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Southern Style by Rebecca Masters
Setting up the right kind of home office
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    A month into the New Year and the middle of tax season is an appropriate time to evaluate our home office spaces to make tax preparation and bill paying as pleasant as possible. The first step in planning a home office is to determine what we need in an office space and study the space we have available for a home office set up.     
    For college students or those who have limited space, the concept of an “office in a box” is a practical approach. Organization is the key. Purchasing several file boxes with lids and handles creates this office.  One box is set up as a file box with folders labeled for bills, tax information, bank statements, etc. A second box holds office supplies such as a stapler, pens, stamps, envelopes, and stationery. Both of these boxes can be easily stored in a closet or cabinet with easy access so that bills and correspondence can be taken care of quickly.
    If office space must be incorporated into an existing room such as a den or guest bedroom, consider an armoire or secretary desk that can be closed. Baskets can be used for storage inside a piece of furniture. Determine what you need to store and buy baskets accordingly. Make sure baskets match each other to create visual continuity when viewed. Choose baskets with dimensions that will hold file folders. Other baskets can be assigned for specific items such as office supplies, bills to be paid, correspondence, or photographs. Many armoires are designed to hold a computer and its components. Using a piece of furniture that can be closed allows for projects to be left and returned to later while the room it is in serves another purpose without a cluttered look. A closet may also serve as an office nook. Place a countertop or desk inside. Closet doors can be closed when your work is done.
    If a home has a room designated as a home office or library, a desk, credenza and book shelves may be used. Plan carefully when choosing furniture, as this room may also serve dual purposes. This space could also serve as a place to listen to music or homework area for older children.  Look for furniture with file drawers and storage.  Small flat baskets can be used inside the drawers to organize office supplies and stationary. Add pictures, lamps, rugs, upholstered chairs, and window treatments to give your space character. Look for desk top accessories that are useful and compliment your décor.
    When setting up your home office, consider your needs and be creative with storage.  Decorate this space just as you would any other room in your home. Look for ways to make needed office equipment look visually attractive. Make efforts to hide cords and phone lines which are distracting when viewed. Make sure desk seating and lighting levels are comfortable so that working in your office space can be as pleasant as possible. Make your office useful, comfortable, and beautiful.
    Set up a filing system that facilitates quick and easy access. For some, a system of notebooks to hold personal/home bills and receipts may be more effective than files. Label each notebook’s contents and place these out of sight, but in an easy to reach location. Make a commitment to file your important papers on a regular basis. Set up and use a calendar or planner. Use colored pens to color code appointments and events, assigning a color to each family member. Have stationery personalized and remember to use it. In these technological times, a handwritten thank you note or letter lets recipients know you care.
    Plan to sort mail daily. Discard “junk mail” immediately and place bills and items that need your attention in a designated drawer or basket depending on your office set up. Shred unwanted credit card applications, etc. and recycle newspapers and magazines. This eliminates clutter. No matter what kind of office you set up, being organized and eliminating paper clutter makes a home more comfortable for you and guests. Office organization and being disciplined about maintaining files and discarding unwanted mail has its rewards…having quick access to personal information  when needed and allowing more time to spend with family and friends.
    Spending time with family and friends is what we like to do around here.  It’s a southern thing!

Rebecca Masters is a teacher who enjoys gardening, decorating and entertaining. She can be reached at 764-5413 or
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