Dear Kathi,

There is a debate in our household about the set up for a basic simple desk. How would you set it up without getting expensive furniture for a home office and also for a teenager to do homework from?
Doris, Encinitas


The configurations for both desks will be slightly different. Most home offices will benefit from using an L pattern for the desk surface. The L works well because you can set up your computer on one end and still have a flat open space for paperwork on the other side.
Place your computer on the short end of the L on your desktop. Keep your hard drive off of the desk. Place it below the desk off to the side and possibly on rollers for easy access. The only items that should be on your desktop will be the monitor and maybe the keyboard/ mouse if you don’t have a slide out drawer.

You and your printer are best served up and out of the way on a corner shelf. Cut out a notch before you hang the shelf for the wires to drop down the back. If you don’t have a corner area (although you should with an L) hang a wide shelf 10-12 inches above the desktop to hold the printer. The same rule applies to your fax machine if you have one. Another option to keep your desktop clear is to place your printer/fax machines on your file cabinet off to the side of your desk. I only recommend this if the file cabinet is close at hand to the desk chair.

Speaking of this, it is important that you have a file drawer under your desk or very close by. Close by means that you don’t need to get up to use it. This will be where you should store your working papers, the ones you access most frequently be it bills, current projects or other paperwork that you use daily. The closer and more convenient your file drawers are, the more likely you will not have a paper pile up on your desk. Wire stepped vertical file holders are great for keeping your active papers corralled.

Consider using categories like: Waiting for Response, Bills to Pay, Calls to Make, or Coupons. Use manilla folders for this shelf. Generally these metal stack shelves have 8 steps so you can divide your everyday papers into 8 sections if you wish.

Keep the open area on your desktop open. The front 70% of the desk should be cleared off and ready to hold work when you begin projects. With this in mind, it is easy to see that a shallow drawer to hold pens, post it notes, the stapler etc

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San Diego Professional Organizer