The Organized Home Office Series: with Michelle Clayton
March 5, 2018
This is a new series for 2018 where I interview successful women who work from home on how an organized home office space has helped them be more productive in their business. Want to be interviewed for this series this year? Want to nominate someone for me to interview? Contact me today! This month, The Organized Home Office Series: with Michelle Clayton!
Introduce yourself and your Business
Hello, all! My name is Michelle Clayton and I’m the graphic designer & strategist at Woolly Wren.
I work with women who want a stand-out brand done right. My clients tend to waste hours tweaking their logo, fonts, and colors and are ready for an expert to take over so it looks professional and truly reflects who they are. I turn their bold vision into a strategic, cohesive visual identity, so they can stop second-guessing themselves and confidently grow their business with a brand that makes them feel legit.
What is the best part about working from home?
The best part is the flexibility. I have two daughters in their early teens, a husband who often travels for his work, and no extended family nearby. So my days are sometimes spent “solo parenting,” and working from home gives me the flexibility I need to look after my family and have a job I love. It also provides flexibility for the ordinary things like doctor appointments, school meetings, and field trips.
The other big perks would be the quiet workspace and not having to commute in rush hour traffic or a snowstorm!
What is the hardest part about working from home?
The hardest part is staying motivated to get work done when there’s no pressing deadline. It’s easy for me to stay on-task when there are client deadlines ahead, but when the urgent work is done and it’s time to move on to completing those less-important “someday” projects, it’s harder for me to stay motivated. Revisiting my goals and weekly tasks helps combat this.
What was life and business like BEFORE you got your office space organized? How did you feel?
My office has always been fairly organized, but I knew I still had lots of things in here that didn’t belong and they were cluttering up my physical and mental space. Physically, even though much of the stuff was hiding behind my closet doors, I knew it was there and it was weighing me down. A lot of the closet clutter wasn’t mine, so in some ways it seemed like the office wasn’t really mine either, even though technically it was. I’m also a very visual person, so seeing unnecessary clutter around me weighed on my mind and stifled some of my creativity.
What is your life and business like AFTER getting your home office space decluttered and organized?
Now it feels so much more calm and freeing. It’s great to have space for everything and have most of it out of sight. I can always quickly find what I need, saving me wasted time and energy. I’m also surrounded by things that I love and have special meaning to me, so it’s an inspiring place to be!
What was your process to get there?
I started by purging. There is a two-drawer filing cabinet in the closet so I stared with getting rid of so much paper! Old bills and anything we no longer needed went through the shredder. Things like appliance manuals and warranties were organized into binders and moved into our storage room, along with papers we needed to keep for taxes but didn’t need to access regularly. That freed up filing space so that my completed work files could be moved into the filing cabinet and off my bookshelf. It also helped to get some of these messy files more organized. Now I can find what I need more easily without giving myself a paper cut every time.
From there I purged the rest of the bins and shelves in the closet. Some things were tossed, some taken to the thrift store, and some moved into more permanent storage. Then I was able to move some of the lesser-used binders and books from my bookshelf into the closet.
I loved the IKEA bookshelf in my office, but originally it only had the open cubby holes for storage. Because my desk is a retired dining table, I had no drawers for smaller things like pencils, sticky notes, and printer toner. Adding the white drawer units to the cubby holes gave me more than enough space in the furniture I already owned. A stacked, sliding file tray in one cubby keeps my current project folders handy.
Did you make your office “Pinterest perfect” from the beginning, or over time? If so, how did you “upgrade” your decor?
It definitely morphed over time. I think it’s helpful to actually use your office space for a while first, in order to get a sense of what you need and want. Just a few months ago, my office was laid out differently and, though it was lovely, it really didn’t function well. My desk was in the center of the room with the bookshelf behind me where it is now and the bulletin board was on the opposite wall, completely out of reach. By simply turning my desk and moving the board, I now have easier access to more desk space and a functional bulletin board. I also get more natural direct light on my face for videos and Skype calls.
I’m a fan of pulling in decorative items and even pieces of furniture from other rooms of your house, so you can repurpose what you already have. When the bookshelf was no longer needed in our family room, I turned it on its side and put it to good use here. The trunk hides my sewing machine and serger and provides a handy spot for my printer. The rocking chair was in our girls’ nursery for years. Now that they’re too big to be rocked, it fills a quiet corner for me to read or think when I want to get away from my computer screen. One of these days I’ll get around to reupholstering it; in the meantime it’s covered with a neutral blanket.
Describe your home office decor style and how it suits your personality.
My decor style is relaxed, simple, and colorful which aligns nicely with my brand. My office also multi-tasks as a sewing/knitting room and craft space for my kids, so I’m able to pull in some of those elements also. It’s a creative, welcoming place to be.
What are your top 3 favorite things about your office space?
The natural light! My office is located in our walk-out basement, so the end wall is a 9’ patio door which floods the space with sunlight.
My bulletin board. We moved this old window frame from house to house for so many years. My husband threatened to throw it away on numerous occasions. But I always had a vision for what I wanted it to be. I finally filled the empty window panes with various panels of cork, dry erase, and magnet boards, and now I love how it looks and functions.
My glass desk. I bought this old, IKEA dining table off Kijiji years ago for $15! I love how it gives me tons of work space without looking bulky and heavy. What I didn’t realize is that the glass surface is cold on my hands, so I found an oversized, cushioned mousepad which is warm and comfortable.
How has an organized home office helped you in your business?
It’s a space I love to be in, so it puts me in a positive mood when I’m working. My office feels so much like me that I love having client Skype calls here because it gives them a little peek into who I am, beyond just the “work stuff.” It also helps me feel more professional and confident.
What advice would you give to an overwhelmed work-from-home Entrepreneur who wants to start getting organized?
Purge. Purge. Purge! Be ruthless in going through all your stuff and only keep what is necessary. If some things can be moved elsewhere, then move them. This goes for your surface areas too. Resist the urge to have your desk covered with trinkets and papers. Keep the space as clear as possible so you can focus on the task at hand.
Start with what you have. Resist the urge to run out and buy more, whether that’s storage containers, pens, or furniture. Work in your space for a couple weeks and keep a running list of what you think you need. Then scour your house and see what can be repurposed. Originally I thought I needed a rolling drawer unit for my small items until I realized that I could add small drawers to the bookshelf I already had. So instead of taking up more square footage with another bulky piece of furniture, I could make a small, inexpensive adjustment and keep the space more open.
When I did the final streamlining of my office, I wasn’t searching Pinterest because style-wise I knew what I wanted and the elements I was working with. However, I was looking to make the space more efficient and functional, and I discovered a great series of articles by productivity expert, Matt Perman. You can find the articles here. I implemented a lot of his recommendations and they were great for helping me think through my actual workflow and design a space that’s both functional and beautiful.
My last piece of advice would be to infuse your workspace with your personality, whether you have a small corner desk or an entire room. Having even a small item or splash of color you love will help you to really enjoy your space and, in turn, your work!
Michelle Clayton is the brand designer behind Woolly Wren, a studio that creates personalized, strategic visual branding which enables women to be more confident and cohesive when representing their business. She lives in Calgary with her husband and two tween daughters and spends her spare time knitting and renovating their nest. She’s a lover of color, pattern, and texture, as well as one-on-one coffee dates with both clients and friends!