One of the first acknowledgements I saw of the home business movement was a magazine ad showing a sweet little house in the suburbs. The headline read, “To the neighbors, it’s 324 Oak Street. To the Olsens, it’s World Headquarters.”

I’ve been working from home long before it became fashionable. It didn’t take long to realize that living and working in the same space posed some organizational challenges. 

I tried to convince myself that the creative process is messy, but that didn’t make me enjoy the clutter any more. Over time I found a system that made sense for me, but keeping it up is an on-going challenge.

Albert Einstein once pointed out that everything should be made as simple as possible—but no simpler. I remind myself of that as frequently as necessary.

Since a business can become complicated and cumbersome in the blink of an eye, here are a few ways to keep things tidy.

° Make simplicity a goal. It’s not enough to say you want to simplify your business. Identify specific measurable results that will indicate that you have made your systems, marketing, accounting, etc. as simple as possible.

° Work on one profit center at a time. Give a single project your full attention by keeping papers or items related to other projects out of sight. When it’s time to move on to the next project, stash things related to the last project in a file or closet or drawer.

° Avoid confusion. “Clutter and messy work areas cause confusion and irritability,” observes Alexandra Stoddard. “Give your mind a spa and take some time out to rearrange your office. Block off a few hours on your calendar and use the time to putter. Edit out the unnecessary.”

° Identify spendthrift behavior and eliminate it. New gadgets and technologies can be seductive, but refuse to purchase anything for your business unless it makes a positive contribution.

° Keep projects separate. If you manage several profit centers, color code the work in each of them for ease in locating and filing.

° Hire a professional organizer to help you develop the best system for you. Make certain you understand how to maintain it as easily as possible.

° Clean out your computer and cabinet files at regular intervals. Make a note on your calendar every 60 or 90 days to tidy up so things don’t accumulate.

° Designate space. My grandmother’s favorite saying was, “A place for everything and everything in its place.” As I’ve discovered, uncluttering is as much about creating places as it is about throwing away.

 ° Identify your nemesis and make a special effort to deal with that. Going after the biggest problem—and solving it—often makes solving lesser problems a snap.