The Official Day to Clean Off Your Desk: 7 Steps to Get Organized

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There seems to be a “national day” for almost everything, from celebrating rubber duckies and bittersweet chocolate to advocating for awareness of the Heimlich maneuver. (Yes, there’s a National Heimlich Maneuver Day folks.)

Today just happens to be National Clean Off Your Desk Day, and as frivolously ridiculous as it might sound to some, a tidy workspace can do wonders for productivity and peace of mind. A recent survey by Office Max found that 90% of Americans admit that unorganized clutter at home or at work has a negative impact on their life and said their productivity (77%), state of mind (65%), motivation (53%) and happiness (40%) are affected when there is disorder.

There has also been correlations noted between office disorganization and possibility of promotion, with organization expert Peter Walsh adding, “If you have a cluttered office, you risk being seen as inefficient or not on top of your work. [Disorganization] suggests a degree of incompetence that clouds your abilities. You run the risk of jeopardizing your chance of a promotion.”

Try out these steps (that I’ve actually decided to take on myself), to declutter your workspace and gain more piece of mind:

1. If the emails are more than 30 days old, get rid of them. Digital workspace is often a large part of the physical. My inbox can have thousands of emails in it at a time, which is definitely not ideal since eventually the inbox fills, and I can’t receive new mail. Take the time to get rid of emails that are old, or archive them (by sending them to another host that has more space, ie. Gmail.) You can also change your email settings to get rid of mail from spammers or those newsletters and party updates you never really read anyway.

2. Go paperless. This may seem a bit scary, especially if you’re like me and you’ve worked in a business environment that included less reliance on emails and virtual meetings and more on actual file folders and paper. However, many of the everyday products you handle can be kept electronic, from invoices to magazines, so try to figure out what you really need to have via snail mail and what can truly be digital only. Tools, apps and resources like NeatConnect, QuickBooks, TaskRabbit, Evernote, and Dropbox make going paperless so easy.

3. If it’s been sitting on your desk for more than 2 weeks and has no real, practical use, get rid of it. I’m talking about that old, dusty mug, those books you never read, and that old file tray that never has files in it. Donate or recycle those useless items. You should treat your desk as you’d treat your refridgerator. You wouldn’t keep—or eat—expired or old food, right? So why keep items on your desk that you hardly have use for or that serve no practical role in making your day more productive?

4. If the decor doesn’t fit, you must chuck it. Excuse my bad Johnnie Cochran reference, but if you’re like me, you love a good inspirational quote, knicknack or Christmas card to add pizzaz (and a pick-me-up) to your day. Well sometimes, these sticky notes and keepsakes can cause more clutter than cleansing to the mind. How about scanning photos and cards and making them one big, framed image to put in your space? You can take the rest of the keepsakes home and find ways to incorporate them there. Limit your extra items—whether they’re for decoration or inspiration—to the main two or three that really put a smile on your face.

5. Invest in chic organizing gear. Invest in a few lucite paper trays and accessories. The clear look will give the illusion of more space and less clutter. Get a chic cork board to pin up reminders or keepsake. Add stackable storage bins that could be both decor-friendly and useful for the things you just can’t throw out. Find items that have a multipurpose use, like this desk organizer.

6. Follow DIY blogs and organization resources on Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook. I always find savvy DIY ideas for storage and organization via social media. Companies like General Electric and Lowes provide tips on how to declutter your workspace, and Twitter accounts like @ClutterAway2 provide daily advice on making your life that much more organized. Blogs like IKEA Hackers give great tips on adding organization to your workspace as well.

7. Get help. I actually hate throwing way receipts and keepsakes thinking someday I may want to reference them or dig them up for some unknown reason. If you’re truly a hoarder and find it hard to throw away or donate things that are piling up in your office, find a friend, family member or coworker who can help you filter through everything. There are also professional organization services that can do the work for you.

If you think you may have a more serious issue, such as compulsive hoarding, there resources available to help with that as well.

How have you decluttered your workspace? Share your stories below or #Soundoff and follow me on Twitter @JPHazelwood.

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