My Portable Office

Sometimes there just isn’t room for a home office. Other times the only place for a home office is in a remote corner of the house, so far from all the action that your kids have to call you on the phone to ask a question about their homework (maybe that’s not such a bad thing). A home office may be a necessity, but the size, location, and even contents are dependent upon your lifestyle (and budget).

My last home was tiny, but I still had a dedicated home office. Unfortunately, as my kids got older (and their fighting more intense) I decided to give up my office so that they could have their own rooms. I couldn’t get much work done anyway with all that fighting.

I wasn’t exactly sure what to do next; there wasn’t even a spare corner in the living room for a little desk. From that day forward I started wandering looking for a little area that I could claim for my own.

I didn’t mind working from the kitchen table or counter, but every night I had to shove my projects into a nearby cabinet so we could eat dinner at my “desk”. Some nights I would work from the sofa or even bed while my hubby or kids watched T.V. The main problem with this arrangement was that I didn’t have supplies nearby. I was running back-and-forth to grab a pad of paper or a pen or a staple-remover. What do you do without desk drawers let alone a desk?

I decided to create an office tote. I filled a canvas bag with office supplies in small pouches, project envelopes, and file folders. My office supplies are now organized and ready to go wherever I decide to work.

Here is the end result:

The canvas bag is from LL Bean. I even spent a few extra dollars to have the word “office” embroidered on the front.

Inside I put everything that I needed to get my work done, pencils, pens, highlighters, a stapler, clips, a pad of paper, sticky notes and even work-in-progress and bills-to-pay. I organized current projects and bills using file folders and project envelopes. I organized office supplies in pouches.

The canvas is so sturdy you can even clip notes or to-do lists to the side.

Here is what you will need:

Medium Canvas Tote from LL Bean

Baggu Pouches

Project Envelopes or Thomas Paul String Folios

Semikolon File Folders

Susy Jack Clips

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Posted in Home Office, Make Your Own..., Office Organization | 10

Make Your Own…Shelves

I never have enough space for books and magazines. Although having a Kindle has helped a little, I prefer to read some magazines and books the old-fashioned way.

Adding storage to a room that is already “done” is never easy. Sometimes it’s easier to start over than find pieces to go with what you already have. Very few people can make a wall of mix-matched book shelves look good.

I decided that something unique would give me the space I need without making my office look like a jumbled mess.

I purchased unfinished children’s chairs from IKEA. They were $9.99 each. I sanded them a little, then spray painted them white and hung them on the wall.

Here’s how they look:

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Posted in Make Your Own..., Office Organization, Office Style | 2

Organizing Your E-mail

A person’s organizational acumen could once be measured by the tidiness of their sock drawer, but oh how the times have changed. If you really want to know if someone is organized take a look at their e-mail inbox. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not actually suggesting that you go around looking at people’s inboxes; what I am suggesting is that you look at your own.

The ability to effectively organize your e-mail communication is a critical time-management skill. No matter who you are or what you do chances are you could use a little more time in the day, organize your e-mail and you just might have it.

The Junk in Your Trunk

It may be difficult, but if you get junk email you must unsubscribe before you delete. If you shop somewhere often you’ll want to stay on their mailing list for coupons and specials, but for everything else unsubscribe. It takes a few extra steps to unsubscribe, but it will save you time in the future.

If you have unsubscribed and you still get their messages add them to your junk sender’s list. Steps for junking mail are different depending on the email service provider. In Microsoft Outlook, you simply right click the message and that option appears. Most providers offer some sort of method, Hotmail for example offers a sweep that allows you to set-up rules like “delete anything from this sender.”

Rank and File

Your next step is to set-up email files. Don’t worry this isn’t as hard as setting up paper files or organizing your hard drive. The file names will change depending on your line of work. Here are some that could work for your personal account:

Business is a little trickier, but you can start by looking at your paper or electronic files. One way to set-up your email files is by department: marketing, customer service, purchasing, etc. You could also set them up by subject or task: planning, meetings, financials, sales reports, etc. I use a combination of methods. I have some files by department, a few regarding important accounts, a file for receipts, and a meeting file.

The meeting file is my favorite. I’ve set up subfolders within it. When I get emails that are best covered in a weekly meeting I pull the email into the folder. Before each meeting I make a note of all the topics in the folder and make sure that each issue is covered.

Who Does The Dirty Work?

Unlike your kids and husband, your computer will do a lot of the work for you. It can actually file and sort your incoming mail. You’ll need to set-up more rules, similar to what you did with your junk mail. Items such as store coupons and specials are good candidates for rules. You can set-up store newsletters to go into a particular folder. Then just check that folder daily to make sure you don’t miss a 50% off at J.Crew or Restoration Hardware. Some items that I’ve set up rules for include regular reports, correspondence from my children’s school PTA, membership rewards statements and travel offers. These are folders I check regularly so if they bypass my inbox I won’t miss them.

Sorry You Tasked?

Managing e-mail tasks or to-do’s is a matter of personal preference. Some people view their inbox as a to-do list and everything that hasn’t been filed must be dealt with, others set up a task folder. Either way is fine, just be consistent. If the item is on your calendar and your physical to-do list it’s probably not necessary to leave it in your inbox.

Create a folder labeled Events and store calendar related email there until the event has passed.

Maxed Out

Space is limited for just about everyone, so at some point you will have to clean-out even email files. If you regularly receive large attachments you may already have a space problem.

Make a point of saving large attachments on your computer hard drive. You can also pdf or save as html the accompanying email.

If you or your company has a good method for archiving your email file, and the ability to retrieve the information if needed in the future, then purge yearly.

If you or your company does not have a good method of archiving make sure that you save important emails as pdf or html files to your computer hard drive or company server.

Last But Not Least

It’s good to copy yourself. It sounds a little strange so let me explain. When sending out important messages via email include your own email address in the cc field. You can then file the incoming email as you would any other email related to that topic. It’s a lot easier than searching through your sent messages.

There are many email accounts and a limited amount of space here. The point is you need a plan for your email. Set a 1-week goal to get your inbox in order; then spend a little time each day making it happen. Your stress level will thank you.

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Posted in Office Organization, Organize Your..., Time-Management | 0

Celebrating the All New LEARN Section

Eeek! That’s what I said when I looked at the date of my last blog post. Today you will finally understand what has been taking me so long. The new LEARN section is complete. The blog will still be about organizing with style, but the delivery will be a little more personal.

The new LEARN section is a wonderful new resource. Among the many features there are Free Downloads, Customer Organizing Tips and your favorite posts from the blog.
See Jane Work has always been about connecting with our customers. We are an online retailer, but we are run by real people with real lives and the real challenges of being a mom, employee, friend, wife, sister and whatever else life throws our way. The new LEARN section is designed to be interactive so we need you to comment on the blog or send in your style or organizing tips in the new Customer Tip Section.

The look and feel of the blog may change a bit to better compliment the LEARN section, but my self-deprecating style and organizing tips will stay the same.
Thanks for hanging in there with us through all the changes over the last few years. It’s all been worth it.

Best Regards,
Holly Bohn Weiss

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Make Your Own…..Bulletin Boards

I promise that Make Your Own isn’t going to be all about bulletin boards. I realize that the first two posts in this series have been on this subject, but it’s been out of necessity. I promise to bring you some fresh new ideas soon….very soon, for now I bring you an extra-large bulletin board solution.

I have a really long wall in my office that was in need of some sort of decoration. I considered wall-mount shelves, wall paper and even wall decals, but my practical side talked me out of it. I already have shelving and the wall paper or decals didn’t serve a purpose. The office I currently occupy is fairly small and I have to make every square inch count. What I needed most were bulletin boards; a place to post design inspiration, color schemes and even mementos.

For several months I searched. I really wanted magnetic chalk boards or a cork board in a great frame. I either needed one extra-large board or three large boards, but I couldn’t find anything in my price range. (I have three kids who need braces and clothes and books….so spending a ton of money on bulletin boards for my office would be a little selfish.)

At the craft store I came up with an idea-that sometimes happens at craft stores-to use artist canvas boards. They were on sale two for one, so I could buy three large boards for $60. Jackpot!!!

I thought I might have to insert foam backing to hold the pins, but I didn’t. I used a variety of small map tacks and See Jane Work Basic Push Pins. They all worked great.

Here are the boards I used. When I first carried them into the building my colleagues were skeptical that this would look good.

Here are the boards mounted. They’re so large, I have plenty of room left after posting all my magazine tear-outs, paint chips and mementos.

What should you hang on your boards? It depends on your job. I hung color chips…….

And a treasured note from an employee……

Here is a close-up of the map tacks I used…….

The T style tacks are available at Office Depot. The small silver ball map tack is not available for purchase, but before you get all worked-up I have good news. Advantus Corp., our parent company, actually manufactured these in the U.S. so we’re going to fire up the old machines and produce a batch. We’ll have them up on the site and available for purchase very soon.

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Posted in Home Office, Make Your Own..., Office Style | 7

Fashion Inspired Office Décor-Feathers

My inspiration for office décor often comes from my closet; fashion can be the perfect starting point for an office makeover. Don’t get me wrong, not every fashion trend should be translated into office décor (last year’s neon trend being a good example) but many trends will work in an office. You’ll be happy to know that this year’s runways have been full of décor friendly ideas. Every few weeks we’ll bring you a fashion trend and show you how to translate it into an organized and stylish office.

Our trend to translate this week is Feathers

There are some fashion trends that I simply admire from afar, the feather trend being a good example. We’re seeing them as earrings, on clothing and in hair. Unfortunately, this trend can easily go from tasteful to tacky. I was going to provide an example of extremes to illustrate my point, but decided that some things are best left to the imagination. Getting this look right can be expensive. The runway looks are way out of my budget so rather than settle for something more affordable, but not quite as stylish, I translated this trend into décor.

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Posted in Fashion Inspired Decor, Office Style | 0

Back-to-School Organizing

Asking a group of mothers whether they are looking forward to the start of school can create more drama than a discussion on politics or plastic surgery. For me the answer to that question has been different every year. It depends on the child’s age, my personal stress level and a myriad of other factors. One thing we can all agree on is that this time of year presents some unique organizational challenges. For me the biggest challenge is the paperwork. I conquered the clutter with a Mommy Command Central. Steps to creating this area in your home are as follows:

1) Identify an area. Whether it’s a spot on the wall, a table in the entry way or a spot on the kitchen counter, you need an area where paperwork will land. This location must be convenient for both you and your children or another spot (not of your choosing) will quickly take form.

2) Identify your family style. Are you stackers or sorters? I realize this may seem overly simplistic, but it works even for me. (My children are actually crumplers—they prefer to transport their school paperwork in a tightly formed ball.) If you are stackers a file box system might not work, but letter trays will.

3) Identify your tools. If you will be using wall space then you need magnetic wall pockets, if you will be using the counter then you can use letter trays, file boxes, magazine files or a binder system.

4) Identify the who and what. Use printed labels or color to identify what goes where. I have three children so I’ve always been partial to color (as long as it isn’t so visible it disrupts my décor.) One child is green, one child is red, and the other is blue (not literally). You can use color dots to label their box or basket. Too complicated? A simple printed label with their name will also work.

Rules

1) Keep it simple. Add complexity only as needed.

2) Review the system prior to implementation, so everyone in the family is clear on how it works and what is expected of them.

3) If it’s a new system remember that building good habits takes about 30 days, don’t give up on your kids or your system prematurely.

Quick Tips

1) Toss anything that is available online.

2) Use sheet protectors, paper pockets and a binder to create a quick reference place for phone lists, schedules, etc.

3) If you have multiple children at the same school make sure to discard extra copies of notices, etc.

4) Purchase two art boxes per child. Collect important artwork or homework in one box. At year-end they choose 1-2 items to keep and you choose 1-2 items. Those keepsakes go into the second box. The collection box is emptied each year.

5) Encourage high school age children to keep a file box with graded homework and tests until grades have been finalized. Teachers are busy and have many students, keying in the wrong test score can happen.

6) Print several sheets of labels by subject and with your child’s name. Keep them in a paper pocket in your Quick Reference Binder (see number 2). You’ll have them available throughout the year.

7) Give each child a plastic pouch to bring home paperwork that needs to be signed by you. That will prevent the crumple issue I mentioned earlier.

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Posted in Home Office, School | Tagged , , | 3

Organize Your… College Student

My oldest son is starting high school, not college, but he will be away from home for his first year. He’s only been gone a few weeks and I’m already distraught. In order to cope I began a massive reorganization and sterilization of his room (he’s a teenage boy so yes sterilization was involved). I went to such extremes that my husband threatened to have me institutionalized, so now I just sit in his-now immaculate-room and cry each night. When I left home at 18 I felt so happy to be out on my own; I now realize how completely devastated my mother must have been and what all mothers of college-bound children are feeling this month.

Keeping busy is an important mothering skill. It helps you avoid dealing with difficult issues and can also provide a sense of purpose. While busily organizing my son’s room I could pretend, albeit briefly, that he would be returning at any moment. We all have different coping skills, but no one ever went to rehab for over-organizing, so go ahead and follow my lead.

Here are my organizing tips for a college-bound child:

 

1. Create a binder with important contacts, medical information, important birthdays, etc. You can even include numbers and addresses of family friends. They’ll likely call you several times over the coming years for the number or address of some distant relative who has suddenly become important for a professional introduction.

2. Invest in collapsible storage. First year dorm, second year apartment, summer internship…their life is in transition. Collapsible storage will be there when they need it and fit neatly under the bed when they don’t.

3. Help them create an organizational plan. Where will they store graded homework? I suggest a file box with hanging files. Once they receive their correct grades, they should clean it out for the next year. Keep only what is really necessary.

4. Get a copy of their schedule and create labels for each class. They will have labels for the hanging files in their file box or for notebooks, etc.

5. Suggest a color for each class. Finance is green, science is red, history is blue…doesn’t really matter the point is if you color code everything it makes it easier to quickly grab it as you head out the door for class.

6. Invest in a sticky chalk or white boards, one for each class. Make sure they won’t damage the wall as many dorms and apartments have strict rules about this. Every Sunday night they should write down important reminders on the board(s). If they are visually minded this is a grade-saving tip.

7. Suggest a written planner and written class notes. I’m all about computers and electronics, but some teachers don’t allow them in class. Also a written planner helps you see everything at once and easily prioritize. The 8-Days-A-Week planner is perfect for tracking homework and assignments. Keep each class syllabus in a sheet protector in their binders, but remember to write the important dates down in the written planner.

8. Help them create (and stick to) a weekly schedule for tasks like cleaning, laundry, shopping, and studying. Routine will keep them from becoming overwhelmed, a precursor to disorganization.

9. Elaborate organizational plans are a recipe for disaster. Help them understand their abilities and style so that they have plans that will work for them.

10. Don’t over buy. They will need paper clips, but not a gallon of 5000. Most college kids are space-challenged whether they live on campus or not, so keep your buying in check.

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Posted in Organize Your..., School | 1

Fashion Inspired Office Décor-Stripes

My inspiration for office décor often comes from my closet; fashion can be the perfect starting point for an office makeover. Don’t get me wrong, not every fashion trend should be translated into office décor, last year’s neon trend being a good example, but many trends will work in an office. You’ll be happy to know that 2011 runways have been full of décor friendly ideas. Every few weeks we’ll bring you a fashion trend and show you how to translate it into an organized and stylish office.

Our trend to translate this week is Stripes

It’s not that I am partial to styles classified as “de rigueur” by fashion magazines. I’m a little more complicated than that (just ask my husband). The benefit of something being classified as a trend is that you can shop it. Stores carry trends so if you want boot legs when skinny jeans are more popular—you’re going to have to work a little harder to find your preference. I’ve always worn preppy stripes and will continue to wear them long after the trend has been played out.–Does a French Striped Tee ever really go out of style?–My joy is that this season I can expand my collection; the stores are full of stripes.

In this particular feature we’re featuring black and white stripes, but navy and white are also popular.

How should you accessorize this look? Red shoes look great with a black and white or navy and white striped dress; follow the same idea for your décor. Try a red pencil cup or blotter for a pop of color against the Semikolon Striped Storage Collection. We’ve added the red blotter and red pencil cup to our Bella Collection just for this purpose.

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Posted in Fashion Inspired Decor | 0

Organize Your Desk Drawer

The most important office storage space is the desk drawer. It may not seem special, it is just a drawer, but properly organized it becomes the best tool you have for becoming more productive at work.

You should think of office storage in terms of food storage, something everyone can understand.

There’s the pantry, the refrigerator, the freezer, and maybe even a deep freezer. Expanding on this example I offer you milk—or soy milk or almond milk it doesn’t really matter which—the point is if you use milk every morning you need to keep it in a convenient location. Imagine what your morning would be like if you had to go down to the basement or out to the garage to get your milk from the deep freezer then thaw it out before adding it to your coffee. Think of how much time this would add to your morning routine. Office supplies are not so different. Depending on the type of work you do, your pen should be close by; your laminating machine should not.

When the warehouse discount centers first came out my father, known for his thrifty ways, became their best customer. With a family of 5 he was convinced that this was the answer to his hefty grocery bills. He came home with giant jars of maraschino cherries, pickles, even peperoncinis (and yes I checked the spelling on the last one). Our fridge was full; problem was there was nothing to eat. Who could subsist on maraschino cherries? Sure it’s fun at first, but eventually you crave real food. Unfortunately there wasn’t any room left in the fridge. My dad doesn’t buy much food in bulk these days, he’s learned his lesson there, but he does still buy office supplies in bulk. His desk drawers are full of huge tubs of paperclips, packs of number 2 pencils. He doesn’t have any more kids at home or in school so why so many pencils? Is he taking secret Scantron tests?

Office supplies are small and can be relatively inexpensive in bulk, but without a clear understanding of what you will really use, how often you will use it and how many you will use, you’re not saving. A tub of 3000 paperclips seems like a good deal until you can’t find it because you had to store it in the garage, then you buy another tub when you couldn’t find it, then you moved cross country and can’t find either tub.  I’m not exaggerating, this really happens.

Here is what is in my drawer at the moment: (No drawer? Use a small tray or storage box on your desktop.)

1. Highlighter Wheel 2. Small paperclips 3. Big clips 4. Bulldog clips-2 sizes 5. Scissors 6. Rubber bands 7. Hand crème 8. Lip gloss 9. Colgate Wisps 10. Page Flags 11. Pencil Sharpener 12.  2 Le Pens 13. 2 Regular Pens 14. 4 sharpened pencils 15. Sticky notes 16. Pain Reliever

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Posted in Home Office, Office Organization, Organize Your... | 4