By Lea Schneider

The moment you realize you need to dig through things to find something is the time to make changes. While office organization might be on your “when I get around to it” list of things to do, it will serve you well to bump it over to your “must-do” list.

In the long run, making clever storage decisions becomes a wise business decision when you weigh in the benefits. Finding what you need when you need it increases productivity. Creating a tidy workspace is a marketing tool that tells clients you are detail oriented and take pride in what you do. Ultimately, making the most of the space you already inhabit is vastly cheaper than the many steps involved in moving to a larger spot.

Stylish storage added to your business or home office creates an easily accessible spot for tools and supplies, eliminating visible clutter. Turn yourself into your own professional organizer by following these how-to steps for adding office storage.

Plan Before Spending

As tempting as it is to just pick up some containers at the store before start organizing, you’ll be putting the cart before the horse, as the old saying goes. You need to figure out exactly what you need to store before deciding the right way to store it.

Start by viewing your business with a fresh eye. What kinds of things are in piles or are jumbled? Are they tools, parts, paperwork or office supplies? You may find there are multiple categories. Take time to think about how you need to access and use each category. Is it better if they are contained? Do they need to have lids? You may find some need to be portable to move to a job site or even a work station in the office.

Keep in mind that while you might need to hang on to old paperwork—from completed projects to financial records—it doesn’t need to be kept right next to you. Consider what files you access frequently and keep them handy, then organize the rest and store them out of the way in a separate area.

Select Storage

Once you have a list of the types of things you need to store and how you will need to access them, you are almost ready to select storage. Measure the space or spaces available to for adding storage so you can select pieces that fit.

When space is tight, the rule of thumb is to go vertical. Make excellent use of wall space by choosing tall bookshelves or vertical cube storage. You can also replace a table or desk that doesn’t have any storage with waist-high cube storage setup instead. This kind of arrangement provides an excellent surface for printers and other pieces of equipment but will also provide space for shipping supplies, reams of paper and other goods.

Choose containers to reflect your office’s style. There are business-like storage bins to place in cubes that range from a grey fabric, to black with silver grommet pulls. You can find one in a chevron pattern, wicker texture or even a color that matches your logo.

Get Organized

Once you’ve set up your new storage, put it to good use by following these organizing principles.

  • Declutter as you sort. If it is out of date, no longer useful or broken, discard it or set it aside to donate or sell. Your space is valuable, so only store things you really want and need.
  • Place like items together. For example, store everything related to mailing and shipping in one spot, and place all your spare parts in one area, divided by type.
  • Make some kits. Just like tools go together in a tool kit, group together all the items you need for any given project. This way you can pull out one bin and have everything you need at hand.
  • Make client files. If you have long-term, ongoing projects for clients, place samples and parts for that client in one labeled bin.
  • Place things you use daily as close to you as possible. Place things used occasionally across the room.
  • Label everything. Use either removable stick-on labels or tie on hanging tags so your organization works. Labels help you and your employees get everything back into the right spot—and find it all again quickly later on.

Keep in mind time spent adding storage and getting organized will pay off over and over in more productive work time.

Professional organizational expert Lea Schneider is a whiz at decluttering and writes about it for The Home Depot. Lea provides great tips on how to organize everything from a closet to a junk drawer using tools such as various storage cubes and accessories and zip ties.