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Tame Home Office Clutter

If you are drowning in piles of bills and mail at home, or spend too much time searching for things like paperclips and stamps, it's time to get your home office in order.

Elizabeth Mayhew, style director at Real Simple magazine, paid a visit to The Saturday Early Show to help tame the clutter in the third part of our series, "Organize This!"

The flood of paper in home offices just doesn't stop, Mayhew says, and many people are too hurried to put everything in order. But she assures us you don't need a lot of space to get papers, pens and computer equipment in order.

It doesn't matter whether you have a desk built into your kitchen, a small table in your family room, or just shelves in a closet, the important thing is to have a consistent place to work and have everything you need in one place. Your big goal should be simply to contain everything.

Mayhew suggests the following ways to help tidy your home office:

Getting Started

The Hold Everything palmer desk, $199, has a low shelf that holds a computer hard drive, a side shelf that holds CDs and a tray that pulls out to hold a keyboard or a laptop. But Mayhew says you want to eliminate as much clutter from the desktop as possible while still making everything accessible. Three products that can help achieve these goals are:

  • A desktop organizer that sits right underneath your keyboard. Lift up your keyboard and there's space for pens and more. The organizer is available at, at about $35.
  • A 13"x13" magnetic board that hangs on the wall. Magnetic containers attach to the board and hold supplies such as stamps and staples. The magnetic containers is available at, at about $50.
  • A round, magnetic bulletin board to display important reminders or dates. It is available at The Container Store, at about $25.

    A nice finishing touch, Mayhew suggests, is a Cable Manager, at about $9, or a Cable Turtle, at about $7, which will gather all of your messy-looking cords together into a single strand.

Shelves on a wall over a side table can be used for convenient access to needed items. Mayhew says Elfa Shelving from The Container Store comes in a wide variety of sizes and can be hung anywhere to fit any space.

If your shelves are in a place where you and visitors see them all the time, you'll want to hide all of your supplies and papers away - not in a translucent box.

Canvas boxes are available at Stacks and Stacks, priced from $6 to $11.

Paper Clutter
Most people hold onto more things than they really need. Mayhew suggest the following:

Toss Every Month:

  • ATM and Bank-Deposit Slips: Trash these after you've recorded the amounts in your check register and checked them against your monthly bank statement.
  • Credit Card Receipts: Get rid of these after you've cross-checked them with your credit card statement.
  • Sales Receipts For Minor Purchases: After you've satisfactorily used these items and if they don't have warranties, trash them.

Toss Every Year:

  • Monthly Bank and Credit-Card Statements: If you don't have itemized deductions, trash these items.
  • Monthly or Quarterly Brokerage and Mutual-Fund Statements: As long as your year-end statement clearly shows the total amount you've paid in interest and property taxes over the course of the year, toss these items.
  • Phone and Utility Bills: Toss phone and utility bills as long as you don't have a tax-deductible home office, use your phone for business calls or anticipate any need to prove long-term residency.
  • Paycheck Stubs: After you've reconciled your paycheck stubs with your annual W-2 or 1099 forms, toss them.

If you have kids, an endless parade of sports practice schedules, school schedules and birthday party invitations will come across your desk. Mayhew says to write all of this information down on a calendar and throw away the papers to eliminate some clutter. If you still want to keep a them, try organizing them in colored folders.

Several of the boxes and containers on shelves are good for organizing papers, but you may also like a metal file cart on wheels. The size of a milk crate, this cart holds hanging files and has a tray on top to hold other small supplies. Mayhew says it's smart to get a cart on wheels because you can easily move it around. Stash it under a desk or table, or in a closet.

Mail and Bills and Schedules ... Oh My!
The Pottery Barn sells a collection called "Daily System." The modular system works as a centralized day planner and household message center. There are six different units, which slide onto a wall-mounted stainless-steel top display rod, so you can move, change or add components as you like.

Units include a chalkboard, a magnetic whiteboard/calendar, a corkboard, a letter bin, a photo display and a small chalkboard above a bin with hooks for keys. Prices range from $19 to $49. You can hang it in a laundry room, mud room, kitchen or hallway and a mini-home office right on your wall.