As a productive freelance writer you want a clean and clutter-free home office. A big part of that is efficient handling of papers, books, and magazines. Otherwise they will bury your desk, your work, and your creativity.
Here’s what I do…
Handle a piece of paper only once if at all possible. If it’s a letter or bill, act on it. If you need to keep it, immediately file it. If you don’t need it, recycle it if you can or throw it away if you can’t. For paper you truly can’t deal with at once, use a set of stacking in-baskets to place the paper for future action.
For paper you need to keep long-term, use file cabinets with hanging file folders, with each folder properly labeled. Don’t let piles of paper build up in your office. You’ll waste time and energy trying to find things, and the overall clutter will drag you down psychologically and reduce your productivity.
Of course you’ll need bookshelves. Get whatever ones suit your taste and your budget, just be sure they’re sturdy and will hold all your heavy books without the shelves collapsing or the entire bookcase tipping over. I have a set of bookshelves 6 feet high, plus storage on built-in shelves in a walk-in closet off my home office.
I arrange my books by subject area so I can always find any given book quickly. If you like, you can arrange your books within subject areas by author, although I’m not that particular. I like quickly scanning book titles to find the one I want; frequently I’ll see one or more other books I also need, but didn’t realize I needed. I also keep one shelf reserved solely for books covering my current writing projects.
Subscribe to only those periodicals that help your career or some other important part of your life. Local libraries have many magazines that you can either read there or check out. I used to subscribe to lots of magazines, but I found that reading all of them was not a high enough priority for me, so they just accumulated until I finally recycled them. Over the last year I have canceled or not renewed all of my magazine subscriptions.
As with other paper, have a place for unread magazines in one of your stacking in-baskets. When you do get to your magazines, quickly select the articles you want to read, rip them out, and either read them right then with highlighter in hand or save them for later reading when you have spare time. When you have finished reading the ripped pages, place them in your file cabinets or recycle them.
On a 1-10 scale, how well organized are your books, papers, and magazines and periodicals? Which of the suggestions presented here is most important for you to implement right now? Any suggestions to add?