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6 Unexpected Items to Organize Your Office

by Kevin Ackerman, Staples® Contributing Writer

Every day, unforeseen obstacles can conspire to turn your office into a chaotic mess. Turn the tables on this mayhem by organizing your workspace using some unexpected items. For example, by now, most people know how valuable binder clips can be in a pinch, working to gather computer wires, keep snack packaging closed and serving as a makeshift cellphone stand. But there are many other unexpected items with multiple uses.

Here are six of our favorite unexpected items for office space organization.

1. Cloth & Soft Storage

Hung on the back of an office door, a fabric closet shoe organizer can hold many small items that might otherwise be misplaced. "The most common way that I use it with my clients is to store cables, power cords, smartphone chargers, ear phones, iPods and other small electronics,” says Nadine Seidman Levy, principal of Calabasas, CA–based Management 180 Consulting and the president of the Los Angeles chapter of the National Association of Professional Organizers.

Levy also uses a handheld Brother® P-Touch label maker to identify what should go in each pocket. "Rather than searching through a box filled to the rim with random wires and cables, this system makes finding what you are looking for a snap,” she says.

2. Casters & Wheels

Small workspaces can sometimes benefit from being flexible. And the easiest way to reshuffle your office is by putting your office furniture on wheels. It might take some tools, but you can add casters to stationary pieces of furniture if they don’t have wheels already. For example, turning a 2-drawer filing cabinet into a rolling storage unit allows it to double as a table or stool in a pinch. And you can slip it under your desk when it’s not in use.

3. Binders

Binders are a common sight around any office, but they can do much more than organize paperwork. An empty binder’s wedge shape makes it a great laptop stand. And by removing the rings, there’s room to put peripherals like external hard drives under the computer.

Levy also puts binders to work in an unusual way: using them to hide unsightly items like cable modems from view on a desktop. "Place the modem inside the book cover and store it on a shelf as part of the décor of the room,” she advises.

4. Retail Tags

Getting in a tangle with the computer power cord under your desk is a quick way to lose a day’s work. Between zip ties, clamps, clips, Velcro wraps and good old-fashioned string, there are plenty of ways to organize the excess cables. But retail tags can not only stretch around a big bundle of cords, they can be reused and labeled, making them ideal for use in hard-to-reach places.

5. Kitchen Timer

Time management and staying focused can be big challenges for modern workers. Next time you’re in the kitchen, Levy recommends grabbing a mechanical timer to help stay on track. "The kitchen timer is a simple, inexpensive tool that can assist when you need to dedicate an uninterrupted period of time to a particular project,” she says.

Levy’s ground rules for the timer include “absolutely no interruptions,” which means no answering calls, checking emails or chatting with co-workers once the timer has been set. Pick a task, set a time, and get working. "This technique is especially useful if you have a tendency to procrastinate,” she says.

6. CDs

Beyond playing music and storing data, compact discs can have unexpected uses around the workplace. For example, empty CD spindles can do many things. Pop four of them under your desktop computer’s display, and you have an even, stable monitor riser. Or wrap up spare cords and store them in the spindle so they don’t unwind. Bagel aficionados even use the case to keep their bready treat from getting squished.

Meanwhile, CD jewel cases do more than just protect the disc from getting scratched — they can double as a desktop picture frame, for instance. As for discs themselves, don’t discard them if they get scratched. They can serve as coasters for drinks, or help stabilize wobbly furniture.

Be Creative

In the end, the best way to keep your office organized is the way that works for you. There’s no rule that you have to use items “as directed.” So be creative in adding order to your workplace. Who knows? You might come up with even more unexpected discoveries.

Kevin Ackerman is passionate about technology and helping small businesses make the most of their resources. When he’s not writing, Kevin enjoys traveling, introducing people to his hometown of Portland, OR, and rooting for the Boston Red Sox. You can connect with him on Google+.

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