Less Mess Less Stress: Decluttering Your Crazy Cubicle
> A clutter-free, clean workspace boosts productivity
Where is that damn Post-It note?!
It was the one with the diagram from Chaz.
It was only about an hour ago when we stuck it on that Powerpoint print out document. And, where the hell is that print out of that Powerpoint document anyway?
We dig through piles of stacked papers in and around the desk.
With each stack we flip through, our hope of finding that important Post-It note fades.
Dammit, maybe it fell on the floor.
Like a search helicopter, we scan the sea of grey carpet tiles for that yellow lifeboat rectangle.
Now, irrationality takes over.
Maybe, it flew off and somehow got stuck *under* the chair or dropped in that crack behind the file cabinet and the cubicle partition.
So, now we’re on our hands and knees peering into the dark underworlds of our workspace with our smartphone flashlight.
We scribbled a diagram on that Post-It note for future reference so we wouldn’t forget. But now, we can’t even find it.
Ugh, we'll get back to this lost Post-It note issue later.
The point we're trying to make here is that this is the stress of messy cubicles.
Cluttered cubicles are rampant in office workspaces. If you find yourself moving around thirty thousand pens, a few moldy sandwiches, hundreds of Excel sheets and a kitten to get to this morning’s meeting notes...you have a cubicle clutter problem.
We’re here help.
Ok. So, we won’t be rolling up our sleeves to sort through every note you’ve written from the last decade of meetings. But, we do have some great tips to help whip your cubicle into a clutter-free space organizational dreams are made of.
Plus, we’ll share the massive benefits that come with decluttering; for your health and your career.
Benefits Of A Beautifully Clutter-free, Organized Desk
Small inefficiencies add up to big time wasters. Hunting around for documents because you PILE instead of FILE not only wastes time but it can also cause stress too.
Even if you only spend 15 minutes a day looking for stuff, that's 75 minutes looking for documents/files over a 5 day working week. That's over 60 hours a year.
And if you're the cluttered type, you’re probably spending time hunting for things on your vacation time too - are we right?
What else could you be doing at work if you weren't spending 60 hours a year looking for stuff?
Your Career Will Benefit
The state of your desk says a lot more about you than you think. Piles of clutter may be a liability that’s killing your career. This isn’t your bedroom at home. At work, your messy desk is on display for everyone to see and can really undermine your workplace cred.
No matter how “creatively disorganized” you claim to be, a lot of co-workers are probably passing judgement that your messy desk is a sign of your working style: frazzled, disorganized and generally, outta control.
This survey by staffing firm Adecco showed a majority of Americans admit they judge co-workers by how clean or dirty they keep their workspaces. Maybe, you don’t give a rat’s ass about what your co-workers think, but what about your boss?
A beautifully clear, organized desk will show everyone how on top of your game, cool, calm and collected you are. Unlike Rich in accounting who is actually burying himself under his mountain of files and dirty coffee cups.
Lowers Stress Levels
Mess equals stress.
Spending 8 hours or more a day surrounded by clutter isn’t good for your mental health. Maybe you don’t realize it, but just the sight of your messy desk first thing every morning can make you feel anxious, stressed and overwhelmed - and you haven’t even turned on your PC yet.
When you’re surrounded by clutter, there’s always the thought in the back of your mind “What’s buried in here? What have I forgotten to do?”
As this mental tension continues throughout the day, it leads to low energy and a negative mood. Not a winning combination for the office environment. Dedicating a little more effort to keep your space organized and clutter-free will pay off big time when it comes to your well-being.
6 Steps To Declutter, Organize And Personalize Your Cubicle
Have we convinced you to get onboard with a clutter-free cubicle?
Here’s how to take your cubicle space from clutter den to organized zen in 6 simple steps.
Step 1: Figure Out What You Actually Use
Spend a little time figuring out the items you use on a daily or weekly basis so you can best plan your decluttering and organizing approach. It’s worthwhile to jot down notes over the course of a week to really keep track of the most frequently used items.
* * * FREE BONUS PDF * * *
We’ve created this simple PDF file here to help you discover what items you use most over the course of a week. Just jot down the item in the left-hand column and check-off the frequency of use in the right-hand columns. Review when the week is done.
Step 2: Divide Your Space
Depending on the state of clutter you’ve got going on, it may take a few sessions to work over your entire desk space.
Instead of just randomly sorting through everything, divide your workspace into areas and allocate time to work on each section.
> Desk drawers
> Filing cabinet
> Storage space / shelves above the desk
> Underneath the desk - Yep, we know all kinds of shiz gets shoved under there!
Trying to tackle your entire mess in one shot is not a good idea. It’s a scatterbrained approach that will only make you feel worse.
Divide and conquer is the way to go. It’ll keep you focused in one area until it’s sorted and allow you to break the clean up into several mini sessions.
Each time you complete one small section, it’s like a small reward. Give yourself a mental high-five!
Step 3: Sort And Purge
Now, it’s time to get your declutter on. Grab a snack (decluttering can be hungry work!) and get cracking on the first area in your cubicle you’ve chosen to work on.
Make sorting and purging easier by using 4 plastic containers or boxes:
> Container 1: Trash. Anything you want to throw out goes here.
> Container 2: Recycling. Any items that your office can recycle, dump it here.
> Container 3: Keep. Anything that you’d like to keep in your cubicle space.
> Container 4: Redistribute. Stuff that can be used elsewhere in the office or donated to someone.
Once you’ve finished, trash the garbage, recycle what you can and then, redistribute any unwanted items and return the things you want to keep to your desk.
Don’t get too caught up in organizing the items you’ve kept at this point. We’ll get to organizing in step 5.
Step 4: Remove Everything And Deep Clean
When you’ve completed all the decluttering areas of your desk and cubicle, the only items you should have left are the ones you’ve decided to keep. This process may take you a day or a week, doing a little at a time.
It’s now time to remove all remaining items and give your desk a deep clean.
For those that use a desktop keyboard, you can really gross yourself out by flipping it upside down and blowing some compressed air into the keyboard.
All sorts of nasty little bits will fall out - food crumbs, hairs, dead rats, you name it, there’s all sorts of yucky stuff that gets lodged in there.
A thorough clean will give you a sparkling new space to start getting your freshly decluttered cubicle organized.
So, bring in some sanitizing wipes or a small bottle of spray disinfectant. Grab some paper towels from the lunchroom and start spraying and wiping things down.
Step 5: Replace And Organize Items
Organize your desk in a way that works for you practically and ergonomically.
Here are a couple of hacks to simplify the process:
> Keep nothing on top of your desk that you don’t use every day. This is a good time to refer back to your list of what items you use the most.
> Tie or clip rowdy cables together. You keep your hair in order, right? Do the same for your cables. They’ll look a lot neater.
> Keep a notepad just for voice messages by your phone. Because you know that Rich always leaves you a follow-up voice-mail to his follow-up email.
> Give your PC desktop a declutter too. Organize or delete those hundreds of folders or files sitting on your desktop and set a peaceful or inspiring screensaver image.
> Get a junk jar. It’s inevitable that little bits and pieces will make their way onto your desk; coins, bands, batteries etc. Designate a junk jar to pop them in and sort out weekly.
> Make the most of wall space. Add a cork or whiteboard to your cubicle walls to pin important notes and write to-do lists.
> Have a desk Inbox. A physical inbox on your desk will help keep track of daily paper accumulation and your workmates will know where to drop a document if you’re away (even though most will still put papers on your damn chair or keyboard).
> Choose your favorite pens and put the rest away. Sure, pens make it to the ‘everyday’ list but it doesn’t mean you need a million of them on your desk. Choose your favs, pop them in a pen jar and pitch the rest.
> Set up a charging station. Keep your devices in check and designate a specific area where they can be charged, or just hang out, when not in use.
> Everything must have a home. This is Decluttering 101. Whatever it is, if you’ve decided it stays, you must make a home for it. More importantly, you need to return the item to it’s home after each use.
> Store like with like. Grouping similar items together; books, stationery, files etc, is a smart way to store and place your office items.
Step 6: Add A Bright, Personal Finishing Touch
This is the fun part! Now you’ve got an amazingly clean, organized cubicle, it’s time to add some personality and pops of color.
We know how dreary cubicle living can get. Let’s bust out some style and brighten up those grey walls!
There’s something inspiring about working in a beautiful, comfortable space.
> Designate a shelf just for decor. This is the spot for special photos and decorative pieces; they won’t get mixed in with your office items.
> A plant or bunch of flowers. These will freshen up any cubicle and have been shown to lower stress levels!
> Hang a framed quote. Reading something inspirational or funny can be a little pick me up on the days when a deadline is due and you're stressin’ out.
> Add a mirror. This opens up a small office space. Bonus: place it in a way you’ll be able to see any coworkers approaching your desk. You’ll have enough time to close down Instagram.
> Change your browsing screensaver. If you use Chrome as your internet browser, try adding Momentum. It will make your browser a personalized piece of art and deliver an inspiring quote every day.
For more ideas on how to create a happier cubicle, check out this video for workspace makeover tips.
VIDEO: Cubicle Makeover
> Before decorating, get everything off your desk and clean
> Adding color and patterns for a happy cubicle
> Light is the most important addition you can make to your desk
> Bring personal touches from home
Quick Tips For Creating A Filing System
No matter your paperless office goals, the reality is you’re likely to still deal with paper of some kind like invoices, receipts, report printouts etc. Here are our quick and dirty tips for getting a simple filing system sorted.
Step 1: Figure Out Where You Instinctively Look For Things
Take a couple of minutes to sit at your desk and reach around for your office stationery and files to see where you instinctively look for them. It may be that you have a bunch of space in your drawer for hanging files, but naturally, you always reach to the folders on your desk next to the phone.
Step 2: Decide On A Type Of Filing System
Look at what type of papers you’re filing. This will help you decide whether a numerical, alphabetical or subject filing system will work best. You may decide on a combination of all 3, but try and keep things as simple as possible. It’s important to cover this step before you go splashing the office cash (or your own!) on fancy files.
Step 3: Do You Need Extra Storage?
You’ve got a bunch of spare space under your desk but is it really the best spot to put your boxes of files? If you need to access documents frequently, consider a standalone filing cabinet or extra shelving.
Step 4: Purchase Folders And Label Clearly
Time to purchase your new folders, or recycle old ones, and get your labeling game on! Clarity when labeling your files will save you time in the long run. Take the time to create professional looking labels with a label machine.
Tips For Maintaining A Clutter-Free Desk
Congrats! You’ve done the hard work and decluttered like a champion.
Now the challenge is not to let your desk slide back into the grips of clutter, decade old paperwork and forgotten coffee cups. Make a commitment to keep up your decluttering efforts with a few maintenance hacks.
Put cleaning on the weekly agenda
Setting aside time once a year to clean your cubicle isn’t going to cut it. Instead, spend 10 minutes a week getting rid of trash, filing recent paperwork and returning anything that doesn’t belong on the desk. Get into the habit of doing this on the same day every week.
Stick to the designated areas
A big part of winning the war on clutter, whether it’s your office cubicle or at home, is returning things to the same place. Most clutter is caused by failing to put things back where they belong. If you decided to keep your important files on the left shelf above your desk, don’t go stuffing them back into a drawer after you’ve used them.
Storage isn’t about keeping as much as possible. It’s about knowing where to find what you need quickly. This only works when you always put shit back to the same place.
Tackle paperwork filing daily
Keeping paperwork organized can seriously test your sanity. We get it. Make things easier by spending a few minutes to file or ditch any rouge papers at the end of each day.
Tidy your desk every afternoon before clocking off
One of the simplest ways to get your workday started right (aside from a bucket-sized latte) is arriving to a clear desk. We know disorganization leads to rising workplace stress but the good news is you’ve got total control over how your desk looks. Unlike your boss’s mood.
Before leaving work, spend 5 minutes putting items back where they belong, removing trash and setting a fresh note page up for the next day. So simple and it will do wonders to get the following morning started right.
Make this a habit by trying a 30 day desk decluttering challenge.
VIDEO: Clean Desk - Declutter your desk
> End the day with a tidy desk for a fresh clean start the next day
> More organization = less wasted time
> More time for fun things
Keep a trash can close by
It’s a no-brainer but having a trash can close means garbage never even gets the chance to hit the desk longer than a minute! Never leave stuff that can be thrown out immediately on the desk.
Oh and talking about stuff on the desk, we finally did find that critical Post-It note. It was on the backside of the presentation print out. Our mini-crisis is now over - phew.
It’s from Chaz Hutton. He's one of our most fav work BFFs. You can find more of his Post-It note life tips on his Instagram channel here.
Anyway, we hope you’re feeling inspired to declutter and organize your cubicle! It can literally change your entire workday.
> Lower stress levels and anxiety
> Improve focus and productivity
> Make you super competent to your boss and colleagues (cue my desk is sooo freakin clean swagger through the office)
> Bring some happiness and personality to your workspace
So, go forth and slay your cubicle chaos into oblivion. We’ll be right next to you doing the same thing.