You are the manager of your life and your home office is your command center. This is where you take care of running the household, paying bills and tracking medical care. If you operate a business from your home, the office does double duty. Your home office won’t function if clutter rules and you can’t find important documents. Purge unneeded paper and organize the rest. You need storage for your stuff and a paper workflow that actually works. Here are painless ways to organize your home office.

Assemble tools to organize your office.

These tools should include:

  • File racks
  • Trash basket
  • Recycling container
  • Shredder
  • Filing cabinet
  • Binders
  • Label maker

Labeling your files, drawers and boxes will give you fast and easy access to everything in your office.

Create a mail station. 

A mail station will give you a way to control paper coming into your home. Make a folder for incoming mail, bills, mail to file, and outgoing mail. Give each family member their own individual folder. Put every piece of mail into the mail station as soon as it comes into the house.

If you work from home, you’ll need a separate work inbox for your business assignments, bills, letters and projects. Plan to clear out your work inbox every couple of days and either file or throw out each piece of paper.

Set up a color-coded filing system. 

An organized filing system for working documents gives you functional office space.  Use these five color-coded categories to organize your personal information and label each folder:

  • Green – Financial
  • Red – Medical
  • Orange – Personal
  • Yellow – Insurance
  • Blue – House

Organize binders for important records.

These binders will help you preserve important records that you need to keep on hand. They’ll give you instant access to must-have papers that you don’t use every day. Binder records are especially useful in an emergency. In case of a car accident or damage to your home, for instance, you’ll have all your insurance information readily available.

You may want to organize with these categories:

  • Medical – Keep your family’s medical records here in case you need to go to a new doctor. You’ll be able to keep track of diagnoses and treatments. Having everything organized in one place is particularly useful if you have a medical emergency.
  • Auto – Use this binder for car insurance papers, maintenance records and car repairs.
  • Pet – Keep track of your pets’ vaccination records, medications and medical records.
  • Home – This binder is for all information you need to run your household. Store contact numbers for handymen, maintenance records, pest control and security system information.
  • Manuals – Store your manuals for appliances, electronics, home and garden.
  • Personal – This binder stores miscellaneous records that don’t fit other categories.

Decide on a workflow.

Once a week, sort through mail in your mail station and place it into the folders. Set up a schedule for tackling each folder. Plan a schedule to review and pay bills.

Review projects that come into your home business within a day or two of receipt and move them to your open project file. Decide on a timeline for completing each work assignment. Once a work project is finished, file it away in your records cabinet. Deciding how long to keep records before recycling will depend on the nature of your business.

Clear your desk and purge papers.

Take everything off your desk except for your computer and phone. Sort through every piece of paper in your office and either take action on it, file it or shred/toss it. Clutter will bury your best intentions for a productive year and a serene life. Once you’ve gathered necessary tools and set up the framework for an organized workflow, you’re on the way to lightening your paper load.

Read More: 10 Ways to Organize Your Home Office by Monday