Clean Your Desk, Clear Your Life

Post written by Warren. Follow him on Twitter.

Escape clutter mountain. Find your freedom.

Escape clutter mountain. Find your freedom.

Many of us spend a lot of time at a desk.

Whether your desk is in a corner office with a view, in a row of cubicles or in a crowded corner at home, chances are good that you haven’t given a lot of thought to how your office space is arranged.  Even if your office is not your ideal, you don’t have to feel that you’re stuck with it.

There are small changes you can make to any workspace that will make it a more enjoyable and productive place to work.

The first place to start is by looking at the amount of clutter in your workspace.

Unless you’re diligent about keeping things neat, it’s easy to end up with a workspace that’s full of clutter.

The proliferation of communication methods has made it easier to communicate, but it’s also increased the amount of information to track.  Post-it notes, documents and email printouts are great ways to keep on top of deadlines and commitments, but it’s easy for this paperwork to start taking over your desk.

When the paperwork starts to push you out of your workspace and your productivity is suffering, it’s time to declutter your desk.

Here’s a roadmap to follow:

  1. Start by making a clean sweep of your desk.  Remove everything that’s portable, then put back only the items you use the most – i.e., phone, keyboard, mouse.
  2. Sort the clutter.  Go through the clutter you just removed from your desk.  Trash the things you no longer need and file the rest. Try to do this quickly and don’t waste time lingering over each piece of paper or publication.  If you don’t have an organized filing system, now’s the time to set one up.  Get in the habit of filing things away when you’re done with them.
  3. Use a single notebook or pad of paper to keep track of to-do lists, meeting minutes and phone calls.  Think of it as your work journal.  You may want to use an online app or computer tool instead, but the portability and easy access of a notebook makes it a low-tech solution that never goes out of style.
  4. Keep your bulletin board clutter-free. Check it regularly for outdated items and remove them.  By only displaying meaningful items, your bulletin board will be a useful tool instead of a catchall.  If you have a whiteboard, clean it regularly.  Markings that are left on the board too long will become permanent.
  5. Make a habit of clearing your desk each night. This will let you start the day with a clean desk and a clean slate.  If you’re in the middle of a project at the end of the day, make some notes to refresh your mind when you return to it and then file it away.  Beginning each day with a clean desk will give you an entirely new perspective.

Once you’ve decluttered your desk, remember that keeping it clutter-free is a habit that you’ll have to establish.  Just as you have to keep exercising to stay in shape, you’ll need to spend a little time each day sorting through your paperwork and either tossing it or filing it.  Take the same approach with your email.  As your inbox fills up each day, delete the messages you’ve read and don’t need to keep.  Save important email messages in folders. Or, just kill your email all together.

Now that you have a plan for clearing your desk of clutter, it’s time to look at the ergonomic aspects of your workspace.  How comfortable are you at your desk?  Does your chair provide the proper back support?  At the end of the day, do you have aches and pains?   Physical pain that’s caused by your chair or desk height can lead to chronic injuries over time, so it really pays to make some changes and replace any problem furniture.

The next ergonomic considerations should be your mouse and keyboard.

Does your keyboard leave you enough room to easily maneuver your mouse?  Are you able to position your arm so that you can use the mouse without straining?  If not, try to rearrange your desk and remove any obstacles to the ideal keyboard and mouse setup.  Pain from improper mouse use is another problem that can build over time and end up causing a chronic condition – it pays to do everything possible to avoid it.

The final ergonomic issue is the lighting in your workspace.

Is there enough light?  Too much light can actually be a problem if it causes a glare on your monitor screen.  If glare is a problem, first investigate using your computer screen settings to modify your screen’s brightness and contrast.  If there’s too much ambient sunlight in your office, the solution may be as simple as using blinds to filter light coming in from a window.  If there’s too much overhead lighting, try using a desk lamp instead.

Once you’ve taken care of the clutter and solved your ergonomic issues, it’s time to put the personal touch back into your workspace.  Position a few personal items on your desk, but don’t get carried away.  A couple of framed photos and a plant should be enough to add a calming touch.  Lots of gadgets, toys or office supplies will just contribute to desktop chaos and can end up being a distraction.

One of the hardest parts about creating a clutter free and comfortable workspace is taking the first step towards getting it done.  It’s easy to procrastinate or feel too busy to tackle your office clutter.  Instead of trying to do the entire job at once, approach it as a series of small changes.  As your workspace becomes more organized, the odds are very good that you’ll find yourself becoming more productive.  Creativity and focus are easier to tap into when you workspace is clear and clutter-free.

“Three Rules of Work: Out of clutter find simplicity; From discord find harmony; In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.”  Albert Einstein

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Posted on October 30, 2009

Happy Comments

19 Responses to “Clean Your Desk, Clear Your Life”
  1. I have a smaller table top next to my desk that I push my clutter onto when my real desk gets too messy. Once a week, I organize the overflow and either file it, use it, or throw it away.

    Great article, buddy!
    .-= The Tango Notebook´s last blog ..How the (Fine) Art of Tango Inspired These Two Artists =-.

  2. SpinDiva says:

    Hi Dayne,
    Great advice. I can’t work or do anything when there’s clutter around me. Unfortunately with a family of six it’s easy to find clutter all the time. Some of it is fun, like toys in the family room, some not so fun like the desk clutter or the kitchen counter clutter which sometimes doubles as a desk for some reason. Anyway, I make it a habit to throw away junk mail and stuff I don’t need as soon as it hits my hands. Deal with it once!! Thanks for the post, very informational. Great blog too!!
    .-= SpinDiva´s last blog .."This is it." =-.

    • Welcome SpinDiva! I love that name! :)

      I can only imagine how important it is to clear out the clutter with six kids, I would be the same way. I can’t work very well or live very well when I have heaps of clutter laying around.

      That is the reason I’m working on moving to a minimal lifestyle. It is freedom!

      Cheers and thanks for stopping by…

      Dayne

  3. Rocky says:

    HA! I was looking at my desk the other day, this really needs to get a clean up.

    This article’s definitely a sign I should get going. Thanks Dayne!
    .-= Rocky ´s last blog ..HBAUSTRIA =-.

  4. Ross Welte says:

    Haha…Dayne I swear you were talking directly to me in this post. My desk will stay clean for about 2 days before it turns into a clutter collector for the next 3 months…It is something that I really need to work on and take the time to form the habit of clearing my desk every night…I might send this to the guy in the office next to me as well :)

    Thanks!

    Ross

  5. Oh that’s great! I actually feng shui’d my desk so that the energy flows according to the bagua diagram. I’ve never had an issue with clutter, since I’m a minimalist by nature, but making sure the right colors and objects were in the so-called right spot was key. I’m a writer, so I make sure to have best sellers and my favorite books on my desk in view. I think it somehow inspires me!
    .-= Megan “JoyGirl!” Bord´s last blog ..Love Leaves Again =-.

  6. Rocky – I guess it is a sign, now you have work to do! Thanks for visiting. :)

    Ross – Thanks for stopping by and commenting. You are right, it is amazing how fast clutter can build up. Good luck!

    Megan – Welcome! Wow, you sound like not only do you have things clutter-free, but you have a certain flow and pattern. I love that! I also agree with having items of inspiration around, I do the same thing. :)
    .-= Dayne | TheHappySelf.com´s last blog ..Clean Your Desk, Clear Your Life =-.

  7. Jon says:

    The desk ;) that is the biggy Dayne.. clear home, clear mind

    I find im most creative when things are tidy and organized.. when the kids have gone wild.. and there are toys everywhere

    I have to laugh,… it keeps me flexible

  8. Hi Dayne,

    This is my first visit here and I love the look and feel of your site. For most of my life, I did not have a desk. I used to use the kitchen table as my desk and then when I was on my own, I could not afford a desk and used the kitchen table.

    When I got married, my husband insisted I get a desk and as a result of my kitchen table adventures, I never have had clutter issues because having a desk is so new to me. Even when I have had a desk at work, it has never been cluttered.

    I never really thought much about it until reading this post. So I guess my lack of having a desk as a kid was a blessing in disguise. :)

  9. Jagadeesh Bharadwaj says:

    Yeah. The contents of the article serves as a good REMINDER. I totally agree that having a clutter free desk will go a long in focussing on to the right things at the right time. Many a times, we spend lot of time in doing un-important things first leaving behind more important ones. All these apart, clutter free desk will help you overcome procrastinating things.

    Keep it up Dayne, you are being quite helpful.

  10. Hey Dayne, useful post (stumbled!). I agree that it’s essential to have a clean desk.
    .-= Oscar – freestyle mind´s last blog ..How to Be Successful =-.

  11. alternaview says:

    This post is so useful and important. I didn’t use to take organization seriously enough, but it literally can increase your clarity and productivity ten fold. I read somewhere that organization is heaven’s first law…it really is so true.
    .-= alternaview´s last blog ..How to react…what to do…when people push you too far =-.

  12. Love this post! People always comment on my clean, organized desk and I can’t imagine having it any other way. Great tips!
    .-= positively present´s last blog ..inspired by the opposite of love =-.

  13. Emily says:

    Running 3 businesses I was having a difficult time with space and clutter. Of course I have a file cabinet next to my desk, but there’s always stuff that gets to my desk and needs to be dealt with etc.. I got sick of looking at it so I placed one of those plastic shelves under my desk, that just fit! Then I took a straight rod and curtain and hid the space..Looks so much nicer and helped me a lot! There are plastic bins with labels on them to also keep stuff straight!

  14. Your place is valueble for me. Thanks!…

  15. LC says:

    Why do you have that annoying social media bar that blocks the article and refuses to go away?

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