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Hot Idea: Keep Your Home Office Organized

Your home office has limited space. So how can promo product pros deal with all of the samples, catalogs and mail that can pile up quickly? When Jacque Zakorchemny, president of Friendliness Inc. (asi/199200), moved from an office building into a home office, she had to learn how to work with less space.

“This is my deal,” she says. “If I’ve ordered a sample and it comes in here, it has to go out the next day to the client. No sitting in the office.”

She has also cut down on the number of catalogs she keeps, sticking to only those from 10 or so preferred suppliers. For anything else, she relies on ACE on ESP Online. “Before, if I sent my customers a catalog, it took them three days to get it,” she says. “Now I say, ‘Tell me what you’re looking for. I’ll make a Centerstage.’ I can e-mail them the catalog page.”

Zakorchemny keeps only the last 12 months worth of records in her office. Older stuff has been relegated to storage. “We rented a storage shed, which is a lot cheaper than keeping the office, and we put all those things there,” she says.

Once you’ve cleaned up, you need to stay on top of incoming items – mainly the mail. “I find a lot of people don’t open their mail,” says pro organizer Karen Baumgartner of Stop Screamin’, Start Dreamin’ (betterorganization.com). “With a bill, there’s a return envelope and three other pieces of paper, so you’ve got five pieces of paper.”

To get rid of those extra papers quickly, Baumgartner recommends setting up a mail station in a central area of the house. For quick sorting, have several boxes or bags in the station labeled something like “Recycle,” “Immediate Action” and “Follow-up Later.” There should also be a main basket where mail can be tossed when there’s no time for sorting.

When one of Baumgartner’s clients chose a huge basket for the purpose, she advised the client to go with a much smaller one. “That way there’s a trigger point, where you think, ‘Oh, wait a minute, I do need to go through that, because it’s reached the top,’” she says.

If you have trouble finding time for the mail, set a recurring appointment to do it. Do e-mail at appointed times, too, and turn off pop-up notifications. “Whatever works so that you’re responding to people in a timely manner, but so you don’t get overwhelmed,” Baumgartner says.

She also recommends setting up folders attached to your in-box, so you can prioritize e-mails. “That way the stuff that’s in your inbox is always the new stuff, and you’re not going through 100 e-mails each time to figure out, ‘Which one do I need to address now?’”