It’s scientifically proven that clutter causes stress. Stress, in turn, can kill creativity and productivity. So the last place in the world you want clutter is in your home office, where productivity is the name of the game. Unfortunately, home offices attract clutter the way that light attracts moths. So how do you declutter your office and reclaim your productivity? Here are 7 easy hacks to get your office back in order—and keep it that way.
1.) Set Aside Time for Cleaning
Put time on your calendar every week dedicated to tidying your office. 20 minutes twice a week can mean the difference between a cluttered, messy office and a safe, clean space where you can think. The key is to put the time in your calendar and to hold it as sacred: Don’t let yourself do anything but clean during that time. Even if you think your office is “pretty clean” one week, force yourself to do something—even if it’s just wiping down the keyboard. This will keep you in the habit of prioritizing cleanliness.
2.) Get Rid of Stuff
Like anywhere else in your home, your home office is likely filled with stuff you don’t need, or possibly even like. If you can’t remember the last time you used something, it has no right to be in your office. Take a day and make yourself fill at least one box with things you don’t need. Get them out of there. The less you keep in your office, the more it will feel like a good space to work.
3.) Give Everything a Spot
Once you’ve determined what should actually still be in your office, give everything you’re keeping its own unique spot. To prevent your office from accumulating clutter, ensure that everything you need to do your job has a specific spot. Buying a table with two shelves so that you can keep paperwork separated from notes, for example, can keep things from getting lost. You’ll also want a filing cabinet for old paperwork and a caddy for your pens.
4.) Don’t Bring Things in That You Don’t Need
Your office should be a sacred space in your home, so make rules about what you will—and will not—permit to enter its doors. At a minimum, there’s no reason you should ever be finding your kids’ toys in your home office. Once you have rules in place for your office, you’ll have less clutter accumulating over time.
5.) Don’t Let Temporary Items Become Permanent
There’s some stuff that you’ll bring into your office as you’re working throughout the day. For you, that may be a cup of coffee or a plate with cookies on it. But if it’s not something that belongs in your office long-term, be sure to bring it out of the office with you the next time you leave. Having a rule that temporary items can’t stay in your office once they’re done being used helps you keep office cleanliness to a high standard.
6.) Clean Off Your Computer
Your office’s physical space isn’t the only thing that can accumulate clutter. Having a cluttered desktop or too many applications on your computer can slow down your workflow. As part of your decluttering process, make sure that you take time to go through the files on your computer and pare down to what you still need. Delete any applications you don’t use, streamline your startup programs, and defrag your computer to get it running faster.
7.) Improve Your Organizational System
A lot of office clutter comes from organizational systems that just aren’t working. Sticking post-it notes all over your desk to remind you about upcoming deadlines may work when you have one or two clients, but as your business expands, your post-it notes do as well, and soon your desk is covered. Update your organizational system as your needs change. For example, you could invest in a daily planner or get a white board calendar to help you stay on top of deadlines instead.
Office clutter doesn’t have to be par for the course when you work from home. By getting rid of anything excessive you have in your office and making a few tweaks to how you go about your week, you can make office clutter a thing of the past. The key is to stay consistent and stick to your own rules. The second you let yourself off the hook “just this once,” you leave the door open for clutter to creep back into your life.