Do you still need a home office?
In my work as a professional organizer, I have found that most homeowners have a home office. Simultaneously, I have found that most homeowners do not actually *work* in their home office. Even when the home office is orderly and not too cluttered, people seem to just not want to work in their home office. I think there are a variety of reasons for this, and because of all of these reasons, I have come to believe that a home office is not necessary for most homeowners.
(Note: If you run a business out of your home, I think you still need a home office. This blog post is just for those who don’t run a business, but still have a home office.)
Here are the reasons that most of us don’t need a home office anymore:
- Before the internet age, when so much of our paperwork was on actual paper, we needed a big desk to spread those papers out on. But now, with automatic bill-pay, online shopping, shared Google docs, email and the like, there is far less paper in our lives, so we just don’t need the big desk anymore. Desks can still be useful, but most of us can easily get away with a 48″ wide x 24″ deep desk just fine. (Or maybe you don’t even need a desk anymore! See #3.)
- Because we have much less paper in our lives, we don’t need to make room for the huge, 4-drawer filing cabinets anymore. Again, because so much of our paperwork is now digital and stored in the cloud, we don’t need to store thousands of physical documents.
- Most of us use a laptop, tablet or even a mobile phone to do our work, so we don’t need a desk for a big desktop computer with a huge screen. Remember the big, boxy computers of the 1990s? I’m so glad computers are much more smaller and streamlined now. And because we are on our laptops, our “desk” is now wherever our lap is — the living room couch, our comfy bed, or out on the patio.
- Digital devices mean we can do our work wherever we want. What I have found is that most people *don’t want* to do their home-based office work in the same spot every time. They like the freedom to work from a coffee shop, in the park or just in various rooms of their house. Moving around keeps the motivation and momentum flowing when it comes to doing boring tasks such as filing taxes or doing your online banking, my clients have told me.
So for these 4 reasons, I have found that most people don’t have to have a home office anymore. It IS still helpful to have a corner in a room for a few home office-type elements, however. For example, everyone needs a 2-drawer filing cabinet or 2 letter-size plastic bins to store important papers in file folders. We still need to hang onto our tax returns, our loan information, vital documents and things like that. Two drawers tend to be enough for most people, if they regularly purge old documents. (Note: I don’t store photos, kids’ artwork or family memorabilia in filing cabinets. I advise using filing cabinets just for financial, legal and essential household documents.)
It’s still helpful to have a couple of bins or a couple of drawers to hold basic office supplies, like pens, highlighters, tape, scissors, printer ink, printer paper, etc.
It’s still helpful to have a surface to hold your printer and a place to charge your laptop. It doesn’t have to be a desk. It could be the top of a lateral filing cabinet or the top of a deep shelving unit.
There are some instances where a home office can still be useful:
- If your kid(s) need a quiet place to do homework.
- If having a dedicated space makes you more likely to handle household paperwork and tasks on time.
- If you like sitting at a desk in the same quiet, dedicated space while working on computer-related tasks each week.
So if you decide you don’t need a home office anymore, what can you use the space for instead? I have had many clients get more use out of turning their home office into a:
- crafting room
- sewing room
- reading/writing author’s studio
- yoga/meditation space
- guest bedroom (sooo useful to have when your spouse is sick!)
- gaming room for the kids
- room-size walk-in closet
So what do you think? Do you still actually use your home office? Do you want to keep it a home office?
Image courtesy of Martha Stewart Living magazine.
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