Tidy desk with dual computer monitors

3 Steps to Organizing Your Cluttered Work Space

by Morgan Milbradt, on January 25, 2017
It’s that time of year… You’ve got all kinds of New Year’s resolutions. Maybe you’ve started eating healthier, exercising or learning a new skill. But what about your desk? That’s right, I said your desk. 

It could probably use some love and attention in the New Year too. Whether you’re in a cube or a c-suite, you want to make sure your desk accurately represents the professional work you do.

Did You Know?
  • The average office employee spends 1.5 hours a day (6 weeks per year) looking for things they can’t find. -Organized Worldwide
  • 80% of the papers we file, we never refer to again. -The Small Business Administration
  • 27% of workers polled said they feel disorganized at work and of those, 91% said they would be more effective and efficient if their workspace was better organized. 28% said they would save over an hour per day and 27 % said they would save 31 to 60 minutes each day. -NAPO

Which brings me to the 3 steps to organizing your cluttered work space:

1. Make the Time
How many times have you said to yourself or someone else, “Ah, I know my desk needs to be cleaned but I just never have time to get around to it!” The truth is, no matter what task it is – working out, organizing the garage, cleaning your desk – you always have the time if you MAKE the time. Now that 2017 is here, stop tricking yourself into thinking you don’t have time to complete a task.

Best Practices: Take an hour or so out of your Friday afternoon (probably the least productive time of the week and tackle that sucker. Now, if you’ve been at your desk/office and have been neglecting cleaning for quite some time (maybe even a few years), I suggest scheduling a good hour each Friday afternoon for one month. Split the four Fridays into tackling a different area. For example, the first Friday you might go through all of your drawers and folders and file, archive and purge (see step #2). The second Friday you would tackle the cleaning, and the third Friday you’d dig out the Clorox wipes and clean off those coffee rings that are stained into your desktop. The point is, don’t let it overwhelm you. Break it down into parts and tackle it bit by bit.

2. File, Archive and Purge
The best way to organize anything in your life is to come up with a system. My favorite is the “file, archive and purge” method. Hey, it’s better than the “Let’s let this stuff build up until I’m officially drowning in it” method, right? If you have a habit of keeping stuff, that’s okay. Just make sure that it is 1. Serving a purpose, or 2. Stored in the proper method/place.

Best Practices: Take all your files and stuff, and sort them into one of the following groups:
  1. FILE: This is something I use all the time, or am currently working on, or currently need. These should not be old items that you use, as those will go in with the archives. Put all similar items into separate piles to “FILE.” Make different folders for everything: Each person you manager, each committee you’re on, each project you’re working on, and file your documents accordingly. If you find yourself with a million folders, buy yourself a filing cabinet or some of those stand up desk filers so you can easily find what you’re looking for (without having to look through a large stack.)
  2. ARCHIVE: Once you’ve gone through all of your documents, you should have a stack of things that you’d like to keep for future reference, but do not necessarily need to be in your immediate go-to files. These are the things you need to ARCHIVE. Whether is a binder, a folder, or a box (whatever you need to store it in), store your archives neatly away from your immediate stuff. Easy enough to find when you need them, but not clogging up the top of your desk.
  3. PURGE: Now, while you’re going through all of these things, you’ll more than likely come across a piece of paper, or a note, or a trinket that you’ve never used, haven’t looked at in 8 years, or is simply junk. TOSS IT. I mean let that puppy go. If it’s not serving you now (and hasn’t served a purpose in the last couple of years) don’t feel bad about trashing it. If you have a hard time letting things go, ARCHIVE IT. Either way, get it out of your immediate surroundings!
3. Dig Out the Clorox Wipes
Now for the fun part. All of your files and junk have either been organized and filed, stowed away and archived, or tossed out. All of your photos are neatly organized, and you’re feeling like you can breathe again. Now its time to do some disinfecting. When you start to think about it, your desk might look clean – but it is actually quite dirty. Think of how many germs are on your phone or your keyboard and mouse (Eew, I’m touching mine right now as I type!). Think of all of the food and dust particles floating around. All of these dirty surfaces could cause you, or another co-worker, to get very sick. 

Best Practices: Dig out some disinfecting cleaner and give your office a good cleaning. Door handles, computer monitors, etc., it never hurts to clean them off.

I’ve always been one to stay organized, and believe me – people notice. Think of your desk and office like you think of your house before you have guests over: You like everything to look neat and tidy, right? Just like your house, you never know who might be popping in to say hello: a co-worker, the president of your company, a client, or a prospect!
Morgan Milbradt

Morgan Milbradt grew up on a farm in the cornfields of Minnesota, and has called Pensacola, Fla., her home since 2013. She graduated from Minnesota State University - Mankato in 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in mass media along with minors in communication studies and marketing. She currently serves as the Sales and Social Media Specialist at LandrumHR. Morgan prides herself on her creative marketing brain, eye for design and organizational skills. Her professional interests include employee development, leadership, millennials in the workplace and workplace innovation. She was most recently named one of InWeekly's 2017 Rising Stars. When she’s not at work, you can find Morgan at the beach or lounging on the couch watching movies with her three favorite beings: Her boyfriend, Noah, and her two rescue cats, Luna and Grace.

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