YOU Magazine - September 2007 - Creating a Home Office Subscribe to YOU Magazine and other timely market alerts from Laurie Gardner.

YOU Magazine
Laurie Gardner     Laurie Gardner
Senior Mortgage Loan Originator
Alaska USA Mortgage Company NMLS Unique ID #204060
Phone: (907)796-1202 / fax 907-929-6711
Fax: WA Consumer Loan Co. License #CL-157293
License: Mortgage License #AK157293
Alaska USA Mortgage Company NMLS Unique ID #204060
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Creating a Home Office

Creating a Home Office

There are many rooms in a home that could be considered a sanctuary: a cozy bedroom, a luxurious bathroom, and a state-of-the-art home theater, to name a few. But, how about an office? We realize it's a bit of a stretch to equate a home office with a place of refuge, but maybe it's time we changed that.

Why an Office?
You don't have to run a home-based business to have the need for a well-designed office. Anybody who uses a computer, pays household bills, balances a checkbook, or does writing, reading, or paperwork of any kind needs an appropriate workspace. Since this includes nearly everyone reading this article, we'll continue with our point.

The aforementioned tasks, as well as countless others, require three conditions for successful completion: organization, technological function, and the ability to focus. Creating a home office is the perfect means for achieving all three. Very rarely can this be accomplished in random spots in the home.

It is not unheard of for a home to a have one bedroom that is virtually unused. After all, many a "spare bedroom" contains nothing more than a foldout couch and a few miscellaneous boxes stacked against the wall. Rooms such as these may house an occasional guest or two, but on an everyday basis they are practically ignored. Why not hold on to that foldout, add a few essential pieces, and turn that room into an office that doubles as a spare bedroom?

Another reason for creating a home office is the potential tax deduction. It is imperative, however, that you consult with a qualified tax professional on the matter. There are requirements and restrictions for using a home office as a write off. Doing so without the proper advice can be a huge red flag for the IRS.

Lastly, by creating one room that houses all of your work, you simultaneously achieve greater organization in the rest of your home. All of the furniture, equipment, and materials that were once scattered around your home are now pulled into one location. Think of the free space this can create.

Getting Started
The first step in setting up your home office is finding the appropriate spot. Many times this is simply a matter of availability. However, if you're lucky enough to have multiple rooms to choose from, there are a few characteristics you'll want to consider.

According to most architects, a home office should be no smaller than 10 feet by 10 feet. A room this size allows ample space for standard office equipment (i.e. desk, filing cabinet, bookcase, shelves, etc.)

Other considerations for picking the perfect room are lighting, ventilation, and a lack of distractions. Not only are these all characteristics of an optimal work environment, their existence minimizes the purchase of equipment or furniture that can take up valuable space.

Once you've chosen the right spot, you'll need to determine the necessary technology (telephone, internet, cable TV, etc.) Remember, not everyone uses an office for the same purpose. A lack of necessary features is frustrating at best. Superfluous features, on the other hand, can be a waste of money, time, and energy. Carefully think about how you will use your office before making any purchases.

If you're undecided about the need for a certain item, hold off on buying it. In the meantime, create lists of the equipment and furniture you already have, the items you need to buy, and the items you may want to add in the future. These lists come in very handy when you're deciding on the layout of your office.

There is no bigger mistake you can make than purchasing office furniture or equipment without knowing exactly where you'll be placing it in the room. Trust us when we say that this is a recipe for disaster.

Instead, start by drawing a floor plan of your empty office. Use a 1-inch scale (one inch on paper to equal one foot of floor space), and be sure to include any doors, windows, and closets. Now, measure the furniture and equipment you already own, writing down the corresponding dimensions on your list. By using the Internet or visiting various office-supply stores, find the dimensions of the equipment you need to buy now, as well as the equipment you may want to purchase in the future. Note these dimensions on the appropriate lists as well.

Once the measuring has been completed, you can start plotting where the individual pieces will be placed inside the room. Be sure to use a pencil as it may take experimenting with various layout combinations to figure out what works the best.

It is during this plotting of the room's layout that you can determine your capability for future expansion. Be sure to write down your placement plans for any potential additions.

Identifying the type of items you need to store, as well as the quantity, will help you to determine an appropriate course of action. Here are a few helpful hints.

  • Closets are great for storage. Not only can they house filing cabinets, but they are also perfect for storing the items you don't need to access on a regular basis. This helps to maximize the actual workspace of your office.

  • Shelving is one of the most versatile options for storage. Shelves can be purchased cheaply and come in a variety of sizes. They are easily installed and take up zero floor space.

  • Don't forget about your garage. When it comes to older files or anything that is rarely accessed, a garage can provide ample storage space. Word to the wise, however, the garage can be a dirty place. Plan accordingly by storing paper items in boxes and wrapping equipment in protective plastic.

  • Visit a store that's dedicated to home organization. Nowadays it seems like nearly every mall has a store of this kind. You'd be surprised at some of the inexpensive, space-saving storage options available.

Before you start bringing furniture and equipment into the room, take a good look at the walls. This will be your last chance to make any changes to them without taking everything out of the room. Could they use a fresh coat of paint or maybe even a color change? Are the electrical outlets and the cable and telephone jacks in workable locations? If any of these issues needs addressing, now is the time to do it.

Don't underestimate the importance of quality lighting. If you're lucky enough to have a window in your office, this should serve as your primary light source during the day. Natural light is easy on the eyes and promotes physical energy as well as a good mood. It's also free.

Large lights like floor lamps and ceiling lights should have the ability to be dimmed. In the case of any light controlled by a switch on the wall, replace the on/off switch with a dimmer control. They are relatively inexpensive, easy to install, and can be found at any hardware store. We urge you to carefully read the directions regarding shutting off the electricity prior to installation.

Desk lights are really more about style than function, as most of them tend to work the same. What's important is to equip your desk light with a light bulb that's easy on the eyes. These "soft" light bulbs can be found anywhere, from office supply stores to grocery stores.

The Contents
Before we conclude our article, we felt it necessary to address some of the more common items found in an office, both in terms of the purchasing and the use of these ubiquitous items.

Your desk is highly important as it can be viewed as both furniture and equipment. So, on one hand, you need to find something that suits your taste and style. On the other hand, it needs to be functional. We recommend a desk that's roughly 60-inches wide, 30-inches deep, and 29-inches high. A desk this size is not only conducive to work, but it's highly functional in terms of storing the items you use regularly. It should have several drawers in various sizes, including a pencil drawer and a file drawer.

The tendency here is to find the most comfortable chair possible. This is where we'd like to suggest an alternate point of view. While a chair should be comfortable, its primary function should be to promote healthy posture. Good posture will facilitate strong mental focus and will help to alleviate back and neck pain. Don't be surprised if your chair of choice costs nearly as much as your desk.

When it comes to computers and printers, the potential combinations are nearly endless. No matter what you decide to purchase, here are a couple of ideas to consider.

If space is an issue, think about purchasing a laptop computer as opposed to a desktop model. Newer laptops come in all shapes and sizes and have nearly all the capabilities of a desktop. The major differences are that desktops tend to be a little faster than laptops and easier to upgrade.

If purchasing a printer, you may want to think about purchasing a combination printer. These are printers that also act as scanners and copiers, and, in some cases, even fax machines. This is a great way to save on space and money.

Wall Organizers
Dry erase boards, chalkboards, corkboards, and magnetic boards are fantastic tools for keeping clutter off your desk. They are inexpensive and available everywhere in a variety of sizes. There are even combination boards that provide countless options.

Never underestimate the importance of a power strip as they provide the ability to plug multiple devices into one outlet. The better power strips also provide surge protection to the equipment that's plugged into them.

Cord covers are a great way to not only hide cords but to keep them from becoming a tangled mess. They can be purchased quite cheaply at any electronics store.

Inserts for desk drawers are handy for keeping the contents in order. In terms of your desktop, various caddies can be purchased which can house anything from Post-its® to paper clips.

A hand-held label maker is another great tool for any home office. Whether you're labeling folders or storage boxes, printed labels look nicer and lead to better organization.

Décor should not be overlooked. Certificates, diplomas, awards, trophies, and pictures not only complement an office, they also help to personalize it.

We wish you good luck in creating your home office. Just think: organization, function, and focus could be right around the corner. And, if all goes well, your new office will be a place to work – and take refuge.

License AK# 157293 Washington Consumer Loan Company license# CL-157293 California Residential Mortgage Lending Act, License# 4131067

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