A messy, cluttered workspace can contribute to stress, anxiety, and reduced creativity. When several things fight for your attention at the same time, you may find it difficult to focus on the task at hand.
Specifically, a cluttered workspace can waste your time and energy by making you search for information or tools. It also may give the wrong impression to your clients and colleagues. Nearly 57 percent of people confess to judging their colleagues based on how they maintain their workspaces, according to a Forbes survey. Moreover, a messy workspace can provide a breeding ground for germs that may make you ill on a regular basis — which will negatively impact your overall productivity.
Simply put, a clean and organized office space can change the way you work and the quality of your outputs. Read on for six decluttering strategies that can help you tidy and organize your workspace.
Do a Complete Reboot
If all of your past efforts to declutter your workspace failed, it’s time to start over. Take everything off your desk and bookshelves, empty your drawers, and place every item into a box. If you use something regularly, return it to the area of your desk or shelf where it belongs. Leave the rest in the box. Try to work like this for at least a month. If, at the end of the month, your box still contains a few items, you probably don’t really need them so discard or donate them.
Assess and Evaluate
If a thorough purge seems rather too drastic to you, you can try this alternative strategy to reducing clutter. Similar to the previous approach, start by removing everything you own from your workspace and place those items in a box. Next, take each item out one by one and honestly assess its usefulness. Ask yourself if the item has a purpose. Do you really need it or do you think you may need it one day? How often do you use the item? Your answers will help you evaluate the worth of your items so you can decide whether to keep or toss each of them.
Arrange Your Stuff In a Way That Works for You
When it’s time to put your belongings back after deciding what to keep, take a minute to think about the most efficient layout for how you work. Place the items you use most often in easily accessible drawers and then tuck the rest away in other drawers or on shelves. Ideally, only the items you need or use daily — like a laptop or desktop computer, a pen, a notebook, a phone, and a personal photograph — should stay on your desk surface. Anything that distracts your attention or makes you look unprofessional shouldn’t reside on your work desk.
In addition, make maximum use of vertical space by installing wall shelves or using a desk with built-in shelving. If you deal with a lot of paperwork every day, use separate trays or hanging baskets for sorting incoming, in-progress, and completed files. Digitize and store any document for which you don’t absolutely need a physical copy. These best practices not only help to reduce paper clutter, but also make it easier for you to look up information.
Finally, hang personal items like your handbag and jacket on wall hooks so you won’t have to leave them lying around on the floor. Ensuring everything in your workspace has a regular home for when it’s not in use will help prevent it ending up as clutter on your desk. If necessary, invest in new file cabinets or organizers.
Don’t Underestimate the Importance of Empty Space
While you may find it exciting to use new storage solutions or decor in your workspace, resist the temptation to fill every inch with something. Leave at least some empty space in your office to avoid feeling overwhelmed. And, don’t forget to trade in your sticky notes for more efficient — and more professional — digital reminders. Ultimately, a clear, empty space can help sharpen your focus and inspire creative thinking.
Remember to Tackle Digital Clutter
Clutter also exists outside the physical world. For example, a cluttered inbox can distract you as much as a messy desk. Email organization apps and techniques can help you avoid an overflowing inbox that takes over your day.
Similarly, keep the items on your desktop or laptop screen to a minimum with shortcuts to just a few select apps you use daily. Because it’s the first thing you see when you log in, keep it as tidy and as organized as possible. Moreover, move all unnecessary shortcuts and documents to separate folders organized by category. You also can check out these useful tips on how to set up a minimalist desktop that’ll make you proud.
Make Decluttering Part of Your Daily Routine
You may find it difficult to stay on top of clutter when you have deadlines to meet and flights to catch. Yet, clutter has a way of creeping in despite your best intentions so you’ll need to stick to your new commitment in order to keep your desk clean and clutter-free. One easy way to do this is to make decluttering part of your daily routine. Try setting aside five minutes at the end of the day to wipe down your workspace, clear your coffee mug, and put all your documents and stationery neatly back into their proper places. This strategy will keep your workspace under control while ensuring you have a fresh, clean space from which to start work every morning.
If you adopt these six decluttering strategies, you’ll soon start to enjoy the benefits of keeping your workspace tidy and organized. A clean workspace allows you to work with a clear mind and fewer distractions. It also can help you avoid panicking when a colleague asks for an important file because you’ll know exactly where it is. Ultimately, a tidy workspace will boost your confidence because you know you have things under control — and that can change how you work and increase your productivity.