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Expert Answers to Biz Questions

Listen in! Pick up some expert advice to a reader's question that we selected from CyberSchmooz.

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The Biz Question

HELP!! Does anyone have any good ideas to get my home office (and me) organized?! My family thinks that what's mine is theirs. Consequently, I'm constantly removing their stuff off my desk. My husband pays the bills there (we only have one computer and the bill-paying is computerized), yet he won't clean up after himself. I can lose a piece of paper and never leave my desk! I have files; I try to keep things organized, then I find I'm over-organizing. Maybe I'll have two files for the same thing and file something in one, then be looking for it again later in the other. I'm a mess! Can someone help?


Answer from our Guest Expert Allison Gaea Jucha of Yes!Coaching

Dear Lynne,

A home office can be very tricky, especially when it's in plain view of the entire family. But it's possible to achieve harmony with a bit of cooperation and organization. And you've done a good job identifying the two basic challenges you're facing.

  • Boundaries around what's yours; and
  • Consistent system of organization.

Only you can conquer that first one. You're going to have to make it clear whose desk it is and what it's to be used for. If others in the family can identify what purpose your desk serves for them, you and they can come up with alternative choices. It's got to be a bottom line issue. And there may need to be consequences for infringement, such as, time you spend tonight cleaning their stuff off your desk equals time you don't spend driving them to a friend's house this weekend. As for the bill paying, even a large basket as an after-bill-paying dumping ground may be preferable to sorting through your stuff and the bills.

Examine how it serves your family not to pick up after themselves. Do you automatically clean up after them (muttering in frustration the whole time)? Why should they do what you have carefully, albeit begrudgingly, agreed to do? Stop doing their work!!! Stop right now! Let them know what they need to do and NEVER pick up after them again.

As for number two, some people are born organizers; some achieve organization; and some have it thrust upon them. You may want to thrust this job, initially anyway, onto a professional organizer who will identify your needs and, with you, develop a system that works for you. Professional organizers can offer a plan that suits all budgets and spaces.

For information, referrals, and local chapters, look up the National Association of Professional Organizers at Or if you'd like, write, call, or fax them.

National Association of Professional Organizers
1033 La Posada, Suite 220
Austin, TX 78752

referral Line: (512) 206-0151

Fax: (512) 454-3036

Let your family know they're important to you, but let them know your work is important too. They're not your work; they're your relationships. Household management and family life are accomplished by all working together. It's not too much to ask that you have your space respected the way they would like theirs respected.


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