Not Your Average Detox: Workspace Edition


by Kristen Troy

Desks are the hub for work at home, school, and in the office. The desk can be a central part of an office or room so it can turn into a dumping ground for papers, notebooks, writing utensils, mail, etc. All the odds and ends that get dumped on your desk and workspace can cause unnecessary clutter and cause you to lose focus on the tasks at hand.  

Studies have shown that having a clean and organized workspace can improve productivity, happiness, creativity, motivation, and health.  

I try to keep a clean desk at home but after a week’s worth of mail, receipts, and other miscellaneous stuff, the surface of the desk can get buried before you know it! I would try to move the mess aside so I could sit at the desk to do some writing, go through the mail, work on my budget, or work on my computer. Trying to do anything at the desk seemed impossible – I couldn’t get comfortable and never felt like there was enough space for everything on the desk. I often ended up trying to work from the couch, which also didn’t last long because it was tough to focus for long periods. While I was trying to work from the couch, the stacks of miscellaneous papers and random debris scattered across the surface were screaming at me for attention, distracting me from what I needed to accomplish. So, I finally bit the bullet and decided to clean up my workspace. I used a 4-step approach to detox my workspace which I have listed below.  

Steps to Tackle Your Workspace Detox 

1. Empty all drawers and clear off the surface.

This will help you to see how much you have, as we can forget when it is all separated into dedicated spaces. Having your desk cleared off and cleaned out will also give you the chance to dust, disinfect, and wipe down the surfaces and drawers.  

2. Categorize items.

Look at the pile of everything you took off and out of your desk/work area and separate it into piles for; use daily, use occasionally, extra supplies, miscellaneous, and trash. 

3. Organize Items

Items used daily should go either on the surface or in top drawers, such as writing utensils, post-it notes, and a stress ball. Occasionally used items should be put lower, so they aren’t taking up prime real estate but are still accessible. Extra supplies can be stored together in an out-of-the-way area. Miscellaneous items should be examined to see if they are necessary for the work area. Ask yourself: Does this item help me to complete my work or does this item distract me? If your answer is that it is distracting, consider moving the item to a non-work location, donating it, or throwing it out. 

4. Sustainable Organization.

Find a way to organize the “junk” or papers that can accumulate on top of the desk and make it feel cluttered. For my clutter, I decided on a file organizer that can hang on the wall above my desk so I can keep additional “stuff” off my desk until I get a chance to look through it.  


Post Detox 

The days following my home workspace detox allowed me to organize mail and receipts with ease, easily work from my desk without distraction, and know where to find and put items away. This enabled me to be more productive in the tasks I had to accomplish and gave me peace of mind every time I looked over at my decluttered desk.  

The success at my home workstation was so impressive, so I decided to try a similar approach to my desk at work. I didn’t have as much to sort through, but I did have printouts, papers from projects I had finished, and old to-do lists that were taking up desktop and drawer space. Sorting through those papers and organizing my drawers helped to declutter my space and my mind.  

Decreased clutter helped me to find clarity and focus on my current tasks and made it easier for me to find print outs I need to complete current tasks. The clear desktop also made it easy to wipe down my desk surface frequently to keep it fresh and reduce my chance of sick days.  

Having a clean desk at home and work has given me a significant happiness boost. I don’t get as overwhelmed and stressed when I have to do work because I don’t have to constantly take the time to clean my workspace to start my work. If you find yourself struggling to tame the monstrous stacks of papers and other nonsense on in your work area, try applying this approach and reap the benefits of clear working space! 


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