Writing in a Clutter Hole? How to Clear Space for Your Home Office

Evan Jensen

Declutter Tips to Write in Your Home Office. Makealivingwriting.comWant to know a dirty little secret about Carol Tice? She doesn’t even have a home office.

Depending on the day and the level of clutter (perpetrators responsible for the mess = hubby and kids), she floats from the living room to the TV room.

How’s your home office space for writing? Frustrating, distracting, the bane of your existence?

If you’re trying to crank out copy at the dining room table next to a syrup spill that keeps sticking to your arm, or every room in the house is littered with toys, clothes, and never-ending piles of crap that seem to regenerate like the legs on a cockroach, you may have a problem.

When you work from a home office, you have to figure out a way to declutter and minimize distractions so you can actually…you know, work.

Wondering where to start?

If you’re writing in a clutter hole, follow these writer recommendations to clear space for your home office:

When clutter crowds your home office space for writing

It all started when freelance writer Amy Hardison White got fed up with being surrounded by clutter while trying to work. A typical work-day with kids home looked like this for her:

  • Set up shop at the kitchen table/home office for writing
  • Help her eight-year-old get started on homework or reading a book
  • Give her four-year-old some cars and trucks to play with on the kitchen floor

Think your kids will play quietly for hours while you work? Probably not.

And if you’re surrounded by clutter, moving to another room in the house isn’t going to make your home office experience much better.

That’s exactly what Hardison was dealing with. So she asked members of the Freelance Writers Den 2x for help. And they served up some useful advice to help you declutter, so you can focus on writing, marketing, moving up, and earning more.

Ready to declutter, carve out your home office space, and be more productive. Here’s how:

Initiate Operation Stash-Then-Donate

Freelance writer Cynthia Kenworthy got tired of the drama of trying to convince her kids to part with toys they hadn’t played with in a while. So she came up with a covert game plan to declutter and clear space for her home office. Here’s how it works:

  • Take stuff your kids haven’t played with with in a long time. and put it in a black trash bag.
  • Stash it in the garage or somewhere out of sight.
  • Wait about a month. If said owner identifies missing toy, dig it out of the bag.
  • If a month passes without any missing-toy inquiries, take the bag of toys to the nearest donation drop-off.

“My kids were totally indifferent to it all,” says Cynthia. “And this eased the pain of drastic purging.”

Use the ‘take it out, put it back’ training program

If your home office space for writing and the rest of the house is a complete disaster area, you’ll need to enlist your entire army for a massive clean-up session first, says freelance writer Melinda Rizzo.

Once that’s done, you can retrain everyone in your house to help keep your home office organized and prevent declutter distractions, with this: If you take it out, put it back. Period.

“It’s super important to handle clutter on a daily basis, and make those responsible, after all it’s their stuff, for keeping it picked up,” says Melinda. “Take no prisoners here.”

Your freelance writing business depends on it, and so does your sanity. Lay down some rules about clutter, and enforce them.

Establish a play-area perimeter

Ever thought about building a border wall in your own home?

It’s not such a bad idea to keep the clutter out of your home office space where you work, connect with clients, and make money writing, says freelance writer Kimberlee Morrison.

“My rule was usually that the toys stayed in the kids room,” says Morrison. That’s where they played. I hated seeing toys all over every room in the house.”

Need help figuring out how to keep the clutter out of your home office space? Here’s what Kimberlee recommends when you start to see creep:

  • Sort toys and clothes into three categories: keep, donate, discard.
  • Schedule a regular declutter time
  • Establish a designated play area (that’s not in your home office space)
  • Set expectations so others know to clean up after themselves

Maybe you don’t need a border wall. But keeping your home office space clear of clutter, will help you.

“Carve out time in your schedule to get clutter under control, and you’ll be more productive with your work,” says Kimberlee.

Implement the do-it-now rule

When freelance writer Tana Schiewer was working on her PhD, juggling priorities was a struggle for most students.

And then she got a piece of advice from a professor that changed everything:  If you can do it in two minutes or less, do it now.

Put it into practice: She put the do-it-now rule into practice to train her husband and son to load the dishwasher, throw wrappers away, and clean up after themselves.

And that cleared a lot of mental space and clutter to focus on growing her freelance writing business.

“The way I convinced them was logic,” says Tawna. “It takes less time to do stuff on the go than it will to do a big cleaning sesh all at once.”

  • Want more advice on how to declutter your home office space and your life? Tawna also recommends The Secrets of Happy Families, by Bruce Feiler, for tips about how to make chores and clean-up fun for kids.

The perfect home office for freelance writers

If you don’t have a designated home office space, that’s OK. What really matters is that you create the kind of home office space that works for you…the kind of place where you can:

  • Focus on writing and marketing
  • Be creative
  • Take client calls without interruptions, and
  • Crush every client deadline without distraction

Take a little time to declutter and organize your home office space, and you’ll be a happier and more productive freelance writer.

How do you declutter to maintain a home office space? Leave a comment below, and let’s discuss.

Evan Jensen is the blog editor for Make a Living Writing. When he’s not on a writing deadline, or catching up on emails, he’s training to run another 100-mile ultramarathon.

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  1. Kyra Rodriguez

    I wanted to declutter some stuff in my house too, but sometimes I’m too lazy to do it! But thanks for this though

  2. Catherine McBride

    Great info! Thanks. I need to work on this.

  3. Judith Norris

    Hey Evan,

    Decluttering? What is that? Not to worry. I jest.

    Clutter invades even the more meticulous households. Everyone in the family has to be on the same page. Decluttering rules must be followed meticulously.

    Or, you could hire someone to pick up, clean up, put away, organize. Oh, can’t afford, don’t want to do that?

    Marie Kondo on Netflix has a good idea. “If it doesn’t bring you joy, discard it!”

    Each time I declutter, my husband clutters up the space again. My office is usually looking pretty good. Until a crisis happens; illness, too much going on, deadlines, bookcase makeover.

    Did I say my husband clutters up space? I think we’re all a little guilty of that. At least I am.

    • Carol Tice

      Around here, it’s 3 pack-rats and me. If kids don’t clean up before housecleaners (which I COULD NOT live without!), they get to vacuum and dust themselves. I try to put away and clear my space every night at the end of work. It’s a survival thing for me because clutter really stresses me out and makes me a nonproductive writer. So…it’s gotta go!

    • Evan Jensen

      So I used to obsess about keeping the house picked up. Clutter stresses me out, takes up too much mental energy. But I’ve graduated to only the downstairs has to be tidy to work now. The upstairs is in a constant state of looking like a tornado aftermath, and that’s perfectly fine.

    • Evan Jensen

      Isn’t that the truth. Clean up a space on the counter or the top of the fridge and it doesn’t take long for someone to resume using that as a dumping ground for odds and ends.

    • Judith Norris

      Talk about being stressed out by clutter. I have a Figure-Ground Learning Disability. When there are many items or people in front of me (Ground,) I have difficulty seeing the one I need to see (Figure.) My husband usually helps me out by keeping his clutter, which seems to make him thrive, to his office. “It is what it is.”

  4. Linda Hamilton

    I rent a small room from a homeowner. So it’s me and my two cats in a small master bedroom. I keep clutter at a minimum by hanging up clothes when I finish laundry or change, picking up after the kitties ASAP and keep the books and shelves organized as much as possible. But I need another table so the desk gets cluttered. I have learned to file notebooks and papers in portable file boxes with labels. That keeps them near but organized so I know where they are when needed. It’s working so far. But I hope to get another desk soon. Then I’ll be out of room and decluttering will be mandatory!

    • Carol Tice

      Or…consider wall shelves? Wish you could come over and get my daughter to hang up clothes…floor is always a snowdrift. And then she’s like, “Mom, can I borrow a pair of tights from you? I can’t find any…”

  5. Tara

    The best de-cluttering advice I ever received instructs the de-clutterer to touch everything only once. In other words, when cleaning, pick up an item and put it away — don’t just stash it somewhere to be put away later.

    That tip cut my de-cluttering time in half.

    • Carol Tice

      Tara, I have that approach to incoming mail (so much junk!). I stand over the recycle bin with the bill basket on the counter, and it all goes where it needs to be instantly.

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