Having a workspace that's organized and free of clutter can supercharge your day, giving you room to complete more tasks and freeing you from visual, stress-producing distractions. Maybe you've put off tackling the mess because you're somehow attached to what's in the room, are pressed for time or flat out don't want to make choices about your stuff. But whatever the reason, here's the way out.

1. Find out exactly what you use.

Jot down a list of everything you use for at least one to two weeks. At the end of the two weeks, you'll have a list of items that you actually use and likely should keep. Everything else, with the exception of occasionally used cables or files, is probably kept with a "just in case" mentality and is a candidate for digitalization or donation.

2. Put cleaning on your agenda.

Once cleaning is on your calendar, consider yourself committed to the job. Blocking off time also ensures that the cleaning effort isn't going to interfere with anything else, so you can feel less stressed about it and accept it as a priority.

3. Sort, move and donate.

Once you know what is earning its keep in your office, separate everything that stays in the office from the things you want to move (e.g., things you'll take home or that belong in a supply closet) or give away. Be ruthless, even with your catch-all drawer. Don't keep what doesn't support your work or make you genuinely happy to see. You should be able to identify the purpose for every single thing in your space, and there shouldn't be duplicates. If there are items you cannot donate, drop them off at your nearest recycling center. Consider these tips as you go:

  • Digitalize what you can. Pictures often can help you let go of even more physical goods, and items like business cards can go away once you add the people who provided them as LinkedIn contacts.
  • Items you got for free at seminars or conventions can't compete with awards or certificates of achievement.
  • All in one units (e.g., scanner-printer-fax, tape and post-it holder) can be major space savors.

4. Analyze options for rearranging.

After all your unnecessaries are out the door and you have a truer concept of what will be left in your space, look around your office and rethink your layout. Maybe there's a better way to configure yourself, especially if you make good use of wall space. Organization expert Peter Walsh suggests setting up zones for specific tasks to make your space as efficient as possible. Another good rule of thumb is that, the more you use something, the closer it should be to you. Lastly, consider how you want to come off to others in the room. More open layouts can give the impression of having earned more space and, therefore, power, for instance, and positioning a desk so it's not between you and clients can seem more inviting.

5. Buy supplies.

With your new configuration in mind, then go out and buy whatever bins, bags or other supplies you want to organize what you have. Functionality is your priority, but explore here. Fun colors and textures make a difference in your mood and ability to feel like you can express yourself. Don't forget about personal items like your jacket, and grab some basic, daily disinfecting supplies, too. Don't forget to label! Ideally, only essentials like two or three pens, a notebook and your laptop deserve coveted desk space.

6. Clean.

Wipe down all surfaces, get at your keyboard with canned air, Febreeze your seat cushions--you get the picture.

7. Put items away.

With your supplies now ready and your space sanitary, put everything where you want it to go. Commit to always putting those items back in their "homes" once you are finished using them. You'll always be able to find what you need this way, and you won't accidentally buy a replacement for something you already have.

8. Complete finishing touches.

This includes tasks like streamlining computer desktop icons, but you also can consider options like buying yourself a small bouquet, inspirational plaque or painting to bring some cheer into your space.

Hooray! Your space is clean and usable again! Buuuuut you have to keep it that way. Once a week, go through your office and get rid of accumulating junk. Don't eat at your desk or accept freebies, and don't let yourself buy more shelves or containers to hold more stuff. Adopt the "deal with it once" mentality, too. Each day before you leave, look back, ask yourself if you'd be proud to bring a client into the space and remove anything that would make you look unprofessional. Rinse, repeat and enjoy.

Published on: May 23, 2017