Does your desk greet you every day with piles of clutter and toppling mountains of papers? Are you overwhelmed at the thought of digging into those piles? Maybe National Clean off Your Desk Day, which is the second Monday of January each year, will inspire you to muster up some courage and turn those piles into smiles. Even if your “desk” is your kitchen counter or dining room table, here are some tips that can help you fearlessly tackle the mess (keep in mind that there’s no right or wrong way set up your desk space so adjust these ideas in whatever fashion works for you)
- Gather some boxes – four banker’s boxes or boxes from printer paper will give you a good start.
- Label the boxes as follows: Papers to Go through, Supplies, Decorations and Things That Go Elsewhere. You may discover the need for more boxes and/or other labels as you work.
- Take everything off your desk, sorting each item into the appropriate box as you do so. Don’t worry about making decisions on where to keep anything yet – you just want to do a rough sort to get you over the hurdle of getting started. If your papers are already in piles that are somewhat meaningful (e.g., Financial, Medical, etc.) feel free to use a separate box to keep each of those categories intact. Do the same thing for your desk drawers.
- Wipe off the dust bunnies, clean your computer monitor, and consider how refreshing it would be if your desk was this clean at the end of every day.
- Go through the Supplies box and pull out what you use every day – maybe it’s the stapler, some pens and pencils, or a notepad. Find a spot on your desk for those items. Go through the remaining items in the box, purging what you don’t need, putting items you’ll use at your desk in the drawers, and putting everything else in the “Things That Go Elsewhere” box.
- Set aside time each day or week to tackle the Papers to Go Through box. Don’t worry about how much is in the box, just address one paper at a time, determining what it is, if you need it, and where to put it. See my prior blog post on organizing paperwork to help you with this step.
- Go through the Decorations box, pulling out only special items that are essential to having in your work area – it’s important that your desk space is inviting and attractive, but too many personal items can simply serve as distractions.
- Create a space for current projects – my preference is a step file that keeps everything vertical and visible.
- Identify and purchase containers you may need – a pencil cup, a step file, an inbox, etc.
- Put away the items in the Things That Go Elsewhere box.
- Clean off your desk at the end of each day, even if you’re in a hurry. A clean workspace will encourage you to be productive, while a cluttered desk will have you feeling defeated before you even start working. The picture here is my desk – I’ll admit it isn’t this clean every day, but it is on most.
Wishing you simplicity, harmony and freedom,