What is a ploffice? A ploffice is a room many people have in their homes…. it is a space that functions as both a play room and an office. And really it is a word I just made up… because I wanted too!
When there aren’t systems in place to calm the clutter, ploffices can be that room you should go into but rarely actually do. OR it becomes the room that always has its door closed because it’s been taken over by toys upon toys as paperwork sits in piles all over the place.
Recently I helped a client, Sara, get her own ploffice under control. She not only works from home but so does her husband. She also has three sweet little boys all under seven years old that need a place where they can hang out with mommy and daddy while they work. Her current space stressed her out. This is what we started with…..
We completely transformed this Ploffice in less than 3 hours!
Here are the 5 steps we took to get this Playroom / Office under control:
1. Remove unnecessary furniture and overall garbage
The long bench on the left had to go. Luckily Sara’s husband Tim was there for the heavy lifting. They did not use this bench. It provided no functional purpose. And was literally just taking up space. We also did a quick sweep through the room to throw away any obvious garbage. This step primed us to get the real work done. Always completely empty a space before putting anything back in.
2. Take all the toys out of the space and sort them
Yes, every single toy needed to be removed before getting put back in. I physically held up to Sara each action figure, car, train, you name it and had her choose one of three options: KEEP, DISCARD, or MAYBE. We had boxes in the next room for donations and a big ol’ garbage bag for trash.
Sara also had this awesome Ikea Trofast system (the white cube with the green bins) that we used to store categories of items. I loved using these bins because it gave her a concrete “limit” on what she could keep. For example, she could only keep as many action figures as would fit inside one of the green bins. After we went through everything, we revisited the “maybe” pile and Sara made her final decision.
We also considered whether or not her children played with the items. The train table was a absolute, hands-down keeper. A large castle was a big space sucker that they never played with. Even if something is newer, it is OK to let it go if your children prefer to play with something else more. Just because a parent loves it and thinks a child should keep it doesn’t mean it automatically should stay.
3. Organize Toys to accommodate daily life
Everything needs a place. This means finding a home for each toy. When working with kid’s stuff you also need to consider accessibility. Toys they play with frequently need to be within their reach, easy to take out, and (most importantly) easy to put away. That way you aren’t cleaning up their messes all day long. Keep toys that they just dump and run up high so you need to physically hand it to them to play with. I might be a mean mom but I do this quite often. Blocks, play food and magnetic dress-up dolls are all stored HIGH UP and only taken down when I suggest (or they ask) to play with them.
This is also a great time to get all those markers, crayons and colored pencils in order. Let the worn ones go (my son’s school even recycles markers). Use a smaller container with a lid to store them. And keep your coloring books and paper kept nearby so that you can take them out together easily without scrambling. Basically create your own little art station!
4. Tackle the paperwork and desk clutter
Now’s the time to start getting the desk in order. You WILL NOT have all your paperwork filed, paper shredded and an immaculate office in only 3 hours. BUT you will have an organized system you can chip away at a little each day until you reach prime efficiency in your work space. Trust me… I have used a home office for 15 years!
Start corralling paper into three categories: FILE, TOSS, NEED SOON. Place each category into it’s own separate folder or box or drawer depending on how much you have. You also want to place things like checkbooks, envelopes, and stationary into a small container too.
Clear the desk clutter by removing things that don’t belong there. Place everything that belongs somewhere else into a box and commit to returning it to its “home” either right now or tomorrow. Now is also a great time to throw away or donate extra pens, old business cards, those thousands of paper clips and anything else collecting dust. Take electronic cords, extended hard drives, headphones and other electronics and also place them in their own box with a lid.
3. Create your a return pile
Library books. Borrowed Tupperware. That movie that needs to get returned to Redbox. All these items needs to have a designated spot where you can put them. This is where a dedicated return pile can become a lifesaver. Use a basket, a pretty bin, or a wooden box to create your own return pile. Anything that needs to go out the door when you run errands should go in there. (Tip: actually check the bin before you head out the door!). Creating a space like this lessens the stress and anxiety you feel when you can’t find something. AND teach your family to place their “items in limbo” in this same space as well.
With Sara and Tim, we also discussed the concept of “Sacred Space”. A sacred space is somewhere in your home that you declare a “no-drop” zone. No backpacks, no papers that need to be signed, no McDonald’s happy meal toys, and no junk can be left there…. ever. We created a dedicated sacred space in Sara’s Ploffice. I would highly suggest making your desk a dedicated sacred space. Unless you thrive on clutter (which some people do.. I totally get it), you will work best with a desktop that is clear and free of clutter.
In my own home, my sacred spaces are 1. my kitchen desk area, 2. my kitchen counter tops and 3. my dining room table. When my son leaves paperwork on the counter, I ask him what he would like to do with it. I don’t make the choice for him. I let him decide.
I would highly recommend creating a few sacred spaces in your home. If you do, I promise you will see your anxiety levels decrease and your joy and peace increase!
Sara and Tim’s Organized Ploffice
The end of our session couldn’t have been any sweeter. Their son got to read a book in a calm, clutter-free space. This is why organizing our spaces is so important…. so our families can ENJOY them!