Making the Most of Limited Space

So you’re planning to work from home on a full-time or on a regular basis, but you’re worried that your small space will be taken over by bulky office equipment, supplies and paperwork, or that you won’t be able to work efficiently in such a confined space. You can increase your chances for success by designing your workspace to optimize your productivity.

Urban home-workers, especially renters, may be restricted from certain types of modifications, such as painting walls any color that deviates from the standard “renter’s white” or installing permanent bookshelves or room dividers. But there are simple changes that can keep your home from turning into a stressful, cluttered environment that drains your energy. Here are three things to consider when designing your workspace for maximum productivity and livability.

Establish a Designated Work Area

Most city dwellers don’t have a spare room to set aside for a home office. While your office may not have physical boundaries, you can use a different color scheme to create a subtle, but effective visual divider that separates the work area from your living space. If you’re renting, you may not be able to paint the walls, but you can get the same effect by coordinating your rugs, wall hangings, storage units and furniture.

Designating specific zones of your apartment as work and living space will provide the mindset shift that you need to motivate yourself to begin your workday, and then shut it off so that you can relax at the end of the day. For instance, sitting in the work zone indicates that it’s time to turn on your internal office mode. Moving into the living zone, means that you’re ready for some down time — so relax and chill.

Think “Double-Duty” When Selecting Furniture & Equipment

Invest in furniture and equipment that pulls double-duty, such as a tall dining table or a bookshelf that can double as a standing desk, or chairs, ottomans and sofas with storage underneath for squirreling away files or office supplies. Gateleg dining tables can double as a large desk or are useful for those times when you just need a bigger work surface on which to spread out.

Similarly, you can save a great deal of space by paring down your office equipment. For instance, a multifunction printer is both cost-effective and space-efficient — consolidating a printer, copier, fax (if you need it) and scanner into one machine.

Save desktop space by ditching your landline and opting for a second business phone number that rings through to your cellphone or a VoIP line that you can use on your computer. There are numerous free and paid options available — Sideline, Line2, Google Voice, Skype, Grasshopper and BusinessCall to name a few. The best option will depend on your usage and the types of features that you need.

Declutter Your Space

Clutter presents a considerable impediment to productivity. Think of the time you’ve wasted looking for items that get misplaced in piles of books, papers, boxes or what have you, not to mention the negative impact that a cluttered space has on your motivation, stress levels and emotional well-being.

Look around your space to identify your main clutter zones, such as the desktop, bookshelves, closets, cabinets and drawers, and create a checklist or schedule for tackling each area. Then, one at a time, evaluate your belongings in each area for what you need, what you use, what you plan to use and those things that you’re just holding onto for sentimental reasons or because you think that you might have a use for it at some future date. For items that fall into this latter category, be honest with yourself about the value of holding onto it. How long has it gone untouched in the drawer or cabinet? Have you even thought about this item in the last six months? Will you use it in the next six months? If not, toss it or donate it.

Convert paper files, books, product manuals, warranties, receipts and bills into digital files wherever possible. Note-taking and archiving applications like Evernote, Simplenote, Apple Notes and Microsoft OneNote act as a cloud-based archival system for storing all of the documents that many of us store in a bulky (and often unsightly) filing cabinet. If you absolutely need to keep certain types of paper documents, file them by expiration date so that you can continually purge your filing system, discarding documents as they expire and the printed document is no longer necessary to keep.