Step by step how to declutter your desk for a more productive day

March 10, 2021 1:45 pm Published by tidy desk space

Why you should declutter your desk

Are you wondering if you should bother to declutter your desk at all? Why is it important?

Well, clutter, particularly visible clutter is mentally and emotionally draining. Unsurprisingly, scientists at UCLA have found a link between cluttered homes and stress. Clutter contributes to anxiety and confusion. It makes it difficult to find what you need quickly. In addition to this, a cluttered workspace will make your eyes (and brain) more tired, leading to less productivity.

Many people struggle to keep their work space clutter free. Mail, reports and post-it notes tend to build up. Empty coffee cups accumulate and it becomes increasingly difficult to reach your keyboard or locate important papers.

messy desk

When you choose to declutter your workspace, you should aim not only to clean and tidy, but to also declutter and create a system that will prevent this kind of mess from building up in the future.

How to declutter your desk, step-by-step

  1. Get prepared. You will need bin bags, recycling containers and a shredder. It also helps to have small boxes that you can use to create compartments within your desk drawers. If you know you will need to keep certain papers, a small filing cabinet might also be worth investing in. However, you should aim to go as paper-free as possible.
  2. Clear your desk completely. Take everything off and out of it.
  3. Give the desk a good clean while it is empty, both inside and out.
  4. Start to go through what you removed in step 2. Throw away or recycle as much as possible. Test pens and sharpen pencils before returning them to your desk. Ask yourself, do you actually need 803 pens? Perhaps some could be donated to a local school?
  5. Can you go paper-free? Do you need to keep hard copies of documents if you already have (or could have) them stored digitally? Shred and recycle as much paperwork as possible.
  6. Take steps and commit to staying paper-free. Sign up for online billing. Make use of secure document storage. Use an online expenses system with photos of receipts so that you don’t have to keep them. Scan old documents that you don’t already have a soft copy of, but do need to keep.
    Not only do digital documents take up zero physical space, they are also MUCH easier to search and locate quickly. They can also be accessed remotely.
  7. Think about what you really use in your day to day work and choose to keep ONLY those items. Be ruthless!
  8. Decide where you will keep the few remaining items. Aim for a completely clear desktop (aside from your computer/laptop). Give anything else a home inside your desk. Use small boxes to create compartments inside your desk drawers and keep everything organised. Place those items that you use the most (your notebook and pen for example) at the front of your top drawer, so that you can access them easily.

organised desk

What to add and what to avoid?

A plant is the perfect addition to a workspace. Plants (even artificial ones) have been proven to have a positive effect on wellbeing and are able to instantly boost mental health. Another idea might be a bold print with an inspiring quote or bright image. Choose colours that you find invigorating and energising (red, pink, orange, sunshine yellow or even neon brights are all great choices for office prints). Good lighting is crucial here too, so if your office space is gloomy, consider adding a smart desk lamp.

home office artwork

Avoid anything that will add clutter to your workspace or make it look messy. So, if you know you’re likely to kill a pot plant through neglect and be faced with brown leaves and drooping stems, invest in a high-quality artificial one instead. If you usually have to clear a multitude of post-its at the end of each day, try to use a day book instead, keeping your notes and to-do lists in one place.

The idea here is to boost your mood and inspire you. Open shelving, while practical, can start to look messy and distracting very quickly, so avoid that above your desk.

declutter your desk

How to keep your desk clutter-free

A clear desk policy is best in order to avoid having to completely declutter your desk in future. Imagine that you work in a hot-desking environment where you work from a different desk each day. This means leaving your desk completely empty and storing any important documents digitally at the end of every day. If you really need physical papers, stationery etc. these should take up no more space than one drawer. Like any habit, it’s difficult at first to clear your desk every night, but you will quickly be rewarded with the benefits of an efficient and practical workspace which allows you to better focus, be more productive and is a pleasure to work in.

declutter your desk for a more productive day

More decluttering articles

  1. Find out how decluttering can make you happier and healthier (plus 10 tips for decluttering)
  2. Learn how to conquer your crazy wardrobe clutter
  3. Discover the benefits of decluttering before you move to a new home

Finally, discover more tips, trends and inspiration for interiors here.