The home office is here to stay. Nevertheless, many people struggle with doing all or part of their work from home and managing to be productive. Whether it’s keeping track of your writing implements, shipping packages, or just finding ways to keep track of your tasks these home office tips will help you to be more productive during your working days at home.

In this excerpt from the book Household Magic by Joan and Lydia Wilen the authors provide home offices tips for getting organized and keeping track of getting more done.


Just about everyone seems to have a home office these days, whether it’s a separate room, a computer workstation or the dining room table.

Here are some helpful hints to help you organize your space and manage your clerical work more efficiently…

Increasing Accomplishments

Studies have shown that making lists encourages productivity. Tack a to-do list up in your office. Once you’ve completed something on the list, put a line through it with an orange highlighter.

The color orange stimulates the involuntary nervous system. It should make you feel more alert and competent.

Pens and Pencils

◆ When you can’t find your usual pencil sharpener, use a vegetable peeler instead. It’s safer and more efficient than using a pocketknife.

◆ Store pens in a cup with the point down. They will last longer (and poke you less) than if they’re stored with the point up, or lying down in a drawer.

◆ When a marker has just about had it, dip the tip in distilled white vinegar for a few seconds. Instead of diluting the ink, the vinegar will help bring out the marker’s last drop of color.

Better Business Cards

Before filing a business card, write pertinent information on the back of it so that when you come across it a few months or years from now, you’ll know exactly who this card belonged to…where you met the person…and what you may have had in mind when you took the card. The more details you can jot down, the better.

Paper Shredder

To sharpen a paper shredder, take two pieces of aluminum foil about the size of an 81 ⁄2-x-11- inch sheet of paper, and put them one at a time through your paper shredder. That should make the shredder’s blades as sharp as new.

Recycle a Slinky

Use an old Slinky on your desk to hold things like mail, CDs, Lotto tickets waiting to be checked or checks waiting to be deposited.

Correction Fluid Extender

If your bottle of correction fluid is too gooey to use, add one or two drops of nail polish remover. Shake the bottle vigorously until it sounds like there’s liquid sloshing around.

Easier Trash Cleanup

Put several liners in the wastebasket at once. When the basket is full, take out the trash in the top liner, leaving the liner underneath already in place.

Dry-Erase Board Cleaner

If you pick up the wrong marker—it’s indelible instead of dry-erase—and write on the dry-erase board, try erasing the mark with some rubbing alcohol or non-dairy powdered creamer, such as Coffee-mate. Add a little of the powder on a damp cloth and wipe the board clean.

Easy Tape Starter

Here’s a great way to save time in finding the beginning of an already-started roll of tape— just place a toothpick under the end each time you finish using it.

Packing and Shipping Hints

Keep this tip in mind when you’re packing and shipping books or any other printed material (as well as DVDs, CDs, or other audio material)— the US Postal Service (USPS) offers a low “media mail” postage rate.

You can determine domestic and international postage rates online at or by calling 800-275-8777. Then compare the rates with UPS (800-742-5877)…as well as Federal Express (800-463-3339).

Before you check out the cost of shipping a package, it’s important to know the package’s weight, its measurements and the sender’s and recipient’s ZIP codes.

Here are some other ways to help you wrap the package…

Filling for the Birds

When packing a box to mail, use non-buttered air-popped popcorn to fill in spaces. It’s inexpensive, weighs practically nothing, it’s good for the environment and it does the job.

You may want to add a note from you, the sender, to the recipient—“This popcorn used for packing is safe for birds to eat.”

Dealing with Packing Peanuts

As soon as you open a package and see those polystyrene packing peanuts sitting there— just waiting to attack you—rub your hands with an unused fabric-softener sheet. The peanuts will not cling to your fingers, and you’ll be able to throw them away easily.

FYI: Reuseable Peanuts

Although polystyrene packing peanuts are not recyclable, they are reusable. Visit the EPS Industry Alliance website at and click on Find an EPS Recycler to find a center that will accept used polystyrene packing peanuts (or call 410-451-8340).

Sealing/Unsealing Envelopes

◆ Lick the problem by not licking the envelope. Instead, use a glue stick or a small sponge and some water. It’s fast, easy and sanitary.

◆ How many times have you sealed an envelope—and then realized that you forgot to enclose something…usually the whole reason you needed the envelope in the first place!

Place the sealed envelope in the freezer for about three hours. When you take it out, slip a knife under the flap and you should be able to open it neatly, then repackage it and reseal it.

Mailing Photos

Next time you use a new light bulb, keep the cardboard sleeve that the bulb was in. When you mail a photo, just slip it in the sleeve. It’s the perfect protection for the photo (provided the sleeve and photo are compatible sizes).

Learn more tips for getting organized by buying your own copy of Household Magic from

Related Articles