There’s more behind a messy workspace than some loose documents and a mile-high stack of file folders.
An OfficeTeam study reveals that a messy desk influences your professional reputation.
In this study, 65% of HR managers stated a messy desk “somewhat affects it [perception of that person’s professionalism].”
Hate to break it to you, but workspace organization matters.
But there’s more to organization than just reputation. Organization has been linked to reduced stress, better time management, and a more balanced life.
That sounds great!
Which is why we created this article to show you can tackle clutter once and for all.
In this article, you’ll learn:
- Why your brain tricks you into thinking everything on your desk is important
- How to organize your office space
- The benefits and scientific explanations associated with organization
- How to beat clutter
Not to mention, how blueprint storage systems can help you accomplish this.
Read on to learn more.
Why we keep stuff
Those company Angel’s tickets you went to last year? Yep, definitely need those.
Expired coupons? Sure, why not?
Broken pencils? Can always tape them.
You see, our brain tricks us into thinking everything on our desks is important. We look at an item and boom, “super important” label pops right up.
Perhaps, this is because the same regions of our brain associated with pain light up when we throw sentimental items away.
Your brain has your self-interest in mind (no pun intended). It wants to keep you away from all things painful…including “the pain of throwing stuff away.”
But that’s not all…
Some people view items as security. The more items you accumulate, the more secure you are.
Others don’t like making decisions. And decluttering involves making a lot of decisions—should it stay or should it go?
And then, some people have ineffective time management skills. There’s never any time to clean up. Too many projects due. Too many clients calling, and so forth.
Couple our brain’s trickery with our personal preferences, and it’s no wonder decluttering isn’t on the top of the to-do list.
However, that doesn’t mean it’s not important. Quite the opposite actually.
Benefits of organization
We’ve already mentioned in our previous article, Science Explains Why You Need a Blueprint Storage Rack, more clutter equals more stress.
But did you know you’re more likely to choose healthier food options when you work in a tidier environment?
An experiment had participants work in a neat space for 10 minutes two times per day. Those that did this were more likely to choose an apple over chocolate. The opposite effect happened to participants who worked in a messy office during those same time intervals.
Remember how clutter overwhelms your brain and boosts your cortisol levels up?
Well, perhaps we want that chocolate (or insert whatever sugary/salty treat) because it’s our coping mechanism for the clutter.
Yes, decluttering is a form of exercise. You’re getting your heart rate up, lifting and carrying out boxes.
You’re bending up and down, organizing your office supplies and documents.
You’re utilizing blueprint storage systems, by hanging up oversized files in the wall mounted rack.
In fact, tidying up for roughly 30 minutes burns 100 calories.
Not only do you exercise literally from decluttering, but having an organized office means more time for exercise.
According to a survey, we spend on average 10 minutes looking for a lost item (wow!).
Also, the research found we lose up to nine items every day.
Ok, suppose you’re having one of those days where nothing seems to go right. You do lose those nine items.
Let’s do the math.
If it takes us on average 10 minutes to locate one lost item, multiply that by nine, and you spend around 90 minutes looking for those misplaced office items.
That’s a lot!
If you take the time to organize your office space, you’ll have less of those days. That means some of those 90 minutes can be spent working out.
So, a tidy desk really does promote exercise.
A lot of times, disorganization can lead to shame and embarrassment.
Remember in our previous article we mentioned it does matter what people think of us?
In case you don’t, here’s a brief snapshot. It’s not that we care very much what people outside our circle think of us; it’s the people inside who matter. This circle includes family, friends…and co-workers.
(Read more about this in our previous article, Science Explains Why You Need a Blueprint Storage Rack.)
So, when we have a messy desk we may not want to draw attention to ourselves and our messiness. We may be afraid of our co-workers’ judgments.
If 65% of HR managers perceive employees with messy offices less professional, it’s safe to say some co-workers may believe the same.
Even if no co-workers’ perspectives change, we’ll start to become worried, believing that they have.
Nonetheless, this shame and embarrassment build up, making us not want to interact with our co-workers, whether that means teaming up on a project or shooting the breeze for a few minutes.
Our own messiness creates a physical (the clutter) and emotional boundary around us that prevents us from letting people in…
As you know, humans are social. It’s in our nature to interact with people. Poor social health leads to a slew of health problems such as developing a cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, autonomic dysregulation and even an early mortality.
How can you defeat this clutter and increase social interaction?
You can incorporate one of the blueprint storage systems to make your office tidier. This tidiness establishes trust and professionalism and makes you look more reliable and in control.
Plus, it’s more convenient for employees to share information with you and vice versa. Since physically there’s more room to spread a project out on. And you’re not embarrassed or ashamed of your office.
Yes, disorganization in the workplace messes with your sleep.
According to the Sleep Foundation, young adults (ages 18-25) need 7-9 hours of sleep per day. Adults, 26-64 in age, still need those 7-9 hours. It doesn’t change until you’re 65 years and older. This age group needs 7-8 hours of sleep daily.
In order for us to get those 7-9 hours (or 7-8 hours for seniors), we need to finish work at a decent time.
Spending up to 90 minutes looking for missing items or that important project in a messy room wreaks havoc on your sleep.
You’ll come home an hour or so later than you normally would.
Because of the increased stress associated with a cluttered workspace, you’ll feel worked up.
Due to this stress and poor time mismanagement, you won’t get those 7-9 (or 7-8) important hours of sleep.
You’ll wake up tired, go to work, and the cycle repeats.
Use the blueprint storage systems. An organized space will get your circadian rhythm back on track.
You’ll save more money
65% of HR managers stated a messy workspace affects their perceptions of the employee’s professionalism (we mentioned this in the beginning).
Well, these higher-ups are responsible for giving you bonuses, raises, and promotions.
So, having a clean work area may benefit you financially.
Not only could your professional reputation with your superiors earn you more money, but you’ll save the company more money.
It costs a corporation $120 on average to recover a missing file.
Even crazier, 70% of business people lose computer data, which ends up costing $18 billion per year (yikes!).
So, organization goes further; you need to organize computer files too.
By being organized by backing up your files, you’ll save the company money. And if this organization carries over to your workspace, you’ll get more work done. (Tidy workspaces mean more productivity.) Because of this, you’re more likely to get a bonus, raise, and/or promotion.
You see, it pays to be organized.
How to beat clutter
Now that you know the benefits of a tidy workspace, learn what steps you can take to have an organized office.
Purge, purge, purge
You first have to figure out what you do and don’t need.
To do this, have a catch-it space.
This calls for separating the mail and documents you receive into designated areas.
You’ll need a credenza (or plan table) and trays, a wall mounted rack or SR6 workstation rack, and a trashcan.
After you have those items, separate your current files, documents, and mail into “important and urgent,” “urgent but not important,” and “non-urgent and not important.”
You’ll then select one of the office equipment pieces with the category.
For instance, a tray for “urgent but not important” and a tray for “important and urgent” could be on the credenza or plan table.
Of course, trash will go in the trashcan.
Of course, there’s no one-size-fits-all. If that organizational purging strategy doesn’t work for you, do this.
Take everything out of your desk (including what’s on top), drawers, and file cabinets. Put it in a desk drawer. (If you have a lot of stuff you may need two.)
Start working. When you need a particular item, pull it from the drawer and give it a “home” (designated spot).
Give it some time. After a few weeks, whatever is left in that drawer is the stuff you don’t use. You can then discard these items.
KonMari Decluttering Method
But maybe that style doesn’t work for you. What about this?
Go to the office on a Saturday (this is worth it, trust us), and go through all of your things.
For each object, ask you self “Does this bring me joy?”
If you’re having trouble with this, as some office items don’t really bring joy, try changing the question to “Does this have a purpose?”
If it does, keep it. If it doesn’t, discard.
The KonMari method stresses to purge by category rather than area. So, first go through your office supplies. Then, tackle the files…
Once you’ve decided which items stay and which go, give each item that stays a permanent “home” or designated spot.
Ok, how do you maintain the tidiness when papers come in?
What to do with incoming paper
Simple. Have two trays for incoming mail. That way, people can quickly drop off a document without adding to your clutter.
Separate the trays, “Old” and “New.”
The “New” tray is for newly dropped off mail, documents, and files. Designate a time of day to sort through the “New” pile, separating them into “important and urgent,” “urgent but not important” and “non-urgent and not important” areas.
If you’re strapped for time, place the “New” papers into the “Old” tray. That way, you have a day or two to sort through the stack without feeling overwhelmed.
Read on to learn more organizational tricks…
Organize by frequency
This goes hand in hand with the “important and urgent” … areas. The most “urgent and important” should be the closest to you, while the “non-urgent and not important” is farther away.
That way, you’re in arms reach of the critical stuff you need to deal with that day.
This is important, as it’s easy to become sidetracked while walking to pull out a file or document.
Use vertical file holders to make this happen.
In a CNN Money article, Amy Trager, a professional organizer, stated that “vertical file holders help avoid stacking folders on top of each other and overlooking the ones, not on top.”
How blueprint storage systems helps with this
When you can see the files, you won’t forget them.
This is where the SR6 workstation rack comes into play.
(This may be a part of blueprint storage systems, but doesn’t have to just apply to blueprints.)
In fact, you can hang files, documents, paperwork, even art on this rack.
What makes it so useful is that you can make the most out of the limited office space you have.
Just to let you know, each poly hanger holds up to 50 documents, and aluminum hangers hold up to 60 documents.
So, there’s no reason for you to have a huge stack of files piling up on your desk.
You can designate this workstation rack as “important and urgent,” and place it on your dominant side, closest to you.
Whatever you do, don’t place “non-urgent and not important” into a drawer. Doing so leaves it out of your sight.
You know how the saying goes, “Out of sight, out of mind.”
Which begs the question, what are the drawers for?
What drawers are for
Divide up your office supplies.
Put the office supplies you use on a daily basis on your desk. For the supplies you only use once or twice a week, leave them in the drawers.
Make sure when you do divide the supplies, to group like with like. For instance, group pencils, pens, and erasers together because they all have to do with writing.
Don’t have any office space left? Yes, you do. You’re just out of horizontal space. Go vertical instead, and use wall mounted racks.
(This is where blueprint storage systems come in handy.)
They’re great when the floor space is tight, as—just as the name indicates—you can store files on the wall. Plus, you can add another tier for more storage capacity.
Because you can easily thumb through the files (instead of having to bend over and dig through them in a drawer or cabinet), you’ll save time retrieving the paper.
This is great since the average retrieval time of a piece of paper is about 10 minutes.
Incorporate the 1-In-1-Out rule
Now that your space is tidy, you don’t want to re-clutter it by bringing in more items.
Use this rule to monitor your office stuff.
Say, you just bought this informative, industry-based book. You want to have it in the office so you can reference it from time to time.
That’s great. Bring the book in. Put it where all the other books are. Now, take out a book you don’t use. 1 in, 1 out.
This way, you use your office space to its optimal capacity and don’t go overboard.
Try this creative, organizational hack
If you’re stumped on organizing your office space, take a picture of it.
Look at it, and assess your space from an “outsider’s perspective.”
You can also literally get an outsider’s perspective by asking a co-worker. Or show the picture to friends and family and have them weigh in.
Aim for “tidy enough”
Keep careful of perfectionism; it’s a productivity killer.
If you find yourself meticulously sharpening pencils or straightening up files for 30 minutes, chances are you’re in the thick of it.
You know, perfectionists tend to procrastinate. It’s because they aim for perfection. Perfection isn’t a bad thing; a lot of times, though, it means you don’t get much done.
So, aim for “tidy enough.”
When tidy isn’t effective
Albert Einstein once said, “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?”
He’s got a point.
A study shows that participants in a messy room came up with “28% more creative” ways to use a ping pong ball than those in a tidy room.
So, when you need to brainstorm ideas, leave your desk a little messy.
Or, if you prefer a messy desk, tidy up before you head home.
That way, you still communicate to your higher up you’re still professional.
How have your organizational habits impacted your work? Do you notice a positive difference when your office space is tidy? Let us know.
Also, be sure to check out our blueprint storage systems!
Image Credit: William Iven
 Daily Mail: Lost something already today? Misplaced items cost us ten minutes a day
 Oprah: 10 Steps to a Cleaner Office
 Oprah: 10 Steps to a Cleaner Office
 Science alert: 10 Workspaces of Some of the Greatest Minds in Science
 American Psychology Association: A messy desk encourages a creative mind, study finds