After working in your home office day after day, you see things start to pile up. File folders, paper clips, piles of paper, and more just sit in your office creating clutter. This can detract from your productivity and the overall appearance of the office. So how do you clear your office space so that it becomes a clean workspace where you can do your best work? This post covers why our home offices get so cluttered and what you can do to easily declutter your space.
The easiest way to declutter your office is to start by cleaning one area or aspect of your office, then moving on to another area or aspect of your office again and again until it’s fully decluttered.
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How do I declutter my office?
Follow these steps to declutter without stress:
1) Start with one section at a time
The best way to start to tackle one section at a time. This will help you focus on the task at hand and avoid becoming overwhelmed. You can choose to start at any section of your office such as your desk, cabinet, or closet.
If this is too much to tackle at once due to overwhelm or limited time, focus instead on one aspect of the office that most impedes your productivity. This might mean clearing excess paper or clearing off the top of your desk.
As someone with an online selling business, I collect lots of boxes and packing materials. I like to remove all the items that I’m selling and pack them into the closet or storage bins before I move on to other aspects of cleaning like consolidating packaging materials or cleaning up my work table.
2) Make piles
Making piles makes it easier to separate your things and see what you want to keep. You can have several piles. The main ones are
- Things to keep
- Throw away
- Store elsewhere
The ‘things to keep’ pile would be essential items like pens, scissors, shipping tape, thank you cards, cell phone charter, etc. that I use daily and need to have easily accessible at all times.
The ‘throw away’ pile would be things like old worn-out pens, scraps of paper, and anything else I don’t care to use anymore. These could go in the donate pile if they would be useful to others or the recycle pile if I want to be environmentally friendly about cleaning.
Take the shred pile seriously. Any paper with sensitive information related to your business or even just junk mail is susceptible to getting into the wrong hands. If you don’t have a shredder, place it in the shred bin at work or go to a nearby office supply store and pay a small fee to have it shredded.
You can also purchase a home shredder if you foresee needing to shred documents regularly.
The ‘store elsewhere’ pile is a relief because somehow random things from around the house end up in the home office. Putting them back in their proper places will feel good and make them easier to find next time.
Make a point to remove any unnecessary items throughout the entire cleaning process. Your office will be as clutter-free as possible when you get back to working in it.
3) Digitize physical records
The struggle against paper is real! One way to combat this is to digitize physical items or convert them to an electronic form.
Physical files such as insurance policies, bills and receipts, tax documents, and mail can be misplaced and get damaged. By digitizing them, you reduce the amount of space you need for them, and they’re easily accessible at any time. You can even send the files to family or companies that ask for them in a matter of minutes.
Use a scanner, a mobile app, or your phone’s camera to create electronic forms of your documents. You can do this to important documents like tax work and fun things such as your children’s artwork.
It’s a good idea to store your files safely to prevent identity theft and back up the files in case something happens to your first place or storage like your computer crashes.
If you don’t want to let go of the hard copies of your important documents just yet, store them away in another room where they won’t detract from your office.
This step can be a lot to do while decluttering your entire office. If it’s too much, set aside the paperwork that you want to digitize and come back to this task at a later time.
4) Use storage organizers
Storage containers are an organizer’s best friend because they make a big impact on the appearance and functionality of an office. They aren’t only plastic tubs. You can find boxes, baskets, bins, and even bags in all shapes and sizes, so you can find exactly what you need for your space.
Storage containers keep similar items clean and contained. All the pens, markers, paperclips, and sticky notes you have would get in the way if they were left out on your desk uncontained. A desk organizer or basket container would keep them together and leave your desk looking sleek.
A label maker will come in hand if you have a lot of storage containers in your office. You may need to label everything so you what goes where. There’s no guessing and endless searching for items.
I love several plastic containers full of clothes and other items for my resale business. I labeled the containers by type of item such as dresses, pants, sweaters and jackets, and unlisted items.
This has saved me so much time finding an item once it sells. I don’t have to search through every container. I know exactly where the item is because I keep like items together and label the containers.
5) Clean the office space
Many people don’t clean their offices often. You may have experienced dust on your desk or dust bunnies at your feet. Take advantage of the time when you’re decluttering to also clean the space.
Large and small items will be moved out of the way so you can better reach and clean some areas. You’re already in the right mindset. And you don’t want to put your items back onto dirty spots. Why not clean them?
Start by dusting all the surfaces in your office. Get into the crevices of your desk, cabinets, shelves, and any other furniture. Use a duster or an electrostatic cloth for best results.
If you have any spills or stains on your office floor or furniture, use a cleaning product to take care of them. Then vacuum, sweep, or mop the floors.
6) Think about the best organizational scheme for your office
Before you put everything back into place in your office, it’s important to think about the best organizational scheme for your needs. You may want to consider the following:
- How often do you use each item?
- Where do you use each item?
- What are the items used for?
- Do similar items need to be together?
Thinking about how often you use each item can help with deciding where to put it. If you use something every day, it should be within reach on your desk or near your work area. If you only use an item once a month, it can be stored in a cabinet or another out-of-the-way place.
This could also mean placing your desk somewhere where cords can be easily managed or hidden or placing a table or artwork somewhere where it won’t fade in direct sunlight.
7) Return things to their optimal place
After you’ve decluttered your office and thought where things should go, it’s time to put everything back in its place.
Start by putting the items that you use most often within reach. This could be on your desk or in another nearby area. If you have a lot of items that need to be together, put them in a designated place such as a file cabinet, drawer, or storage container.
When you’re done, take a step back and ask yourself if everything is in its optimal place for you to be comfortable and productive in your office.
8) Declutter regularly to keep the office clean
To get the most out of your home office, you’ll want to declutter it regularly. Here are a few tips:
- Make a list of the tasks that need to be done each time and go through them every time you declutter. You’ll soon have the tasks and the order memorized by heart, which will make decluttering go faster.
- Clear your desk at the end of each day. You’ll arrive to a clear space the next morning.
- Set a specific day or time each week for decluttering, and try to stick to it as closely as possible.
- Be ruthless in your decluttering. Leave only the necessary items.
If you follow these steps on a regular basis, it will be much easier to keep your home office organized. And with all of this extra time, you’ll have even more opportunities to get work done!
Enjoy your newly decluttered office space!
Frequently asked questions
How did my office get so cluttered?
You live life, do your work, and take care of yourself and your family. That attracts a lot of things like clothes from a shopping trip, a delivery of Amazon boxes, and your children’s artwork. They all need someplace to go. Unfortunately, that place is often the home office.
The home office door can be kept closed keeping things out of sight and out of mind. The office probably isn’t even used 24/7, or at least not every inch of it.
So our items end up in the closet and corners, on the shelves, and stacked on the desk. Before you know it, your office is cluttered.
What should I remove from my home office?
You’ll want to remove everything that you don’t use or that doesn’t help you in some way. Some common items that should be removed:
- Paper – This includes old books and unused textbooks. Shred any paper with sensitive information.
- Old technology gadgets – sell the ones that are still worth something
- Cords – wrap them up, figure out which gadget they go with, store them elsewhere, or toss them
- Stationery supplies – save the essentials that you use and get rid of the rest
- Tchotchkes, knick-knacks, and miscellaneous items – they somehow manage to fill up the available space. Take that space back!
How do I declutter my home office quickly?
The easiest way to quickly declutter an office is to set aside a certain amount of time and only clean during that time. If you have 2 hours on a Saturday morning, set a time and move through the above steps as quickly as possible. It also helps to prepare necessary items in advance such as having a broom or boxes on hand for cleaning and sorting items.
What if I am attached to my clutter?
It may be difficult to let go of it of the things in your office. After all, they represent you, your values, and your work.
Start by taking small steps to gradually get rid of the clutter, and try to remove the sentiment behind the item.
Instead of thinking about how much you’re losing by getting rid of things, try to focus on how good you will feel to have a clean workspace going forward, where you can do your best work. Your best is yet to come!