The argument over whether a clear desk or a messy one is a truer sign of productivity has gone on for decades and it’s unlikely to ever be resolved objectively. Why not give the “clear desk = clear mind” side of the debate a try in your own workspace? You may be surprised at the way a little decluttering makes you feel like a more productive and organized person.

Let Go Of Superfluous Paperwork

For most people, the biggest offender against a clear desk is far excess paperwork. A certain amount of piling is inescapable, especially when you are actively working with the documents filling up your workspace. Resist the temptation to turn piles into a long-term storage solution! Don’t consider a job done until you have determined the right place for the paperwork it leaves behind.

Only file things in your workspace if you know you are going to refer back them. Find other homes for papers you don’t need anymore. If you are uncertain about the importance of certain documents, make it a priority to ask your superiors or coworkers where they go. Stacked up beside your keyboard is never the right answer.

End Every Day With A Cleaning Session

Very few workers can create a shockingly messy desk in just a single shift. Cluttered desks usually develop over time. Get active about preventing this creeping threat and set aside a little time at the end of the day for tidying and decluttering your work area. Get rid of trash, file (or toss) documents, and straighten your tools before you call it quits.

Start Every Day With A Clutter Evaluation

It’s also a good idea to start each day with a little decluttering exercise. This is not about clearing away the detritus left behind by your work. Instead, you should take a moment to scan everything on your desk and ask yourself how long it’s been since you used it. If it’s actually been a week since you needed to staple something, why is that stapler still next to your phone?

Keeping your desk clear of extraneous objects – even ones that are occasionally needed – smooths out your productivity cycle and keeps you focused on your work. By giving desktop real estate only to the things that are absolutely vital to your job, you’ll motivate yourself to concentrate more on your core responsibilities.

Keep Only Personal Items That Have Value

Only the most draconian offices would demand that you remove all personal objects from your workspace. Still, there is a difference between the desk that has a potted plant and a family photo and the cube that is lined in every direction with a collection of troll dolls. Evaluate your personal items honestly and ask yourself if they are there to motivate you or to distract you. Hang onto only those items that genuinely inspire you to work harder.

As noted, not everyone believes in the value of a clean desk. Make sure you aren’t just taking the path of least resistance when it comes to workspace organization! Give decluttering a chance. You just might love the way it makes you feel when you’re working.


Waverly J. Hanson is a licensed professional counselor, licensed marriage coach, military and family life consultant, professional trainer and author of How to Divorce-Proof Your Marriage. She has more than 25 years of experience helping individuals and couples improve their lives. To learn more about her effective methods, visit

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