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Zen guide to decluttering your workspace

Are you the master / mistress of a messy desk?

Do you find you occasionally look around your workspace and see papers you no longer need, books that haven’t been read for years, or coffee cups that are a few days old?

If so you could be damaging your brains processing power, your productivity and even your health.

Crikey – I know that sounds a bit dramatic, but here’s a bunch of evidence on why you should clear up your office. Today.

Reason 1: Researchers at Princeton university’s Neuroscience institute discover that when your environment is cluttered:

the chaos restricts your ability to focus. The clutter also limits your brains ability to process information

Basically it’s emotional sabotage. For every item of clutter that you have you hold an emotional attachment, however minor. Whether it’s ‘I need to throw that out’, ‘I need to give that to John’, ‘I might need it if I ever do X again’ or whatever else, you are clinging on to something in your brain, that is clogging up your ability to think freely and without distraction.

Reason 2: You can breathe easier –  clutter and junk gather dust, and dust isn’t healthy. According to the Environmental Science & Technology journal, dust can contain nasty stuff like arsenic, human skin, decomposing insects, fecal matter (!!!) and dust mites. Gross.

Reason 3: If you want to become more healthy it helps too. Researchers at the University of Minnesota conducted a series of experiments, the results of which were published online in Sept 2013 in Psychological Science. In one of the experiments, they randomly assigned a group of college-age students to spend time in adjacent office spaces, one of which was exquisitely neat, the other wildly cluttered with papers and other work-related detritus. The students spent their time filling out questionnaires unrelated to the study. After 10 minutes, they were told they could leave and were offered an apple or a chocolate bar as they exited. Those students who sat in the orderly office were twice as likely to choose the apple than those who sat amid the mess.

So – how to do it and where to start? Try these…


Tidy your cables

In corporate and home offices these can be the bane of ones existence. Desk phones, monitors, keyboards, mice, laptops, mobile phone chargers, headphones, LAN cables. Cables. Everywhere. But spend a few minutes to make these less intrusive and suddenly the world seems a better place.


Go wireless

You can pick up a wireless mouse for around £10, or combined wireless keyboard and mouse set for around £19. An incredibly worthwhile investment.

Print less

These days the need to print has reduced significantly due to the portability of our devices. You have emails, presentations and documents on your phone, tablet or laptop whenever you need them, which should mean less trips to the printer.

Shrink your notebook

A4 notebooks are soooo last year. Go get yourself an A5 one. Easier to carry, easier to store, easier to find your notes in, and so, so cute.

Go digital

There’s a bunch of free online productivity tools / apps that are so much easier to manage than post it notes, and to-do lists that span over 3 pages in different sections of your notebook. My favourites are Wunderlist and Evernote.

Organise your stationary

Get rid of the loose pens and post it notes scattered around your desk. Invest in a ‘really useful box’, to keep it all in one place and have your own one stop shop for all your stationary needs. I have my project managers tool kit (more about that in a future post) in a small one that’s kept in a drawer, so I always know where it is and it’s easy to carry around.


Bin your trash

Used tissues, empty coffee cups and lunch containers, screwed up paper and post it notes. Don’t wait till the end of the day/week, tidy as you go. Bin them as soon as you can. If that means moving the bin closer to your desk, or getting your own bin then do that too.


Stand Up

Get up out the chair (sitting is the new smoking after all) and change the physical dynamic of your workspace. Having a standing desk creates 2 levels of working space so you can element waste and clutter on the one your are using by moving it to the other.

Go large

If you really do need all those books, notepads, stationary and general ‘stuff’, you could also increase the size of your work space. Get some more shelves, use a second pedestal, buy a bigger desk. Do what you can to organise your ‘stuff’ and keep it tidy.


This is ridiculously easy, and one where very little effort can reap big rewards. Quick wins and quick gains – what’s not to love!

Do it. Tell people about it. Enjoy it.

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