By Lea Schneider

If you’re hunting for better productivity in your home office, check in your closet.

While getting things done is about determination and hard work, it is also about how well you manage all the “stuff” you’ve piled around, and how the clutter can reflect on your ability to manage your day and your business.

Sometimes there are so many distractions at home that when it’s time to work, organization is overlooked. But as a professional organizer, I’ve found that clients report being much more productive — and less stressed — once we’ve created customized storage systems for how their work-from-home job or home-based business functions.

One effective solution is to use your home office’s closet to set up organizational systems that help you be as productive as possible. After all, you want to take full advantage of the perks of working at home, including spending more time with your family. The more organized you are, the more time you save.

When considering how best to customize your closet storage for work, make sure to factor in both the items you store and the functions they perform. Here are some common tasks that closet organization can help streamline, as well as some great organizational ideas, to boost your home office productivity.

1. Projects

If the work in your home office is project oriented, here are a couple of tips to help you maximize your time. Many people have a variety of tasks going on in their home office. It becomes a scavenger hunt to try to find all the parts as deadlines loom. Consider a grid of storage cubbies or a closet shelving system that utilizes the following ideas:

  • Color coding: Assign a color to each project. Sticking to a color scheme means things are much easier to find and store. For example, make every piece of “Project A” red. You’ll use a red binder, red file folders, red labels and so on. It’s very easy to store everything red together.
  • By deadline: Some home-based businesses are very deadline oriented. For those jobs, you may want to have a bin, cubby or shelf for each month. A dry-erase board is a great way to track deadlines on projects.
  • By client: Allow space in your custom closet design for projects in the works. If, for example, you are typically juggling five client projects at once, you may want to design in five shelves that are used strictly for those clients’ materials. You’ll use removable labels for each client.

2. Storing Products

If your business sells anything, the closet may be the best place for on-hand inventory, but you’ll want to avoid treating it like a storage unit (no stacks of random boxes!). Designate an area of the closet for products. As you do so, consider the various possible categories for products. This may include samples, completed orders, products for sale, parts, close-outs or sale items, and so forth. Finally, maximize the entire area of your shelving by using clear plastic bins.

3. Wrapping, Packing & Shipping

Everyone who deals with a physical product needs a packing supply area. Even if your deliveries are local, you’ll be tucking items into bags. Designate one shelf for packing supplies. These should include folded boxes, padded envelopes, express envelopes, bubble wrap, tissue, packing tape, shipping labels and any business materials that you tuck into packages such as flyers or business cards. Leave room for a scale. Use vertical document racks to hold stacks of envelopes and flat boxes and maximize space.

If your space allows, leave a waist-high shelf empty just above your shipping supplies. This gives you a clear surface for assembling packages. A magnetic bar attached to the wall is perfect for holding a razor knife and scissors.

4. Printing Station

Create a printing zone. With a wireless printer, you can set up a print station in the closet. On an adjacent shelf, organize printer paper and card stock to be at the ready. Opening and closing stacks of boxes of paper is time consuming. Invest in stacking paper trays to hold piles of the different paper.

5. Printed Materials

There are two great ways to store printed materials, such as flyers, needed for your business. If your stacks are smaller — 300 pages or fewer — then you could use document sorters placed on shelves. Or, if you receive large quantities of materials by the case, build in cubbies that are sized to hold a standard ream of paper box.

6. Office Supplies

Unpack office supplies into one area and set up a grab-and-go system for items you often need. Mount a dry-erase board so that you can note what to buy as supplies run low.

As you plan to customize your home office closet, keep in mind the three essentials for good organization:

  1. Put like items together
  2. Label everything
  3. Make it function for the way you work