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Tips for setting up a healthy, productive home work space

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The pandemic has turned our work environments upside down. Suddenly, we’re running home schools and home offices out of our condos, apartments and houses.

Need to refresh your office space but don’t have time or money to remodel? Fortunately, creating the ideal work environment is totally doable and affordable. Melanie Walker, luxury organizer and owner of NEAT Method Las Vegas, offered up some tips.

Keep the space super clean and super accessible. Clutter reads as visual noise, which is a constant low-level distractor and demoralizer. For optimum focus, creativity and positivity, keep your workspace clean.

Remove unneeded furniture. Filing cabinets, shelving units and a reading chair? If you don’t already own them, you probably don’t need them. “You don’t need that much furniture in your home office,” Walker says. “It creates clutter. Edit out your furniture, so you have just the pieces you need.” She does recommend purchasing a powerful shredder, however, to make decluttering a breeze.

Splurge on an office chair. Walker says people tend to focus on office desks, but chairs are more important. Like a quality mattress, a good office chair can help your posture and the overall feel of your body, so Walker advises buying the best chair you can afford. “If you’re not comfortable, you’re never going to feel inspired or creative,” Walker says.

Set up bright lighting. Natural light’s great for being awake and focused. If that’s not available, make sure you have a good desk lamp.

Create comfort and inspiration. Look for little ways to make your space—whether it’s a full room or just an area in your kitchen or bedroom—feel comfortable and inspiring. Hang a picture or an inspirational quote. Look at the placement of your desk—can you rotate it so it faces a window rather than a blank wall? Make the area your own.

Edit those office supplies. Are you one of those people holding on to dried-out pens from every old casino? Time to throw them away. “Buy yourself the one set of pens you like and get rid of 50 that don’t work,” Walker says.

Limit the tchotchkes. Though you do want to personalize your space, Walker says you should keep accessories to a minimum. Too many office toys create distraction. Walker even suggests ditching the family photos in your home office, since your family is probably sitting right behind you.

Ditch the excess paperwork. “Why do you need a filing cabinet?” Walker asks. “What are you actually filing?” We live in the future, so there’s rarely a need to collect old bank statements, receipts and other boring ephemera. Opt for paperless delivery. Or scan the important documents and destroy the originals.

Setting up a child's study space

Pretty much all the tips for an adult office also apply to children’s home-school spaces (besides shredding your kid’s old art), but Walker has a few specific tips for young scholars.

Help them feel calm and in control. The pandemic is as crazy a time for children as it is for adults, so help them create a space where they’ll feel focused and happy. A clean, organized and dedicated study space can help them achieve that.

Create a place for paper. Walker says you don’t need a ton of office accessories, but students need a designated space for their homework, books and such. If your living space is small and a child is working on a kitchen counter, give them a cabinet or drawer in the kitchen for school supplies.

Use a physical timer. Walker says that a large timer where kids can see how long they have left to focus can be a game changer for the most elusive of organizational goals: time management.

Create the soundtrack. Make a playlist that your children find motivating and enjoyable for intense study sessions. It can work equally well for grown-ups.

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