We’ve all been there in 2020: a cluttered desk full of papers, notebooks, chargers, and more coffee cups than you could ever need piled up. Imagine how it would feel to work at a desk where everything has a place, charger wires aren’t tangled, and inspirational images and quotes are posted to look at when you’re getting discouraged. You can start making that happen right now! Here are nine tips to get you closer to an office that looks straight out of Pinterest but is unique to you.
1. Decide whether your vibe is creative or calm
Whether you work from home, an office, or a coworking space, keeping your workspace organized and clean is important to keep you productive throughout the day. Physical clutter can clutter your mind and make your tasks seem overwhelming. If your work involves creative thinking and problem solving, then you may have more wiggle room with how messy you leave your desk because disorderly environments have been shown to increase creativity. In one experiment researchers brought students into two rooms and asked them to think of new uses for ping pong balls. In the room that was cluttered with various papers spread on the table, participants came up with more creative ideas and more suggestions overall than in a room that only had a table and chairs.
Research has also shown that a cluttered space is associated with lower subjective well being, an unhealthy diet, and less efficient visual processing, so even if you need to be creative at work, you would stand to benefit from more organization. If creativity is not an issue and you want to be more focused and calm at work, then having a nearly empty desk is best.
2. The Initial Purge
The key to getting the balance between overwhelmingly cluttered and too empty is to follow Marie Kondo’s approach of asking “does this spark joy?” To break this down, go through everything in your workspace and determine if it is necessary or not by asking yourself if you have used it in the past month. If the answer is no, then it should go. If you have drawers, take out all the contents and donate or discard everything you don’t need. If you want to donate office supplies, consider giving them to the Muscular Dystrophy Association to help support their advocacy programs related to neuromuscular diseases or to Develop Africa, which supports education and small businesses to assist sustainable development.
After removing everything off of your desk and out of your drawers and wipe it down with disinfectant wipes. This will remove any dust and bacteria that has accumulated and improve your air quality. Cleaning also signals to your brain that this is a new start.
Organize what you want to keep based on how often you use each item. For example, if you use staplers and paper clips only a few times a day, then take them off your desktop and place them in your first drawer. Drawer organizers and file holders can come in handy if you have a lot of things to store (keep reading for our color recommendations).
This also applies to your digital desktop; use folders and organize your files by project or topic. This will help you find what you need quickly and keep you from getting overwhelmed by unnecessary clutter.
5. Create a Real Life Inbox
You know how all of your new emails come into your inbox? If you have coworkers giving you documents throughout the day, create a physical inbox as well. You can buy a paper tray and put all new documents into it. Take them out as you work on them, then either put them where they belong, or in a second paper tray for finished work, an “outbox” if you will. This way it’ll be like crossing tasks off your to do list!
6. Separate the digital from the physical
If you work with both paper and your computer, it might be helpful to separate the spaces so you aren’t distracted. This could be the same desk, but another area that is cleared of chargers and clutter. You should also add a cable holder to help organize your chargers and keep them from falling off your desk or getting tangled.
7. Recycle right away
Keep a recycling bin by your desk so you can easily throw away excess papers without them piling up. You should also delete unimportant emails after you read them so your inbox can be clutter free. If you get a lot of emails, try organizing them with these tips.
If all this decluttering has scared your inner interior designer away, tell them to come back! While removing unnecessary items is important, you should keep things that make you smile, even if they aren’t necessary. If you have a wall in front of you, try posting inspiring quotes, photos of family and friends, and pictures of things you’re working towards; this will help motivate you when you are in a slump and express your individuality.
9. Create In Comfort
If you utilize a coworking space, bring some personal items with you in the form of useful things like a pencil case with an inspirational message on it, a white board with a cute frame, or a travel mug specially made with pictures of family or friends. Additionally, studies show that keeping a living plant on or close to your workspace can make you more productive. Therefore, at the coworking space sit near house plants to get the benefits that come with working near one, or bring your own mini potted plant if transport isn’t an issue. Additionally, try to move around the coworking space trying different spots with varying degrees of natural light to determine what amount is good for keeping you awake without over exposing your laptop.
If you work from home, check out this list of ergonomic office chairs that reduce the pressure on your spinal cord and help you maintain better posture. If it fits your style, consider putting a plush rug under your desk to add coziness and comforting presence. Standing desks are also a good option to avoid any back pain associated with sitting, get more exercise, and boost your energy level.
Similar to the way that people lose weight but gain it back afterwards, many people declutter once and then let it slowly pile up again. This can be prevented by quickly straightening up your desk at the end of the day, throwing away anything you hadn’t already, clearing your computer’s desktop. This way you can start fresh and clear headed in the morning.