Is your workspace uncontrollably messy and cluttered? Find out below how to have a clutter-free and organized workspace.
When you think about your ideal working space, what does it look like? Does it consist of a clean, white desk with two high-tech monitors, and a single vase of flowers? Does it have a small stack of papers, and just a few personal tokens?
Having a clean, organized workspace is an incredible way to boost productivity and even boost overall happiness in your job and daily life. Keeping a clutter-free space, however, can be very difficult. The good news is that there are plenty of practices one can keep in order to “declutter” spaces that are important to them, including workspaces, offices, and your home.
What is clutter?
The definition of clutter is as follows: “A collection of things lying about in an untidy mess.” We all have it whether it is a pile of mail on our kitchen counter, or a stack of documents strewn across our desks. Clutter is distracting, and can be draining.
Studies have found that there is a direct correlation between clutter and stress. Studies have also found that stress from clutter leads to weight gain, lack of exercise, healthy eating, fatigue, loss of sleep, anxiety, burnout and other repercussions.
Gretchen Rubin, bestselling author, blogger, and speaker in regards to her book, The Happiness Project said, “outer order contributes to inner calm.” Having clutter, especially in our workspace, will make you feel weary and on edge. As our physical environment becomes cluttered, so does our brains; it makes it difficult to relax, and you don’t feel comfortable or at ease to sit down and get work done. You constantly are frazzled, and spend most of your time being aggravated at the piles of papers, and loose odds and ends that you lose your motivation, and aren’t able to focus in your job.
13 Ways to Declutter your Workspace
This all sounds scary, but the good news is that clutter is controllable. It is a habit that can be changed. With a little bit of practice and adhering to these 13 tips, you can be on your way to removing your office clutter and achieving your “inner calm.”
1. Envision your perfect workspace
Take a step back, and look at your workspace. Is it what you imagined? If not, change it. If you want one single computer monitor, but also want to use a laptop, make space for those machines.
Do you want a clear desk with no papers or clutter? Invest in some bins and put all pens, paper clips, staplers, and sticky notes into those drawers and bins. In order to feel comfortable and focused in your job, you need to create a vision of your ideal working station, and make it a reality.
2. Take a picture of your workspace
One way to do this is to take a picture of your workspace, and look at it in a different environment. Taking a picture of your desk area and looking at it separately will give you a different perspective, and will help you identify objects or areas that need work. Show the picture to a friend, spouse, or loved one.
Their fresh eyes can help you point out areas of office clutter and help you determine ways to make your space the perfect area for you.
3. Simplify, Simplify, Simplify
Thoreau said it best. After you envision your perfect workspace, look at every object on your desk. Do you use it every day, or does it just sit there taking up space? If your answer is the latter, get rid of it.
Get rid of that Wite Out tube that you haven’t touched in six months, or that pencil sharpener that just lies in front of your keyboard. Even the littlest pieces of office clutter can set you on edge and result in you losing your focus. Simplicity is key.
4. Keep decor to a minimum
Your workspace is where you spend a majority of your time at, so why not personalize it and make it your own? That is absolutely understandable, but try to keep your decor to a minimum. Too many knick knacks or other decorations that might get in the way, and make your workspace look cluttered and tacky.
So, if you want to decorate your space, hang a few special pictures on the wall that will give your office a special touch, but won’t be overwhelming to the eye. If you like knick knacks, only place a few on your desk. Although they take up space, having a token that you enjoy will help increase your productivity and give you the creativity boost you may need throughout the day.
5. Keep personal items off of your desk
Keep your wallet, purse, keys, and jacket away from your workspace. These items can take up a lot of space (especially a purse), and can clutter up your desk. Designate a place, hook, or coat hanger for your personal items. This is an important step because looking at your purse, keys, or wallet will distract and offset your focus.
You could look at your keys and be reminded that you that you need to go to the shop and get your oil changed, thus making it harder to concentrate on your work.
6. File all papers ASAP
I find that taking care of loose papers or files immediately after I receive them helps reduce clutter immensely. Once I receive an important document, or get a pingback on a press release or article, I put it in its place. Filing papers as soon as you can gives you instant gratification.
And, you won’t be staring at the clutter throughout the day distracting you from your work. Keep your papers and files in simple folders that you can find with ease. If there’s a specific project, make the project the title of that folder. That way, you can refer to it immediately when you need to do more filing.
7. Don’t postpone your declutter
In The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin said that if it takes you less than a minute to complete a task, you should do it right away. Tackle your office clutter as soon as you can. Try not to look at a pile of papers on your desk and think: “I need to get that organized.” Get to it immediately.
Taking care of that clutter right away will boost your happiness, and give you a feeling of accomplishment that you got something done. Postponing your office clutter will eat away at you throughout the day, but if you follow the one-minute rule, you’ll be able to buckle down and get things done.
8. Make archiving a habit
If you are like me, you have a lot of loose papers to file. I produce stacks of press releases, printouts of articles, calendars, newsletter drafts, and other paper materials regularly. If there is something that you know you can scan and keep electronically, then do so.
Having an archive folder is not only helpful for you to refer to in the future as your business grows, but it is also a great way to keep that clutter off of your desk and have an organized, electronic system on hand.
9. Keep all current projects handy
If you like to work with both electronic and paper files, keeping a filing tray on your desk with your projects organized in folders is another simple way to keep clutter at bay. I like to keep all current projects handy, and within arm’s reach, so I can refer to them throughout the day.
I find that it is sometimes easier to have those physical files in an easy place, so you don’t have to go searching through closets or filing cabinets for a specific document. Once your project is done, however, make sure to put that folder away, so you can make more room for current projects, and minimize clutter.
10. Give drawers the royal treatment
At my workstation, I have two filing drawers to keep all papers and files in. One practice I find useful is organizing my drawers by hierarchy, that is, keeping things you will refer to the most at the top, and the other files further away. Doing so will give you easy access to the files you need, and will also help organize those pesky filing cabinets.
Try to organize your files left to right, with the most important folders and documents on the left. Sometimes, organizing documents in alphabetical order doesn’t help; it takes longer to search for certain files, and makes you feel frustrated. However, if filing alphabetically works for you, do it! Find the best system fit for your lifestyle.
11. Transfer Business Cards Electronically
Having a stack of business cards on your desk of clients, partners, or local reporters can be irritating and cause a lot of office clutter. Transfer these business cards into your contacts on your email, or in your phone. Make sure to keep that file handy, and make notes about how they’re a useful contact.
If you like having physical business cards, find a box you can put them in, and set them aside. Writing notes on the back of the cards is also a way to make sifting through the cards easier.
12. Designate a Spot for Incoming Mail/Paper
Purchase an inbox and outbox tray to help minimize random papers and files sitting on your desk. If you receive a file that needs to be looked over, put it in the incoming tray, when you’re done and are ready to give it back to a coworker or your supervisor, put it in the outgoing tray.
This will help eliminate the clutter on your desk for those papers that have no specific filing destination.
13. Tidy up at the end of the day
Before you leave your workspace, make the time to tidy up your desk and office area. Doing so will help you unwind from the busy work day, and help eliminate clutter that you have produced throughout the day.
You will leave work (or your home office), feeling refreshed and accomplished. Plus, when you return the next day, you will find a clutter-free and organized office space, giving you the productivity boost you need in the morning.
Did I miss anything?
What about you? Did I miss any tips you follow to remove office clutter? Leave your input in the comments below!