough is enough. I resolved to create a workspace that would help me:

  1. Easily find stuff.
  2. Work quickly and easily.
  3. Feel relaxed and in control.

Below are the 6 steps I followed to transform my office from chaos to order, from a stress-inducing mess to a workspace that’s functional and comfortable.

These steps worked for me and they can work for you too.

1. Make Your Cable Clutter Disappear

I had 34 ugly, tangled cords on the floor.

I bought 2 cord trays from Ikea and mounted them underneath my desk.

I placed the cables into the trays and I tied them neatly.

I mounted my uninterpretable power supplies to the cord trays using duct tape.

It would have looked prettier if I had used cable ties instead. But I didn’t have any and I was curious to see if the duct tape would hold. Well that was a year ago and all I can say now is “God bless duct tape.”

A few cords are still somewhat visible but at least they're off the floor.

2. Get the Biggest Desk You Can Fit in Your Office

I started with just one Ikea Fredrik desk. But one day I came home with 4 pages of hand-written notes. I wanted to lay the pages side-by-side so I could refer to them while I typed some follow-up emails.

But I didn’t have room on my single desk so I bought a second Fredrik and placed it beside my first one:

Not having enough desk space can make it difficult to sort your paperwork. If you have room, get an L-shaped desk or just combine two Fredrik desks like I did.

Then I gave myself another few feet of desk space by buying some shelving board from Home Depot.

I had the shelving board cut to fit over the space between my desk and filing cabinets.

3. Make a Peripherals Playpen

I wanted peripherals like my headset, voice recorder and thumb drive to be within reach of my chair but I didn’t want them to clutter my desk space.

I put my peripherals on top of a shelf between my two desks. They're out of sight but not out of reach.

I tied most of the cables so that they’re not sprawling everywhere. But you might want to keep the USB cable and wall charger for your phone at full length if you need to use your phone while it’s charging.

4. Use Multiple Monitors

You just don’t have time to constantly resize windows and compare them as you squint at a tiny laptop screen.

Get yourself a couple extra monitors. You'll be glad you did.

The extra monitors help me complete most tasks about one-third faster.

You can buy a second monitor for about $165 and set it up in 3 steps.

5. Store Documents and Tools in Filing Cabinets and Sorters

The sheer number of papers, tools and supplies that you can neatly organize inside a filing cabinet is amazing for how little space it takes up on your floor. And cabinets rock when it comes to fast storage and easy retrieval.

I recommend you get 1 hanging-folders cabinet and 1 sliding-tray cabinet.

The cabinet with the hanging folders and envelopes works best for storing anything that isn’t a standard-sized sheet of paper:

Use hanging folders for stuff like checks, small items stored in Ziploc bags, headphones, keys, labels and sunglasses.

Use the sliding-tray cabinet for standard-size paper documents. But try putting your folders in the top drawer and supplies like tape, CDs and batteries in the bottom drawer:

If your office is private you can leave your cabinet doors open so it's faster to store and retrieve your stuff.

But what about the paper documents you use most frequently? If you look through the same folders every week, it’s a pain to find and resort them alphabetically each time.

I keep documents related to projects I regularly work on in file sorters that I got at Staples:

You can use a paper sorter to keep your frequently-used folders within easy reach.

6. Keep Frequently-Used Tools in a Desktop Swivel Organizer.

I’m right handed so I keep my desktop swivel organizer within reach on my right.

It’s got everything I use most often, like scissors, markers, ear plugs, staple remover and even a tape measure.

You Can Do It!

I had a blast designing my new office and I wish I’d done it sooner.

I found that creating an effective workspace that increases productivity and reduces stress is about doing  3 simple things:

  1. Get the furnishings, equipment and supplies you need.
  2. Regularly purge your clutter.
  3. Keep things organized: “Everything has a place. Everything in its place.”
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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Janet May 9, 2011 at 2:20 am

Wow! I love the idea of labeling each cord. This is so simple…yet I never thought of it. I think your office looks great. I think your idea to eliminate clutter is by far the most cost-effective way I’ve seen so far. Thanks for sharing this!


Kevin Kane May 16, 2011 at 9:25 am

Labeling your cables saves a lot of time later when you’re trying to figure out which cable is going where.

If you have a lot of cables it can be overwhelming trying to keep track of them all if they’re not labeled.

The most clutter I got rid of was books. I donated several and stored others away from my desks.


Danielle May 9, 2011 at 3:49 am

Great article and just in time for my spring office makeover! I really like the use of the cord trays. I will have to look for some locally. The cords are always such a mess on the floor and they get so dusty. I never considered using the hanging files to store anything but paper. Home file cabinets tend to be under used and storage of small items is needed. A couple of weeks ago I changed the use of a swivel storage for kitchen tools. It was really overkill as I wanted to reduce the ‘stuff’ on the kitchen counter. I was also frustrated with needing better storage of jewelry tools on my workbench. As a result, I now have easy access to a variety of pliers etc. I love the use of the two large desks. Great inspiration for me to de-clutter and having adequate storage will help me stay on track.

Thanks for the very useable ideas. With a bit of planning, I can begin the makeover!


Kevin Kane May 16, 2011 at 9:27 am

Hi Danielle,
And two Fredrik desks give you more desk space and cost less compared to most L-shaped desks.


Latonda Phillips May 28, 2011 at 4:10 am

Do you have any particular models of desks that your would recommend?


Kevin Kane May 28, 2011 at 2:18 pm

Hi Latonda,
I have 2 Ikea Fredrik desks. They’re only $129 each. (You can even get a used one for about $60 on Craigslist or Kijiji.)

Glass desks are nice but if you have over 30 cables like I do, you need to hide them underneath some wood. :)


Latonda Phillips July 9, 2011 at 7:28 am

30 cables? lol What for?


rick h. December 22, 2012 at 1:47 am

Just an idea that has worked really well for me is, I went to home depot and bought 2 four foot power strips that are normally for workshops and mounted them to the under side of my desk at the very back for easy access. this way you can plug items in right where the cord comes off the back of desk. then I just zip tied the excess cord up and used cable nails to hold in place. these are plastic pieces with nails in the side of them so you can secure cable or cords without nailing or stapling thru the wire. This whole idea has worked out very well for me as I built my own desk with fiber board around half of my room…….. it’s not hard to do and most anyone can do it.


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