Checkup From the Desk Up

Do people describe your home office as “interesting” or “different” or they can’t find words to describe it? If so, your home office could use some help. Check out these home offices and discover a few cures for an ailing home office. Could your home office use a diagnosis? Fill out the contact form below and include a photo of your home office. I’m not going to judge it, make fun of it or even roll my eyes. Trust me, I’ve seen the worst of the worst. Instead I’ll give you tips for making a few simple changes.

A Real(tor) Mess


Clients calling at all hours, weekend showings and indecisive buyers can take their toll on any businessperson, including a realtor. This 24/7 realtor has been working from home in the same spare bedroom for 16 years. She was fine working in her “creative” space until some important papers got lost in the shuffle (literally).

She has two workspaces: one is a computer workstation and the other is a desk she uses to spread out papers. To the right of her computer desk is a four-drawer lateral file cabinet. To the left is a small two-drawer cabinet with her huge printer balanced on top.

Behind the desk is a tall bookcase with a copier and a vertical file holder on top.

What Works:

  • Between the six file drawers, plus the drawers in her desk and computer workstation, filing space isn’t an issue.
  • Both desk chairs are ergonomically correct.
    • She has room to spread out papers, and has all the technology she needs to run her business.

Prescription for change:

      • Combine the two separate work spaces into one, by turning the desk 90 degrees to the right so it faces the door and creates an L-shape arrangement with her computer workstation. At that point, she will need only one desk chair, not two.
      • Move the four-drawer cabinet to the wall opposite from the computer workstation and put the bookcase behind the desk. Move the computer desk to the left a few feet and then put the two-drawer cabinet to the right side of the computer desk. By moving the computer desk to the left, there will be room for the two-drawer cabinet to open without hitting the bookcase.
      • Create extra workspace on the computer workstation by moving the CPU to the floor.
      • Replace the photos on the bookcase shelves with a desktop file holder that uses hanging folders with manila (interior) folders inside. Also, use decorative containersto store the supplies that are currently on the four-drawer file cabinet and on the desk and put them on the bookcase shelves within reach.
      • One final suggestion, after sorting through the pieces of paper on the desk, consider finding a better way to store cash.

Coach’s Office


Demands from clients all day keep this business coach busy. Two years ago she moved her home office from a spare bedroom to her (now grown) children’s playroom. The space also doubles as a family room at night.

On one side of her office is an L-shape desk and a cabinet next to it that holds supplies inside and her all-in-one (printer, scanner, copier and fax) on top. Above her desk are two shelves that hold decorative items, a clock and a small bulletin board filled with papers.

Behind her desk is a large sofa with storage shelves above it. Along the back wall is an armoire with a TV inside and bookcases on either side filled with reference books, magazines and sales materials for her company.

What Works:

        • She has plenty of file space — two, two-drawer file cabinets on either side of the sofa double as end tables — and the shelves above the sofa give her even more storage room.
        • Her bookcases and the shelves above the sofa are organized.
        • The leather desk chair is ergonomically correct.
        • Her office is near the front door, which makes it easy for clients to meet with her. Before they come over, she usually throws everything in a box so her clients won’t see her messy desk.

Prescription for change:

          • The shelves and too-small bulletin board above the desk are wasting space in a prime location. Replace the shelves and bulletin board with a large bulletin board. One with an interesting, decorative frame would fit the décor of her home office and would provide space to post a calendar and other reminders.
          • Replace the stacking trays to the right of the monitor with stacking bins that can fit under the right side of the desk. Another option is to sort through the trays, clearly label them and store them on the left side of the monitor, out of the way.
          • Replace the letter sorter to the left of the monitor with a smaller sorter and move it to the right of the monitor.
          • Store the loose files on the right side of the desk in a desktop file holder that holds hanging and interior folders. Label the hanging folders with main categories and the interior folders with subcategory names.
          • Combine all pens and pencils into one holder.

Bill-Paying Office

disorganized office


Dealing with insurance companies isn’t fun or easy and is challenging if you don’t have places to store files and office equipment. This medical billing office has a large desk and a matching credenza with a hutch, a window, and a storage closet to the right of the entry. A built-in bookcase with cabinets below stores photos and collectibles.

What Works:

          • The furniture is large but still fits in the space. There are file drawers in the desk and credenza, and storage compartments in the hutch.
          • The fabric desk chair is ergonomically correct.
          • The built-in bookcase has supplies stored in the cabinets below.
          • The office is well lit and the walls are a neutral color, which makes it easy to find art to match and is good for resale.

            Prescription for change:

            • Take out the wine holder/table and the wooden chair.
            • Replace the wine holder/table with a narrow storage bench with cushion on top.
            • Remove the small printer table and move the printer to the bottom shelf of the built-in bookcase.
            • Move the decorative items from all of the shelves in the bookcase (except for the top shelf) to the top of the hutch or hang the photos. Use the shelves instead for reference books and supplies stored in decorative boxes.
            • Designate the storage compartments in the hutch for specific items to make it easier to find papers and supplies.
              • Install shelves in the closet to form an L-shape, rather than deep shelves along the back. It makes it easier to see what’s in the closet and there will still be room to step inside it.

            Doctor’s Office



            This physician’s home office doesn’t have to work full time—it’s mostly used at night for dictating charts, entering patient billing and paying bills—but it needs furniture that works. The office has a good-sized desk, a small sofa table that holds a monitor, printer, and phone, and two leather chairs sit in front of the window.

            What Works:

                • The two leather chairs with a table in between give the physician a good place to read and relax.
                • The leather desk chair is ergonomically correct.
                • The rug under the desk minimizes an echo and tunnel-like sound in the room.

            Prescription For Change:

                  • Replace the sofa table with a computer cabinet or a credenza with knee space and a pullout keyboard, along with drawers for file storage. This will leave more space for the monitor and printer and extra space to spread out papers.
                  • Replace the rug with something smaller that has a subtle pattern and warmer colors—anything but navy blue with pink flowers.
                  • Add bookcases along the wall in front of the desk and to the left of the desk (next to the closet).
                  • Add a leather holder for magazines. (Physicians always have more magazines than time to read them.)
                  • Use a desktop tray to temporarily hold mail and other incoming information. Use a separate, small vertical holder for bills to pay.

            PR Pro’s Office



            This is a hard-working home office that could use just a few changes. Space is limited but there’s enough room for a desk, file cabinet, bookcase and one chair. Aside from decluttering and keeping only the items that will be used or referred to again, only minimal changes need to be made.

            What works:

                    • The printer on the cabinet makes the cabinet serve double duty and is a good use of space.
                    • The file cabinet in the corner keeps it out of the way but within reach.
                    • Excellent choice of an ergonomically-correct chair instead of a kitchen chair.

            Prescription for change:

                      • Clear the bookcase of personal items.
                      • Add another work surface to create a U shape. This would free the desk of papers. Normally I don’t advocate more work surfaces because they tend to fill up, but in this case, it would provide an extra space to work.
                      • Remove the small, wooden chair against the wall and move the dog pillow there.
                      • Take out the powder blue chair along the right wall
                      • Down the road, adding another bookcase would provide more storage for books, photos and a few personal items.

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