Zen in My New 2010 Clutter-free Home Office

I'm a productivity geek and I love tweaking my home office space. In the past three years I've moved three times and each time I had to build my home office from scratch and each time I learned something new. 

I started with a small office space powered by Ikea cabinet in the corner of our living room in our small condo in Warsaw. When we moved to a new apartment I finally had an entire room dedicated to my home office so I built a really nice one with a big long Apple-store-kinda desk and I loved it.

Now we moved again. Different house, city and country. So I had to build it from scratch. Luckily there was an Ikea nearby so I came up with something like this:
There it is - my new home office built entirely out of Ikea furniture (ok, the chair does not come from Ikea) and it's clean, bright and white... and I love getting stuff done here.

It's all about what you see... and what you don't see.

If you take a closer look, you'll see that I have quite a few computers on my desk... but still I have lots of free space and everything is quite clutter-free. It took a significant while to build it all that way, but if you have a few minutes, let me show you the entire process with all the spicy details. Here we go:

Step 1 - Start with a clean slate

The first thing I did was to plan how the desks will look like. Bought two pieces of wood-like desks from Ikea with legs and attached all together to form an "L" letter and there was my desk. Now, before I started to put cables and all these small things, I started with this question:

"How I want my office to look like when I'm done?"... and I put a sculpture from my friend Miguel Guia, my Macbook Air and my external monitor in portrait mode .... and an Ikea lamp behind the monitor. And it started to look really "clean" and nice:

Step 2 - Figure out Power Management

This is a tough and lengthy step. I needed to figure out what I'm going to use around my computer gear and how I'm going to put it all together.

I started with putting the gear on the table and attaching cables to it:

I knew I didn't want to see any of my cables (no distractions, please!) so I figured out I should mount the cables and stuff right below the desk. I decided to use a thin board with small holes to serve as my cable management hub:
As always - when I started counting I realized I'm going to need close to 20 power sockets so I had them prepared before the board arrived.

This kind of board is very flexible and you can easily mount stuff to it with plastic "belts" and then you can mount the board to the desk with simple hooks. Here are some details:

I liked this "cable management" concept and kept on adding stuff to the board. I started with power sockets and later went on with LAN router, VoIP box, laptop chargers, USB hard drives, etc. Here's the process along the way:

As mentioned earlier, I had to prepare special hooks and install them below the desk. It was fairly easy - 5 hooks should be all I need to keep the board with my entire gear in place:

Once I've added everything and mounted the board, it all looked really promising. I've got all my sockets in one place and all my chargers and most of my gear "out-of-sight" right below my desk:

Step 3 - What you see (and don't see) is what you get

Now, as you can see, although I've got plenty of gear mounted to my desk, I hardly see any of it. This helps me focus and get stuff done and I'm never worried about my cables.

Closer look at my office

Here's what I see when I just work - on the right side I have my external monitor in portrait mode for web browsing, writing and coding. The display is attached to my Macbook Air and on the left hand side I have my trusted iPad which I use for video-watching and news-reading. Right next to my Air there is my Magic mouse, iPhone dock and Pomodoro :-)

To make sure I don't look at my other laptop (IBM Thinkpad X60T) - which serves as my home-server and all the documents and inboxes, I've moved them to the side. When I need them, they are there, but they remain out-of-sight.

All my phones and chargers are here, my USB hub, Inbox, document shredder and folders are on the side - I like it that way - don't have to look at all this when I don't need to:

To make sure I have as few objects to look at as possible, I've moved my document cabinet (Ikea made as well) and my laser printer-copier-scan machine to my "back". This is my "back office" and since the multi-fuctional device is connected to my router and then to my wireless router, I can print and scan from any place in my home:

I love my new home office - here it is in a nutshell

I've learned a lot building this new home office and I'm happy it's exactly how I want it to be. I'll probably record a Productive! Show episode about it to explain more about why I built the office the way I did. Hope you like it, too, and hopefully I inspired you to make your home office also a great place to work. Here it is, once again, with more details explained:

Do you also work from home? How does your office look like?
--> me I'm Michael Sliwinski and I'm an entrepreneur who's also the...
.. Founder of Nozbe.com - a time and project management web application
.. Editor of Productive! Magazine - a global PDF publication on productivity
.. and a blogger as well as a producer of a weekly 2-minute Productive! show.

Posted on Tuesday, November 30, 2010 (business,office,productivity,zen)

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Dec 1, 2010 09:18
Different house, city and country? Changes, changes, changes? Don't you like streets of Warsaw covered with snow?
Michael Sliwinski
Dec 1, 2010 09:34
While I love streets of Warsaw (or Poland in general) covered with snow... I'm quite enjoying sunny Spain at the moment.

Yes TesTeq - changes changes changes - my wife got a new job and we simply moved. It wasn't easy but I really enjoy traveling and getting to know new places and people. We all work from home in my company so this new home office is the mission-critical place for me to do great work. Thanks for your comment and enjoy the snow! :-)

Dec 1, 2010 22:08
What about the cables? Do they disturb you during your work? It looks that you always hit cables with your knees. :)
Michael Sliwinski
Dec 1, 2010 23:07
The cables in my home-office are hidden below the desk more than half way closer to the other side (you can't see it well on these photos). It's hard to touch them even when I'm sitting very close to the desk.

If you're tall and have long legs, then I suggest you put them more to the side or even further away. For me, this placement is OK and my knees aren't even remotely touching the cables which are totally out of sight for me :-) Thanks for your comment Lukasz!

Brooks Duncan
Dec 3, 2010 18:40
Awesome redesign Michael. Great minds think alike!
Robert Olejnik
Dec 4, 2010 16:56

Where did you buy this kid of document filling drawer? I've been looking for that kid for a while now..

Thanks, Robert.

Michael Sliwinski
Dec 6, 2010 19:07
The document filing drawer from my Zen home office comes from Ikea (like most furniture). I had this one already in my old home office and I keep coming back to it as it's simply great, Robert.

Brooks Duncan, thanks for your heads up! Greatly appreciated!

David McDanal
Dec 6, 2010 19:44
Very nice! How did you make your desk? Or did you just buy it at Ikea?
Mike St Pierre
Dec 18, 2010 23:09
Michael, great to see the cable management that unclutters the whole area.
Michael Sliwinski
Dec 20, 2010 12:28
I bought the legs and tabletops from Ikea and assembled them together in a form of an "L" to make sure it fits my office space perfectly. It was pretty easy and the tabletops from Ikea are very good. Hope it helps, mcdanal!

Mike St Pierre, thanks for your comment and great you like my cable-management so much. I spent lots of time figuring this out, but it was totally worth it as the un-cluttered space is a joy to work.

Dec 22, 2010 09:28
Hi, Michael. Where have you bought this board ?
Dec 28, 2010 06:07
Hi Michael,

great documentation about your workplace. Good for me to find someone else on the web with a dedication to a clean cabling on the desk (I documented this a time ago for my computer room http://pohle.de/rze). People should realize that a clean head for focused work starts with a clean desk first. Your desk gets a price for hiding all the cables. Even cooler would be someone who invents a system that replaces all these single power supplies with one...

Michael Sliwinski
Dec 28, 2010 08:12
It'd be great to replace all the cables with just one... but until that happens we need to think seriously about cable management to achieve clutter-free work spaces.

I love the clean workspace you documented on your blog, Christian. Really, seriously a great job at managing those cables and so many computers. Congrats!

Maciej, I bought the boards at Ikea - they sell boards for tables as well as table-legs, so you can compile your tables in any way you like.

eileen stockton
Mar 1, 2011 18:27
thank you - your responses to questions are as organized as your office - thank you Michael
Michael Sliwinski
Mar 2, 2011 11:22
Comment: I think it's key to have a great working environment with as few distractions as possible and zen-style desk. Glad you like my setup - have a productive rest of the week, too, Eileen!
eileen stockton
Mar 2, 2011 17:59
thnx for the reply -  Namaste - 

Daly de Gagné
May 20, 2011 16:34
Michael, I love both your office, and the elegant way you've shared it with us - in both words and pictures.

I agree with the notion of minimizing visual clutter. For me, visual clutter is the piles of papers, folders, etc. which are on my desk. Currently, I'm creating "back" office space for these materials - your blog post is good encouragement for me!

On the other hand, I take comfort from the simple brick and board book shelves on my desk (which is against a wall). The shelves hold, apart from my computer speakers, the books I am mostly likely to refer to, books which I am currently reading, and books I want to read. I love books, and having key books in front of me is, as I said, comforting.

But the papers, files, etc. are another story - the ones I'm not working with in the moment get in the way, lead to clutter, and decreased productivity.

Thank you for your excellent post.


Jul 20, 2011 15:47
For to keep your eyes, your lamp should be before the screen. The screen should nevver be the highest light before your eyes.
Michael Sliwinski
Jul 20, 2011 16:26
Yes, putting the light before the screen is a good idea. Used a long Ikea lamp for that. Have good eyesight but need to keep it like this :-) Thanks for the idea Granut!

Daly - didn't notice your comment earlier. Thanks and glad you like my "piece of office Zen" :-)

Joy Mystic
Jul 30, 2011 17:03
Hi Michael,

Thanks for the inspiration and awesome, genius, simple, and very affordable solution to deal with my cables. I greatly appreciate both you and Van who inspired you with this solution (http://www.decluttered.com/).

I Posted my pictures on my blog (http://www.willtoknow.com/my-ergonomic-and-healthy-workstation/) and will add more text later to give you a well deserved kudos and link back. I'll also add links to where I got the materials and few tips. Thanks again and good luck to all of you guys who try to declutter their work space. Go for it. It is well worth it.

Michael Sliwinski
Jul 31, 2011 22:53
Glad my zen-de-cluttered home office served as inspiration to so many. Very good setup Joy Mystic with some really cool solutions to get rid of the cables. Great job!