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Here’s to a clutter-free 2003

Jan 14, 20033 mins

Increase your productivity by better organizing your home office

The New Year is full of resolutions. Unfortunately, it’s also full of last year’s clutter.

Paperwork, year-end tax documents, files from the office or client receipts all seem to find a permanent home on the desk, the floor, the inbox and in the ever-growing to-be-filed pile. If you’ve resolved to work better this year, organizing your home office is key.

Barbara Hemphill knows too well the result of a cluttered workspace. A productivity coach and president of the Hemphill Productivity Institute, a home-based business in Raleigh, N.C., Hemphill wins most new clients at the start of the new year, when people are launching new businesses or resolving to become better organized.

“E-mail, paperwork, mail, files – people just get overwhelmed,” says Hemphill, author of “Love it or Lose it – Living Clutter-Free Forever”. “There’s so much of everything it’s hard to get a handle on it.”

Her solution involves a combination of traditional and digital filing techniques that boils down to a five-step process: Design a filing system to suit your needs, eliminate excuses that stall the start of the effort, commit the time to create the system, select the right tools (filing cabinets, card scanners, label makers, etc.), and sustain the program once started.

To cut the clutter, Hemphill starts with the paper. Her home office is home to ample file cabinet space. One small two-drawer model won’t cut it in a home office where business or work files compete for filing space with personal documents, tax records or the dog’s vet file. A large, four-drawer cabinet, and a couple boxes of file folders and dividers help subdivide categories to keep them manageable.

To keep her business organized, Hemphill relies on two electronic power tools: a CardScan business card scanner and a handheld label maker. When she or her two employees return from a business meeting or networking event, they scan the business cards and import them into the Act! Contact manager. If they need to create a new paper file, they use the label maker to type out the file name and affix it to the file folder.

Hemphill also ensures her employees receive training on how to be organized. They receive Act! Training online, as well as a primer in using Hemphill’s own Taming the Paper Tiger paper management software.

The product attaches a code to any non-digital document, file, binder, CD or video. The user types in the location of the item, and can attach a label to the item itself to aid filing or storage. Then, using a keyword (like “2000 Tax Return” or “Smith Client File”), the user can locate the item quickly. Hemphill and her employees even use the software to index their online shopping and software user IDs and passwords. Hemphill is working with EnFish to create a Paper Tiger equivalent for digital files. Visit to learn more.

While she uses a variety of traditional and digital tools to keep her office straight, Hemphill says organization is more basic than any tool. It starts with resolve: “You need to organize mentally before you can organize physically.”