Career Testing
Career Testing
Career Testing
WORKPLACE / MAY. 14, 2014
version 4, draft 4

How to Maintain a Clean and Tidy Desk

There are two schools of thought on the state of cleanliness of your desk. Some say cleanliness is next to godliness and that a clean and organized desk promotes higher work efficiency. Others say that a disorganised workspace is a sign of creativity at work. I tend to fall somewhere in between the two extremes. I have a system for keeping my workspace clean and tidy. However, every now and then, disorganisation occurs and I need purge the work area. Check out the following tips on how to maintain a clean and tidy desk.

Step 1: Purge the Workspace Area

A clean and tidy desk doesn’t just happen. It takes work and organisation to keep it clean. Start with a purge. Check all the draws and compartments in your desk. Throw away any pens that don’t work. Get rid of any needless clutter. Make three piles on your desk during the purging process—keep, throw away and not sure. Put every item into one of the three piles. When the purge is completed, toss everything in the throw away pile. Place the keep pile to the side for further organization. Then focus on the not sure pile so that you can review it a second time and either throw things away or keep items.

Step 2: Begin the Organisation Process

Now that the purging is completed and you know exactly what you need to keep, it’s time to organize your workspace. Create a system that works for you and will assist you in staying organised. If the system is too difficult to work with, you’ll soon tire of it and your desk will become a disaster area again. Here are some ideas on how to proceed forward with the organisation process.

Organise your paperwork – One of the major culprits in creating a messy desk is your paperwork. You can go the drastic route of going completely paperless in your office. However, if that is not an option, you need to figure out the best way to organise your paperwork. Here are some ways to do that:

  1. Stackable Letter Trays – Have at least three trays on your desk. One labeled as general inbox where you can place all items that need attention as well as miscellaneous papers. The holding box should be a place for all paperwork that is on hold and needs to be processed at a later date. The action box is where you can place paperwork that needs immediate attention.
  2. Filing Cabinet – Start a filing system in a cabinet where you can store all of your completed and processed paperwork. You need to label each file clearly and have a simple and specific system so that you can easily find documents that you need.  
  3. Trash System – This is a three part system. You need to have a trash bin. It is also important to have a recycling bin for any paperwork that can be recycled. To protect yourself and your company from identity theft, it is important to have a document shredder to shred any private paperwork.

Be neat and clean – It’s best to eat lunch in the break room or go out to eat. However, if you must eat while working, try your best to be neat and clean. Before you start eating, clear an area at your desk so that you don’t make a mess on your paperwork. Clean up all crumbs, spills etc right away and throw your trash in the wastebasket. Most offices have a cleaning crew come by to empty wastebaskets and vacuum. However, not every office has cleaning staff that dust the employees’ desks. You may need to take care of this task yourself. However, if you do a quick clean once a week, it will be easier to keep your desk neat and tidy.

Step 3: Be Consistent with Your Organisation

Now that you have a system in place, be consistent with your follow through. Put everything back into its right space. Don’t allow yourself to get in the habit of creating more mess in your workspace. Take the time every few months to purge your workspace again. It’s normal for us to accrue more items and sometimes “junk” as time goes by. That is why it’s necessary to keep the purging process in place in the future.

This article in provides 20 Office Organizing Tricks. Maintaining a clean and tidy desk takes work, but it is worth it. An organised workspace will improve your work efficiency. Remember to purge your workspace every few months and be consistent with your organisational skills. If your system stops “working” for you, then figure out what is wrong with it and what else could work for you.


Photo Credit: zippy kid

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