Getting organised to work from home

By Claire McFee

You can absolutely forget being able to work productively from home, if you don't at least have a semi-organised household to begin with. Think of all the paperwork that you have around the house, well at least double it and you will be close to the extra paperwork you will have to deal with, especially if you are starting your own home based business.

Other articles on have covered lots of important startup advice and logistics, so I want to focus more on giving you the best chance of making "working from home" a success, by giving you some tips on getting organised on the home front first.

When I began working from home after having my first child, I was lucky because my business idea was for a home-based filing system. As with many new mothers, I had been overwhelmed by the backlog of paperwork all over the place and never ending chores that needed doing, and was understandably falling behind. I just knew there had to be a better way to keep on top of everything and to help me stop chasing my tail and wasting precious time.

I have no doubt that I could not have got my business idea off the ground if I had not seriously sorted out my home affairs first. Not only because my working space is closely related to our living space and because I couldn?t possibly work at my ?peak? with clutter all around me, but also simply because the act of de-cluttering my house and head, gave me an enormous amount of newfound energy that I definitely needed, to deal with the massive task that lay ahead of me - launching my own home based business. In addition to this, I was then later able to transfer my improved organisational skills to my new work routines as well.

It's important not to underestimate what a difference getting organised at home can have by making it a priority.

As an example, I started with very basic lists, even to the extent of typing up a daily and weekly "to do" list that I kept on my fridge and would tick of each day. Jobs as basic as - empty the dishwasher, wipe the bench, water the plants, make the beds etc. Sounds too obvious to need to write down I know, but it really helps you do jobs in clusters instead of bits and pieces here and there, due to being distracted by the kids, the phone etc. Most of the time what my kids are asking me for, or asking me to do could wait an extra minute. I simply explain to them, that "I am just finishing off... whatever", or "I'll be right there", and am often able to finish what I am doing as I say this.

This doesn't always work of course, but does most of the time, which is all that matters. The point of having such a list is to help keep you focused, so that you get those mundane unavoidable jobs out of the way, so that you literally have more time up your sleeve later on, to use personally or for work related purposed. It also has a positive psychological effect as well, in that it helps you feel rightly or wrongly that you haven't started the day behind the eight ball before you've even begun!!

Like most people you probably have a zillion and one things to do, that you just never seem to be able to find the time for. It is important not to keep ignoring these jobs, because although the tasks may seem small when looked at individually, when seen as a whole they can add up to one enormous energy drain and source of stress. So be mindful of tackling the smaller tasks one by one and gradually getting them under control. Then take notice of how you carry out other work more efficiently as a result, so that next time you find yourself saying, "I must do this" but I don't have time, then make yourself do it right then and there! Don't convince yourself that you are too busy, and will do it later, because chances are you won't. Once this becomes part of your routine you will be much better able to continually de-clutter and cull all manner of paperwork and objects around the house and office.

Another important point that some people underestimate is that it's vital to clear your mind of all the 'stuff' that our minds store for us that doesn't have to be there. You need to put pen to paper and start writing down all those bits and pieces of information that are floating around in your head.

As one quote succinctly puts it  "The weakest pen is better than the strongest memory." Anon

You will not only find it liberating to do, but also very energizing and will also notice a marked improvement in your memory, by freeing up this much needed brain space. I can't stress enough how de-cluttering your head (not only your house) plays a major part in being less stressed and feeling more energetic to tackle all that you will in a day, not only with work tasks & household chores but also for many of us, looking after young children too.

When working from home, remember to factor in the kid's needs in amongst the excitement of beginning to work from home. I remember reading an article about having a career and children, when I was feeling a little overwhelmed with work and family commitments at one point. An important point was made about needing to be careful not to work too much while your children are with you, as is just isn?t fair to your kids. Instead, try to work when the kids are having a daytime nap, or at night when they are in bed. This sounds obvious I know, but it can be quite a trap to say to yourself, "I'll just reply to these emails", or "I'll just make a couple of calls" etc etc and before you know it an hour or two has gone by.

Even though you may not realise it at the time, it's not fair on you either, as you will regret not spending enough time with your children and before you know it they will be off to school! It made me accept that it was OK not to work quite as hard during those early years. It's OK and in fact necessary to re-asses your workload along the way and if necessary to cut back & spend more quality time with the kids for example.

I desperately needed to do this after being featured on A Current Affair, due to being ridiculously busy for too long, after the initial wave of orders slowed down enough to reflect on how we were functioning as a family. It was obvious that I needed to cut back for my sake, my husbands and the kids, so we could re-group.

So remember to allow you and your family time out along the way when working from home because it is too easy to get wrapped up in your job and not realise something needs to give until it?s too late. So give yourself permission to have a life in amongst everything else! The benefits of working from home really do outweigh the negatives. I wouldn?t change what working from home for the world and I?m sure you will feel the same way to.

Good luck.

Claire has been a regular reader of since 2001 and runs Organise Your Life from her home office. motherInc. invites editorials from other mothers with information to share on home, parenting and paid work related topics. Editorials can be submitted via and should be no more than 500-600 words.