Clutter can really influence the way you work. If you're too disorganised, everything competes for your attention and makes it hard to work, not to mention influence perceptions of your professionalism. Here are 10 tips for decluttering your workspace and getting your office sorted.
Note: This is an update to an old top 10 favourite. We've got some new tricks and some updates to old ones, so that's why it looks a bit different than it used to (and why there are still some old comments that reference the old article). Enjoy!
10. Start From Scratch
Chances are, you've tried to declutter before -- but it just hasn't worked out. If removing the clutter little by little doesn't work, you may be better off starting from scratch and adding the stuff you actually need little by little. Take everything off your desk and out of your drawers, put them in a box, and go back to work. When you need an item, you can put it back on the desk. If there are things you don't use after a few days...you probably don't need them. Image: Davidd.
9. Re-Evaluate Your Belongings
Whether you're starting from scratch or not, you need to evaluate what you actually need at your desk, and what can go. Clutter exists because our brain tricks us into thinking everything's important. As you go through your stuff, ask yourself: does this item have a purpose? Is it redundant our outdated? Are you keeping it because you need it, or because you might need it? Did you even remember it was there? From the answers to those questions, you should have a good idea of what to do with it -- even if you don't like the answer. Image: Johan Larsson.
8. Give Everything A "Flow"
Now that you've figured out what to keep, you need to decide where to keep it. Where you put things is just as important, since you want quick access to the things you use most often. Organise your desk drawers by importance -- the stuff you use most often goes in the closest drawer, everything else goes in drawers further away. If you use a lot of paper, give your desk a left-to-right workflow -- work comes in on the left, gets processed in the middle and goes out on the right. That way, your desk is clear for whatever's next. If your drawers start to look cluttered, an empty cereal box can make for a great impromptu organiser. Photo by AISPIX by Image Source (Shutterstock).
7. Tame Your Cables
Organising the mess of cables under (and on top of) your desk is a never-ending battle, but you can take it to the next level with some simple tricks. Rain gutters make surprisingly great cheap cable management tools, or you could buy something designed for managing cables like the Cablox. If all else fails, you can creatively display your cables when hiding them isn't an option.
6. Find Your Trouble Spots
It can be hard to look at your workspace objectively and identify how cluttered it is. If you take a few pictures of your office, though, you might be surprised at what you find -- from a different perspective, clutter will pop out at you in a way the real world doesn't always allow. If you can't find your clutter trouble spots, snap a few photos to find them. Image: jekert gwapo.
5. Enlarge Your Workspace
If you really have too much important stuff that won't fit on your desk, the next solution is -- obviously -- to enlarge your workspace (or at least add some extra storage). We've talked about this a few times before, and there are a few tricks you can use beyond getting a brand new desk. Think vertically to increase your storage space in a small room, raise up your monitor, and make use of the space under your desk. Use every inch of space you have to your advantage, and as long as its organised, you'll be better off than you are now.
4. Create Hidden Storage
When traditional shelves aren't your style, you have a few other options. Pegboard, for example, is an incredibly popular (and effective) way to hide cables, routers, and other devices on the back of your desk. You can also hide a lot of stuff on the back of your monitor, or use magnets to mount supplies to just about anything. Where there's a will, there's a way. Photo by Dylan Hanback.
3. Give Everything A Home
Everything that resides on your desk or in a drawer should have a "home" where it stays when your workspace is clean. If things don't have a home, your desk becomes a home for everything. If you're having trouble, use the breadbox test to keep things clean: if it's smaller than a breadbox, hide it away in a drawer or canister.
2. Reboot Your Office Every Evening
No matter how clean you keep your workspace, it's going to get messy during the day. That's OK -- that means you're working! It's when you keep it messy that things start to become a problem. To make sure this doesn't happen, clean off your desk every evening. All it takes is five or 10 minutes to straighten things up, and you'll come to a clean desk every morning, ready to work. Image: Jay Mattison.
1. Don't Go Overboard
While we all need some serious organisation time every once in a while, don't let it get excessive: you begin to waste as much time as you're trying to save. If something wasn't wasting your time in the first place, it probably doesn't need reorganization. Learn to recognise what's "good enough", and when it's time to stop organising and time to start getting things done. Perfection can be a huge detriment to productivity and you don't want to forget why you started organising in the first place.
Want some inspiration for your newly-cleaned workspace? Check out our Featured Workspace series here on Lifehacker Australia and see what others have done!