Whether you work at home or spend your days in an office (or cubicle), keeping your desk and surrounding space tidy and organized is actually really important for your career. Not only will it give your boss (or prospective clients) the right impression (read: you’re on top of your stuff), but it’s also much easier to stay on top of all your work when it’s not buried under files or last night’s dinner container. Plus, studies show employees are better able to concentrate and work more efficiently in clutter-free environments.
If that’s not reason enough to start filing, picture leaving the office an hour earlier every night. Yep, you can actually spend less time staring at that computer screen if you don’t waste 10 minutes here and another 10 minutes there looking for memos or a phone number you wrote on the back of a gum wrapper.
Whether your desk is a hopeless mess or you could just use a few pointers, here’s how to get your workspace in tip-top shape.
Toss what you don’t need
Grab two garbage cans—one for paper (because we know you recycle) and one for all other trash. Start with the stuff on top of your desk and slowly work your way through your drawers, filing cabinets and shelves. Be ruthless: Do you really need that bobble head your former crush gave you five years ago? What about those old lunch receipts? (If you’re saving them for your long-overdue expense report, add that to your to-do list.) Don’t forget to go through the unopened mail, files left behind by your predecessor and your supply drawer (the dried out Wite-Out can definitely go).
Organize, organize, organize
Your next step is to decide on a simple system for organizing your stuff. Do you want your first drawer to house your pens, pencils, and other basic office supplies? Then get everything else out of there and use one of those handy drawer organizers to keep everything in its place. Or if you want to keep it all out on your desk, invest in some desktop storage containers designed to house pens, paperclips, tape, etc. Next, figure out where you want to keep all your files and important papers. Relegate either a large drawer or an entire filing cabinet (if you have a lot of stuff you can’t throw away). Then say hello to your new best friends: hanging files, file folders, and a label maker. Then get to work, organizing your papers in a way that makes sense and then label each folder accordingly, so you can just open your drawer and find exactly what you need.
Go on, have a junk drawer
Even after you organize most of your things, chances are you’ll have a pile of stuff left over that you can’t quite part with or still actually need, but doesn’t quite belong anywhere else either. That’s why saving one drawer is actually a smart idea -- as long as that drawer doesn’t start overflowing.
Maintain your clean space
Make a habit of setting aside a random five to 10 minutes at the end of each day to tidy the top of your desk, file (or recycle) any papers, and even organize a drawer that’s gotten out of hand again. This way you won’t get stuck with a huge clean-up project every few weeks (unless you really enjoy filing papers). Then before you head home, flick away any crumbs from the lunch you scarfed down and wipe down your desktop with an antibacterial cleaning wipe. Oh, and don’t forget to do a once-over of your mouse, keyboard, and computer screen. Your desk and computer are germ magnets, which can make you sick.