Clean Desk

Declutter your work space

Is a cluttered desk the sign of a genius at work…or a signal of an overdue clean up?

Well, it depends on who you ask. Albert Einstein once famously said, “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?”

While the desks of Einstein and and other innovators, like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg, suggest that clutter and creativity go hand in hand, it is still worth having a conversation about the benefits of an organized and clean workspace. There’s lots of research out there to show that a clean work space will help your productivity, helps to keep stress levels down, encourages you to be more generous and even supports healthier eating habits. Plus, given today’s typical open office environment, a clean desk is likely appreciated by your fellow co-working neighbour.

If any of the below scenarios ring true for you – consider taking action with each tip that follows. 

Paper piles everywhere

Despite having bought into the digital years ago, there are still documents that you prefer to print out, mark up, and file away. The problem is that you’re so busy running from meeting to meeting that there’s less filing and more piling.

Start by tackling the current mountain of paper on your desk immediately. Bring the papers over to your office supply room where you presumably have a recycling bin, a shredder, and a scanner. Assess each piece accordingly and resist bringing anything back to your desk that doesn’t absolutely need to live in hard copy format.

Follow these tips to stop paper piles from happening again in the future:

  1. Think before you print. If you can accomplish what you need with a digital version, don’t print it out.
  2. For documents that you’ve marked up – scan them and save the digital version. Recycle the original.
  3. Label file folders with categories of information that require hard copies. When a document doesn’t fall into any of those categories – recycle, shred or scan right away.

The dishes are piling up…on your desk

There are only so many common utensils and mugs to go around from the company kitchen. And if there isn’t enough for everyone, you may be subject to cranky or hangry colleagues. Watch out!

Follow the rule of two. Do a quick count of what’s on your desk. If there’s more than two of the same item,it’s time to move those dishes to the sink (or dishwasher). This rules applies when you return home as well. If you’re noticing that your cabinets contain less than two items from your previous set of four, it may be time to bring your collection of dirty dishes home.

Your bottom drawer is home to a growing shoe collection

It started off innocently. You brought heels to change into from the shoes you biked to work in. You brought flats to change into from your rain boots.

There are no tricks here. When you find your previously large shoe collection is starting to dwindle at home, check the bottom drawer of your filing cabinet, pack those shoes up, and bring them home pronto. If it’s the rainy season, carry an extra plastic bag with you to keep your bag from getting dirty on the return trip.

Your desk tells your life story

Somewhere underneath the thank you cards, event or sports paraphernalia, photos of your family, and handcream – there’s a generic desk. It’s one thing to add some personal touches to your work space and another thing to make it into your second bedroom.

Give your colleagues a chance to discover who you are through conversation rather than through your clutter. Select 1-2 items that make your desk feel like home, and leave the rest…at home. For example, pick one photo frame and a plant that will help you feel positive on the days where you need some extra support.   

We all have different thresholds for what we feel is messy, but in an office environment it’s generally safer to veer towards the less is more principle. If any of the above scenarios apply to you, or if you have a growing collection of plastic bottles, electrical cords, or other desktop favorites – consider whether you’re driving innovation at the same level as Einstein or Jobs. And, if it turns out that your clutter isn’t a sign of your creative output  – now you’ll know what to do.

Do you have any tips to share on keeping your office space clean? Please share them below.


 Renee Janzen is the Marketing Manager for 1-800-GOT-JUNK?. Fueled by a passion for people, creativity and productivity, she is a marketer by trade, event planner by nature, and excitable traveler and photographer on the weekends. Connect with Renee on Twitter.

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