Organize Your Workspace: Here’s How

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Whether you work in a home office or an office building, in a cubicle, a corner or a spacious suite, you have a designated workspace to call your own. It’s where you spend much of your time, and it reflects your personality. Maybe you have photos of your kids or of your “significant other” on prominent display. Maybe you have a favorite film poster right above your desk, or maybe you like to keep some fresh flowers in view.


Whatever your style, your workplace can set the tone for your workday and for your productivity. So take a quick look around your desk area.  If you are like most of us, it is in need of some re-organizing. And for some of you, a complete re-haul may be in order. Here are five steps to get you started:

Steps to organize your workspace

1. Remove the clutter.

Working in a cluttered environment can cause you to be distracted when you work. A 2011 study by the Princeton University Neuroscience found that your brain has trouble processing clutter. Researchers found that in a chaotic environment, we tend to lose focus more easily than we do in an organized space. So the first step to organizing your workspace is – you guessed it – removing the clutter.

Sure you can keep one or two non-essential items like the photos or the flowers, but if you have been collecting piles of junk mail, stockpiling paperclips that you rarely use, or if you have a desk light you never turn on, it’s time to take stock of your desktop.

Use your desk drawer for the stapler, that wad of rubber bands or those files you aren’t working on right now. If you don’t need the item, get rid of it. Donate items that are in good condition to a friend or to a charity and toss the rest.

The essentials most of us need on our desks are a computer, a phone, our current project and any tools or resources we need to work on it. That’s it.

2. Utilize your wall space.

 Okay, now your desk is looking pretty clean, but you may have some things that need a new home. One way to gain more space is to think “up” instead of “out.” Many offices don’t fully utilize the available wall space. Check online or at your local office store for some options. They include everything from simple shelving to small Lucite file folder holders.

A pegboard could be a great multi-purpose solution. You can attach baskets to it to hold papers and file folders, or you can use it to hang up the tools of your trade such as scissors, hole-punchers or rulers. You could also try hanging colorful clipboards on your wall to hold schedules and other documents you need to refer to on a daily basis

3. Corral your cords.

Even if you have Wi-Fi and a cellphone, you probably have some electrical cords in your workspace. Some of you may have quite a few cords, and you find that they always seem to get tangled and in your way. Here are a few cord containment ideas:

  • Attach a hook or two beneath your desk to route cords through and to keep them in good order.
  • Clasp some of those metal binder clips to one side of your desk to hold and separate cords.
  • Re-purpose the plastic tags that hold bread bags shut. Use a Sharpie to label the tags with the name of the cords you are corralling.
  • Consider going wireless for your mouse and your printer.

4. Don’t eat at your desk.

This is a hard one for some of us. We want to grab a quick lunch while we catch up on our e-mail or finish a project. Eating at your desk adds significantly to the clutter and the mess of your workspace, however. Even the neatest among us can drop crumbs on the keyboard or, worse yet, spill a drink on an important project.  To get serious about tidying up your workspace, the food has to go.

If you work at home, you have a separate eating space nearby, and if you work in an office, you need to get up and stretch anyway.  C’mon. Get up and get away from your desk for a while. You’ll save time with less clean-up and worry.

5. Leave your space in good shape at the end of the day.

Take a few minutes before you knock off for the day to tidy up your desk. Put away what you have been working on, throw out what you can, and straighten up your electronics. Close the computer tabs you have had open as well, so that your on-screen space is tidy and ready for the next day. This would be a good time to make a to-do list for the next day so that you don’t have to waste valuable time re-thinking your priorities in the morning.

A sixth bonus step to organizing your workspace is to not over do it. Not everyone can work in a sparse Ikea-inspired environment.  In fact, earlier this year, a team of University of Minnesota researchers led by Kathleen D. Vohs found that a messy desk could be a sign of a creative mind. The study looked at college student volunteers who were placed in either a messy or a neat office and asked to create new uses for Ping-Pong balls.

Independent judges determined that the students who were in the messy spaces thought of more creative ideas than those in the neat spaces. The report “Physical Order Produces Healthy Choices, Generosity, and Conventionality, Whereas Disorder Produces Creativity” concluded that disorganized environments may inspire us break free of tradition, which can produce fresh thinking and insight.

Hmmm. Maybe there is hope for messy-deskers after all.


Princeton Neuroscience Institute, Department of Psychology, Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey 08544, USA. [email protected]://

“Physical Order Produces Healthy Choices, Generosity, and Conventionality, Whereas Disorder Produces Creativity.” Physical Order Produces Healthy Choices, Generosity, and Conventionality, Whereas Disorder Produces Creativity. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Oct. 2013.

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