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5 ways to zap office clutter

Books stacked in sliding piles. Unused folders and paper, spent inkjet cartridges, unfiled documents strewn across every horizontal surface. Computer cables in tangled webs to trap unsuspecting feet..

If this describes your home office, it's time to improve your organizational skills. Use these five steps to create a more productive work environment.

Move infrequently used items to another place.

A quick look around your workspace will probably yield a surprising number of items that you seldom use. Look for dated files, letterhead you don't need, knick-knacks that get in the way, or a desk lamp that you never turn on. Keep only those items that are worth keeping within arm's reach, and move anything you don't use daily out of sight. No one needs a dozen Post-It pads on their desk - start a supply cupboard, and keep only a small amount of each item in your primary work area.

Clean out and store dated files.

Over-stuffed file cabinets are an unnecessary office affliction. Skim your file cabinets for older files that can be put in storage - if you haven't looked at a file in the past 12 months, then it falls into this category. This task is likely to take less than an hour, which is a good investment of time for the extra space you'll gain from their removal.

Monitor your monitor.

It's hard to free up workspace when your computer monitor dominates your desktop. One option is to use a monitor stand that lets you store papers, files and other items underneath. If you use a monitor, keep an eye on ergonomics - a monitor that sits too high cause unnecessary strain if you are looking up at it when working at your desk. Another alternative is to replace your bulky monitor with a flat-screen LCD, which takes up only a third of the space of a traditional CRT monitor.

Maximize office real estate.

If your work area is small, look for ways to maximize every inch of it. Shelves can be mounted on the walls, and space under desks can be used for file cabinet or CPU storage. If multiple pieces of office equipment take up tabletops - such as fax machine, copier and printer - invest in a single, multifunction piece of equipment that can handle all three tasks.

Throw out old reading material.

Chances are you're holding onto dated publications that you no longer need. Recycle them to clear office clutter. If you're afraid of missing an important article, skim the tables of contents before putting them in the bin, and cut out and file the articles you truly want to read. Create an unobtrusive place to store new publications as soon as they arrive, such as wall-mounted magazine racks.

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