It certainly is a curious phenomenon. A desk can be perfectly clutter-free after an intensive afternoon of cleaning. Yet as the days and weeks go on, papers, pens, gadgets, and other miscellaneous office ephemera tends to pile up — without us ever really noticing! It begins in the corners of the desk, as innocently as possible, and slowly encroaches on your workspace until you're left with a simple cutout for the mouse to move around. Where does this all come from and how can you take control of it for good?
We believe this can be remedied if you look at your desk and think critically about purpose.
Let me give you an example: Space is often one of the highest priorities when apartment hunting. So critical, in fact, that people tend to establish a minimum sq/f number and won’t budge below that. So what happens to that mindset after moving into the apartment and we begin to live our life? The desk is really just a scaled down version of your apartment. Think of your desk space as critical real estate that should be cherished and not filled needlessly. Fill it with purpose!
The first thing that you can do is assess your working style and think about how much room you actually need to regain. Does your work require a large table to spread out paperwork or maybe enough room to make sketches in a sketchbook? Everyone is different and we’ll all require slightly different spaces to function. But remember, the key here is to do it purposefully. It is easy to over-do it and remove everything from your desktop and then it actually becomes more inconvenient because you have to go fishing in your drawers for something that should have been made more easily accessible on your desk. So there certainly is an equilibrium that exists that we’re all searching for.
Now you want to begin going through the pile, piece by piece and assessing what needs to stay and what needs to go. Certainly there are things that have no business being on your desk from the outright that can easily be removed. We’ve seen cleaning agents, toothbrushes, piled dinnerware, etc... and its not a pretty picture. These no-brainers should be the first to go. Then, you can begin to think of your desk in terms of zones. There can be a zone for the computer, for writing instruments, paper, paperwork, crafting material, flowers, etc… Again, this is all specific to the needs of your own space but if you compartmentalize the wide-open space of your desk and think of it in terms of zones, it becomes more manageable and easier to organize with purpose. And of course, your zones can’t impinge upon the “free” space that you deemed necessary to work in.
Designating zones is going to help keep your desktop clean for good. You need to be strict with yourself and not let things pile up outside their respective zones. But again, it all comes back to purpose. If there is a need or reason why things begin to fall out of their zones, it might be time to reassess the zones themselves and perhaps create/remove ones to accommodate your new working habits.
One helpful feature recently introduced in the 20/20 cure is creating an outbox. We suggest making a drawer in your office an outbox of sorts. If there are things you’re unsure about purging, keep them in there for a while and let yourself lose attachment with it. Come back to it later and decide if it is really necessary to keep. Does it serve a purpose either functionally or emotionally? Getting rid of things is one of the best ways to de-clutter your desk and keep it that way.
It’s important to remember that your workspace is a fluid environment. The work you do and the things you use are never static. They grow as you grow so your system needs to grow along with it. A clean workspace is key to doing good work. It makes tasks manageable and easier to accomplish. And of course, it also makes your apartment neater. We hope you found some inspiration in the post to set up a system of zones, based around purpose to help you reduce the clutter in your workspace and ultimately make yourself more productive and your workspace more enjoyable.
(1st image: Flickr user j.salamandras 2nd image: Flickr user cspiegl 3rd image: Flickr user doryexmachina under license from Creative Common)