Tips from the Organizing Pros

Making home offices more accessible

Article Highlights:
  • Home offices can often be made more accessible with low-budget and DIY fixes, such as storage containers and shelving.
  • One quick tip is to organize personal desk space so that frequently-used items are within eash reach, whether it's your computer or checkbook.
  • A professional organizer may be able to help you utilize additional space and increase productivity.
by Barbara and Jim Twardowski on October 1, 2009 - 8:50am

QUEST Vol. 16, No. 4

Professional organizer Angela Cody-Roguet prides herself on “thinking outside the box.” When she tackled the home office of Chanda Hinton of Aurora, Colo., who uses a wheelchair, owns a service dog and has limited use of her hands, the challenge was finding affordable and accessible solutions that would allow Hinton to better utilize her space. 

Surprisingly, the first item to be removed was Hinton’s desk. Cody-Roguet measured Hinton’s reach and discovered she only used the first 12 inches of her desk. The remaining 2 feet was a wasteland of unreachable papers and office supplies. 

The solution was to install a 1-foot-wide shelf along the entire 8 feet of the wall, set at desk height. Precise measurements were taken to ensure the wheelchair arms did not hit the shelf. Once the shelf was up, a printer/fax, inbox, outbox, binders and files were strategically arranged. 

“Before I reorganized and redesigned Hinton’s office, she had to wait for an attendant, her sister or her boyfriend to do numerous administrative tasks because she couldn’t reach or access the many things she needed during the day. Now she has 100 percent autonomy,” says Cody-Roguet, whose Highlands Ranch, Colo., business is called Major Mom.

A professional organizer provides an outsider’s perspective to finding achievable and sustainable solutions. “Relying on an expert can save individuals from buying the wrong furniture, organizing systems, etc.,” says Cody-Roguet. “But most importantly, we can give people the freedom and joy that they never knew possible because we’re experts in creating functionality with beauty.” 

Lisa Alishio, a professional organizer and licensed certified occupational therapist assistant, believes an organized home office is good for your health.

“Remove the clutter and create a functional space — it’s uplifting. And you’ll waste less time and energy by working in a well-designed space,” she advises. Constantly hunting for missing items is exhausting; trying to accomplish tasks in a mess is stressful. When a desk is neat, you can immediately begin a project.

Alishio’s business, Clarity Home Consulting, has several clients with special needs. “Every one is an individual. The first step to creating an ideal home office is to determine exactly what tasks the client wishes to accomplish in the space.” Perhaps it’s letter writing or paying bills or surfing the Internet. Whatever tools are needed at least 80 percent of the time are the ones that need to be within easy reach. 

clear plastic interlocking bins by OXO
The right office product, such as these clear plastic interlocking bins by OXO, will help you clean up your desktop clutter.

Alishio offers simple solutions for saving energy, improving efficiency and making your space look better.

For example, place pens in a pretty container rather than a drawer, which takes more time to open and close.  

Rather than using a cell phone as a calendar, which requires effort to check and so often gets overlooked, Alishio prefers large wall-mounted dry-erase calendars that can be read with just a glance.

Picture frames are easily knocked over and require dusting. Alishio uses cork blocks that can be placed in any configuration.  “Pin the photos to the cork and add a block as your photo collection grows.” 

Open baskets are Alishio’s favorite container. They’re pretty and require little effort to use, having no lids to remove.

Use a label maker to identify the contents of all containers and drawers, enabling the friends, family members and aides who assist you to be more helpful.

Professional organizer Connie Hansen, owner of Organizers Elite in Mandeville, La., enjoys introducing her clients to tools that make the home office run smoother. 

Among her favorite finds are the OXO Good Grips office products (available only at Staples) and OXO home care products that are perfect for people with less hand dexterity or strength. For example, push pin heads are larger than typical, making them easier to grasp.

Hansen frequently shops for office accessories online; one of her favorite sites is The Container Store ( 

Finding a professional organizer is as easy as opening your phonebook or checking the Web site of the National Association of Professional Organizers ( 

Take the time to explain your needs and be sure to ask for references and contact the local Better Business Bureau. It’s important that you’re comfortable allowing this individual access to your home and personal files. 

Barbara and Jim Twardowski, Mandeville, La., are frequent Quest contributors.  Barb has Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease.

For professional organizing resources, see InfoQuest.

Your rating: None Average: 4.9 (7 votes)
MDA cannot respond to questions asked in the comments field. For help with questions, contact your local MDA office or clinic or email See comment policy