The Ultimate Guide to Setting Up An (Organized) Office From Scratch

Regardless of whether you’re setting up an office from scratch or relocating an existing office, there are a few rules to follow that will ensure that this office is the most organized one you’ve had.  Like with any move, transitions are inherently challenging, but also set the stage for a fresh beginning. The question I’m asked most often about moves is “Should I organize before or after the move?”  For heaven’s sake organize before!  There’s not one good reason to move things that you won’t use on the other side.  It’s much easier to transport systems instead of boxes of mixed-up loose paper, files, wires, and supplies.  If they don’t feel mixed up now, then they will when you start unpacking.  Systems are neat and packable.  Loose ends and obsolete documents are not.  I guarantee if you organize before the move, you’ll be moving much less than you expect.

A move forces you to evaluate everything you already have and make decisions on what to add new.  It’s both the big pieces and smallest of items that create your desired atmosphere.  Follow these rules for planning the office of your dreams:

Decide which pieces of furniture are most necessary. Desk - Do you need a straight desk or an L-shaped one?  Are desk drawers necessary?  Do you need filing in your desk?  What dimensions do you need to create an optimal desk arrangement?

File drawers – How many file drawers are necessary?  Decide this after you sort and purge your existing files.  Which files need to be accessible and near, versus hidden in a drawer and/or across the room?

Extra storage – Do you need shelving or a credenza for storage?  Will there be a closet than can be retrofitted for storage or filing?  Do you have storage now that will be superfluous after the move?  Decide this after you sort and purge your supplies.

Work stations – In addition to a desk, do you need a work surface for packing, working, drawing, creating, meeting, etc?

Evaluate equipment. Have no more or less capability than is necessary.  If your current printer or copier isn’t able to perform everything you need it to do, this is the time to upgrade.  Do you need bulk printing capabilities?  Do you need a high quality laser printer?  Is it time to lease a commercial machine?  The same goes for scanning.  How reliant are you on your scanner?  Would you like to utilize it more in a renewed attempt to digitize files?  If going electronic is important to you, then do not cheap out on a scanner.  I highly recommend any of the ScanSnap scanners for their ease of use.  My love of the Genius Scan app eliminated my need for a scanner completely.

Make room for creative space. The offices I’ve enjoyed being in the most have all had designated space for spreading out and creating.  This can be anything from an Idea Paint wall, a vintage chalkboard, or an oversize vision board.  Create a space for visioning and outlining the goals you hope to accomplish from this office.

Become clear on what organizing systems must be in place. The best way to do this is to ask hypothetically (or not), “If I had one session with a professional organizer, what system would I want most to create with her?”  Perhaps you need a system for processing receipts or for handing tasks off to an assistant.  These decisions will help you to prioritize what stations to set up first.

Determine what will be brought from the old space. Don’t feel obligated to bring more than is essential.  Perhaps something was just the right size for the old office but won’t fit in the new office.  You might have some items that are still boxed up from the last move!  Don’t you dare haul them a second time!  Don’t move legal-sized folders if the new space only accommodates letter-sized folders.  Don’t transfer junk drawers as-is into a box.  Chuck the junk as you pack.  There will never be an easier time to do this.

Set new rules. This is a natural time to set new rules for the office.  You have the perfect opportunity to get clear on how the space will be used and what will be allowed in.  Establish a mood with rules on what is not allowed into the space, standards for what is brought into the space, and how time will be used in the space.  Type out a manifesto of sorts that will hold you to maintaining the order and beauty you’ve just created.  Your office should be the centerpiece of your success, so this time around, let it shine.

What new rules can you set that will help to ensure order in your office?  Have you ever NOT organized before a move?  What were the consequences or benefits?  Also, I'm always on the lookout for ways people designate creative space in their offices.  How have you set aside space to plan/vision/create?  Please share!

Office Organizing Expert Kacy Paide loves to do what most people hate: organize offices& paper.  She works with folks who are desperate for a more functional, more beautiful, more inspiring office.  Kacy has been a Professional Organizer since 2001 and has worked with over 500 clients. Call her crazy, but she loves a good mess. Based in Silver Spring, MD Kacy is nationally available for consulting & speakingReach her at (202) 262-1207 and  Watch video lessons on office organizing here.  Receive your free list of 100 Ways to Organize Your Office at


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Office Organizing Expert Kacy Paide loves to do what most people hate: organize offices & paper.

She works with folks who are desperate for a more functional, more beautiful, more inspiring office. Kacy has been a Professional Organizer since 2001 and has worked with over 500 clients. Call her crazy, but she loves a good mess and wants to fix yours. Based in Silver Spring, MD, Kacy is nationally available for consulting & speaking.