The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Desk

I have a habit of starting each work day cleaning one item or area, whether it be wiping down my desk, organizing my desk drawer, or simply emptying my trash can. I also end the day with a small act of cleaning and tidying up. Just those two short moments per day means the remaining 99% of the time, I usually work in a orderly area, particularly important because working from a converted closet means space and storage are of the essence. But some people take it even further, as reported by the The Wall Street Journal's At Work blog. Is it obsessive or admirable when someone clears off their desk each and every night after wrapping up work?

"...Joshua Becker, an expert on minimalism and the author of the books "Simplify" and "Living with Less," says he's cleared off his desk every night for five years now - and finds it has led to less distraction and more freedom.

Becker, who says he got the idea from a businessman during a chance encounter in Thailand Philippines, methodically moves every item into a designated drawer at the end of the day, with the exception of his computer and phone. "They all have a home," he says of his desktop items, which include a coffee mug, stapler, pens and file folders"

Reviewing Becker's The Simple Guide to a Clutter-Free Desk, his system doesn't seem extreme or unreasonable, just a collection of habits where living with less and simplifying your workspace is combined with the practice of putting things away when you're done. It's not much different from our own 4-Step system for keeping your messy desk cleaner: don't file anything except important financial records (scan and store digitally!), keep important tasks eye level (even better, use my favorite pared down to-do app), practice the all-important "give everything a home" habit, and note/recognize your tendencies and adjust.

Offer yourself a space to store everything you normally use, and keeping a desk spotless is that much easier. The Kukka Blocks Desk Set is a minimalist and handsome desk organizing set for this purpose.

As we once noted, you may be asking, "If I'll never have a super-tidy desk, why bother at all?" Those few minutes spent organizing at the end of every workday adds up, and time is money.
You'll likely spend more than fifteen minutes down the line without some organizing and cleaning habits around the workspace: either tossing stuff into the recycling bin at the end of the day, or in hunting for that pen or scrap of paper with the important phone number. Either way, you pay. So why not choose the less stressful option?

(Images: Paul's Loft-Like Ambitions Tech Tour; Flickr Member Laure Wayaffe licensed for use under Creative Commons)