4 Ways to Declutter A Messy Home Office

If you work from home, you probably have a home office. And if you’re a certain kind of person (read: an organized one), then your home office is likely a sanctuary. It’s a clean, well-organized space that allows you to disconnect from the rest of your house while you work. Good for you, and fair warning: I doubt you want or need to read this post about the four ways to declutter a messy home office.

What This Post is and What You’ll Learn

I’m not the kind of person described above. If you’re also not the kind of person with a spotless and organized cozy home office, then this post, and this entire home office organization website, is for you.

I’ve been working from home for the better part of the last seven years, and I’ve rarely had a clean and organized office. In fact, for long stretches, I worked from our kitchen table. Partially because the regular Employee of the Month in this household – our American Bulldog Bunk – doesn’t enjoy being cooped up in the office. He prefers I work in a spot where he can see me from exactly where he wants to be: the couch.

Cozy Home Office - Employee of the Month

But the truth is I never wanted to work from my office because it was messy. And it only ever seemed to get messier.

Then my wife started working from home, which meant at least one of us needed to work in the office. So I started working from the office, amidst the mess. It wasn’t fun, and almost every time my wife opened the door to talk to me, she would also mutter something like, “Jeezalou, I don’t know how you work in here!”

Yes, we’ve been watching Everybody Loves Raymond and have adopted Frank’s go-to expression of annoyance.

Getting Frank Barone’d was the last straw. I had to clean my office. What follows is a rundown of a couple things I know from years of working from home, and a few anecdotes you might find helpful if you’re trying to declutter a messy home office.

Why It Can Be Difficult to Work From Home

Working from home certainly has its perks. Not having to commute to an office every day, sitting in traffic in both the morning and evening, is something I never take for granted. I enjoy setting my schedule. Wearing pants is optional (okay, I’ve never actually exercised this option, but it’s nice to know I have it available).

Sidenote: don’t even get me started on all those articles you’ve read that say you “NEED TO WEAR A SUIT” to work from home successfully. That’s complete garbage and something every article about the subject seems to be parroting. I’m not interested in regurgitating information that’s already out there. What I want to do here is pass along real experiences working from home for seven years. You can then use the information in whatever way works for you!

Working from home is hard, though. I’m never technically away from work, so there’s no off switch or visible barrier between work and home. There are distractions throughout the workday; sometimes in the form of people or pets in the household, other times it’s cutting the grass or an errand that calls my name, simply because I could do it during the day if I need to.

Work From Home Distractions

What I’m starting to realize is having a nice and organized office goes a long way to overcoming the hardest parts of working from home.

Working in a home office allows me to create at least a semblance of a barrier between work and home life. I work in the office until it’s time to stop, and then I leave everything about work, both mentally and physically, in the office. Okay, this isn’t entirely true, since work has other ways of following us wherever we go – cough, smartphones, cough.

But you get the idea. As I recently discovered, the biggest obstacle to working in my home office more regularly was the state of the office itself.

4 Reasons Your Home Office is Messy and 4 Ways You Can Declutter It

As we’ve established, if you’re like me, you might be dealing with a messy home office. After going through the process of cleaning my office, I sat down and pondered why it was disorganized in the first place. Here are the four reasons your home office might be messy and four things you can do about it:


Paper. Why, why, why is there always so much paper? I swear I’ve elected to go “paperless” on as many bills and accounts as I possibly can, yet the stream of paper that flows into our house seems endless. It also doesn’t help that I run a small business, which comes with its host of paper problems in the form of receipts, invoices and other kinds of paper I’m probably forgetting.

Now, a good filing system should be able to handle all the paper and bills in the world. And I have that system, thanks to my lovely wife setting it up for me a couple years ago. But I’ve been failing at using it.

Hear this: get a filing system for all the papers and bills in your life and stick to it religiously. This one thing alone will give you a fighting chance at keeping your home office decluttered.

Oh, and buy yourself a little machine called a paper shredder.

If there is a star of my home office decluttering, it’s that shredder. They’re not expensive, but they can save you a whole lot of space in your office by gobbling up a large percentage of unnecessary papers that might be piling up.

Catchall for Clutter From Around the House

During The Great Office Decluttering of 2020, the number of things I found that had no business being in the office was staggering. The office had become a catchall gathering place for items that didn’t have a home or needed to be temporarily stored somewhere in the house that was less visible. And then temporary became four years.

There was an empty box for my computer monitor. There were a couple piles of paper that had been sitting on the counter downstairs at one time or another. Invitations, thank you cards and envelopes leftover from our wedding were stashed in a corner. And there were boxes that hadn’t yet found a permanent home since we moved in.

It all amounted to way too many things that didn’t belong in the office. Luckily, all it takes is a weekend and an organized wife to help sort and remove items that are just clutter from around the house. It’s amazing how much space you’ll create by completing this time consuming but relatively simple task.

Storage for Old Technology

My wife and I usually get a new phone every two years or so. We’ve been in our house for nearly five years, which means we’re both on our third phones. Guess where the other four other phones, plus numerous other old tech devices, cords and batteries were? Yup, my home office.

This is what’s left of the old technology we’re keeping:

Messy Home Office - Old Technology

We’ll be throwing out or donating the other 50% of old technology we found, which as you can imagine has decluttered the office significantly.

Sort through all of the old technology and devices in your office. Keep what you know you’ll use, dispose of the rest.

Home for Anything Even Loosely Work Related

One of the biggest problems with my workspace becoming the room of misfit items from around the house is it’s also the default room for anything work-related. And if you’re not careful, the office will become messy because there are too many unorganized things in it, even if they are for work.

For example, I have three laptop bags I’ve used over the course of the last five years, plus a backpack for when I travel for work. All of these bags were on the floor in my office. There’s no need or excuse for that, it’s just messy and unorganized.

Notebooks were another huge culprit of clutter in my office. I always have a fresh notebook going to take notes or jot ideas down, which means I have quite a number of full notebooks. Don’t let these notebooks pile up in a corner. Sort them, toss the ones you don’t need, and organize the ones you want to keep.

Just because certain papers and items belong in the office, doesn’t mean it’s okay to put them in a corner or a pile. Your office will be messy in no time at all if you operate like this.

Organize the things in your office based on how often you use them and find a permanent, out-of-the-way home for the stuff that gets used much less often. You’ll feel much better about your workspace if your work-related items are organized in a way that makes you more efficient and productive.

After figuring out why my workspace was such a disaster and finally doing something about it, this is the state of my home office:

Current Home Office Setup

It’s by no means finished, or anywhere close to my dream home workspace, but it’s clean and organized.

My wife and I will soon begin transforming what you see in the picture above into a cozy, two-person home office with much warmer and more comfortable design and furniture. The office project was actually the inspiration for this website and we’ll be documenting the process here, so we’d love it if you’d follow along.

The best way to get updates from Cozy Home Office is to follow us on Instagram.

The last three weeks of working in my office have definitely easier and more comfortable than ever before. So if you’re anything like me, the first steps toward a better workspace in your home is figuring out why it’s so messy and then decluttering it.

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