It can be challenging to figure out how to plan a home office organization project, so I'm walking you step-by-step through the methods I use to keep the process as simple as possible!
I love room transformations-- especially when they involve organization! I think it's so fun to see before and after pictures and oooh and aaah over the positive changes. But while befores and afters can be inspiring, unless you have the exact same space and the exact same needs for it (and when does THAT ever happen?!), it can be hard to figure out how to adapt the organization inspiration you see in a photo or blog post to fit your own space.
After getting a bunch of questions about my recent office organization project, I decided to try to break down the thought process I went through while organizing (and decorating) the space to try to come up with principles that would be helpful for anyone who was trying to organize their home office, not just someone who was trying to replicate my exact space (which is no one, lol!).
How to Plan a Home Office Organization Project
1. Do a major declutter.
Before I could even begin to organize my office, I had to know what I was working with. I had gotten rid of a good number of items before we moved, but over a year later, there were still things taking up space in my office that I hadn't used yet, so I knew I had some more decluttering to do.
I went through every single box, drawer, bin, pile-- anything that was in my office, I sorted through it and tried to be absolutely ruthless. I threw away anything that was broken or unusable, recycled what I could, and donated and gave away bunches and bunches of items.
[Tip: Find a go-to place to donate items so you don't have to figure it out what to do with extras each time you declutter. Our church has a garage sale every year and the proceeds benefit missions, so I always keep a tub in my basement where I collect items throughout the year and donate to their sale when the time comes. You can always check with local churches to see if they do something similar or contact shelters, food pantries, or organizations in your area who may be in need of donations.]
If I was going to put things in pretty bins to hide them but never actually got around to use the items, I would just be rearranging my clutter, not organizing, and that was not the goal!
As I was going through things and decluttering, I began to...
2. Sort what's left into categories. (Purge some more if needed.)
My goal is to be able to clearly see all of the different types of items I have so I can more easily assess my storage needs. When everything is sorted by category, I usually discover that I have doubles of items or more than I need of other items, which means there is more stuff I can get rid of. Woohoo! 🙂
binders, extra wall decor, and photography equipment
3. Make a list of everything you need to store/organize.
I am a major list maker, so that's what I do next. I list each category of items I have set out and I write next to them which type of storage would be best for that grouping. So, for example, my list may look something like this:
- Pens (drawer)
- Fabric (basket or bin)
- Wrapping paper (vertical storage)
- Wreaths (hanging)
- Extra printer ink (box or bin)
- Paint (bin or drawer?)
- Party supplies (bin or drawer?)
- Yoga mats and weights (hidden somewhere; vertical storage? bottom shelf for weights?)
- Photography equipment (vertical storage)
4. Figure out what you already own that could help organize your items.
Once I've listed everything out, I take a look at the storage pieces I have available, both in my office and around the rest of my house. I search the basement and go around to each of the rooms and see if there is anything I can swipe for my space. 🙂
I will say that in my current office, I purchased more "big" pieces than I usually do because all of the storage furniture I had in my last office stayed with our old house, so I didn't have much to pick from.
I did, however, already have quite a few bins, baskets, boxes, and smaller storage pieces that were just waiting to be used, so I hardly purchased any of those for my new office-- woot!
5. Make a plan & "wish list" of things you would like to buy to complement what you already have.
After I have a clear picture of everything I need to keep in my office space and I've exhausted every single storage possibility with items I already own, I begin coming up with a plan for the space. While I'm making the plan, I try to look at my list of items that need a "home" and match each type of item to a specific spot.
Now, I don't know that I've ever had a space that matches my very first plan exactly. Typically as a room comes together, I'll figure out better systems for things, and the plan evolves a bit over time.
For example, the very first plan for my office called for kitchen cabinetry to use for storage in one of the office corners and on the back wall...
the first overall plan I made for my office, after the nook area had already been completed
[Side note: I made the above image with a screenshot of my home's floor plan + Photoshop. I designed the kitchen cabinet renderings in IKEA's home planner. If you don't have a floor plan of your home and/or Photoshop, floorplanner.com is a pretty user friendly site for planning out spaces like this.]
As time went on, though, I realized that there would be several issues with the cabinet setup:
1. I didn't think they would give me the "cozy office" feel I was going for.
2. I ended up having several items that would need vertical storage, and the cabinets I had planned wouldn't work for those.
3. To get the cabinet/countertop setup I initially planned, the budget would have been considerably more than I wanted to spend.
IKEA PAX cabinets in my current office corner
IKEA BESTA storage on the back wall of my current office
Many times we may not have the time/desire/budget to put our plan into action all at once, so we often end up doing things in phases. I will keep a "wish list" handy of all of the items and projects I want to complete in a room, and we will work down the list as time, energy, and finances allow.
If I was really fancy, I would probably have some big, detailed spreadsheet with every piece of info I need, but in reality, I will typically just use the "Notes" app on my phone to list pertinent room measurements, projects to complete, and items to purchase with an approximate budget amount listed for each one. I then have a secret Pinterest board where I will pin inspiration photos and products I think I might want to use so I can pull them up quickly.
I like this method because I feel like I can get a quicker overall visual view of the project, whereas my eyes tend to start to glaze over if I'm just looking at a bunch of words and info packed into a spreadsheet. This is totally a personal preference thing, though, so if you are a spreadsheet person, definitely organize your info that way!
6. If necessary, set up temporary systems.
Since room projects are often done in phases rather than all at once, I like to set up temporary systems in the meantime. These systems aren't perfect by any stretch of the imagination and I try to spend a grand total of $0 on them if possible because I know I'll be changing them in the not-too-distant future. Even so, having some sort of system-- even if it's not THE ideal system-- still helps me maintain some sense of order (and sanity, lol) while a room is in progress.
temporary systems in the nook area shortly after we moved in
more temporary storage while the office was in progress
As you can see, I basically just gathered up every spare piece of furniture or organization bin I could find in my house and did my best to use them to organize what I had! The temporary systems in my office may not have been the prettiest, but they kept things in order and allowed me to use the space effectively until we could put more permanent systems in place.
7. Work to put permanent solutions into place as time and budget allow.
I always feel like everyone else's projects get finished so quickly, and mine drag on forever, but the reality is, we don't see everything that goes on behind the scenes, so I'm willing to bet that most people have projects that take longer than they imagined!
When we moved into our house in September of 2016, I think I was completely delusional because I had in my mind that we were going to have everything decorated and organized within just a few months.
HA! Here we are in March of 2018, and there are plenty of rooms that still haven't been touched! 🙂 We are chipping away and making progress slowly, though, which I think is a good thing. Any time I've tried to rush decisions in the name of getting things "finished," I almost always end up going back and changing things later, which costs me time and money. There's nothing wrong with slow progress!
To give you an idea of the timeline for my office, we moved in in September of 2016 and put temporary systems in place.
my office on the day we moved in
We then completed the "nook" piece in April/May of 2017-- it was my Mother's Day present! 🙂
I made the first rendition of "the plan" for the rest of the office in August of 2017 (shared above)... but then life happened-- the craziness of back-to-school season led right into Christmas. But since I'm slightly insane, I decided to get serious about my office storage a few weeks before Christmas, and we completed the PAX storage unit in December 2017/January 2018.
Donnie, being the sweet husband that he is, knew that my office was at the top of my priority list for the new year, so we then did a big push in February 2018 to complete the remaining pieces. You can see the full "reveal" here.
So it may have felt relatively quick in blog time, but in reality, my office project was nearly 18 months in the making, and that was even with it being one of our "top priority" projects in the house!
Whew! I hope this gives a better picture of my thought process and workflow for a big organization project like my office! If you're wondering about sources for anything in my office, I will list as much as I can below.
This list contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.
Sherwin Williams Rainwashed (color matched in Behr Marquee paint)
Wicker Baskets (similar)
White Board: Hobby Lobby
If you've missed any of the previous posts about my home office, you can catch them here:
How to Plan a Home Office Organization Project (You're here!)
[Psssttt… Organize every room of your house with our 100 best home organization tips!]
I would love to hear how you plan out your projects, so be sure to share your best tips and tricks with me in the comments!
This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.