Some people tell me that creativity and clutter must go hand-in-hand. I refuse to believe it. Little inspirational bits accumulate around imaginative people. However, I disagree that we need to surround ourselves with disorganization. In fact, I find that I do my best work, creative and functional, in a clutter-free space. And I say this as someone who has boxes with broken costume jewelry, a collection of ostrich feathers, and a plethora of paints. It’s the curation and usefulness of these items that facilitate the creative process. So, it’s ok to declutter your office.
I do my best creative work in a clutter-free space.
Offices become hotspots for clutter because they attract paper, supplies, and castoffs. Space naturally collects everything for “later.” Think of: those bills that you paid but, need to file lay in a stack on the floor. That broken teacup, waiting for superglue, rests on top of a cabinet. Layers of mail and coupons, that you proactively moved from the kitchen counter, now litter baskets and bins. And despite all this collecting, you keep bringing in duplicate items because you can’t find the right tools when you need them.
This is the goal of office decluttering: A useable workspace that promotes productivity. Below are the steps I take for an office cleanout.
Like Items and Labeling
The first phase creates a huge (temporary) mess. In fact, it often involves my whole house. With time, items creep into the wrong spaces and must be sorted. So, the process starts by pulling together similar items and labeling their storage space.
- Grab a basket and put a piece of masking tape on it. Label it “Office”.
- For a week, take on each room slowly, opening every storage space. In each space, grab everything that constitutes an office supply and put it in a basket.
- As you fill the basket, start taking note of duplicate items.
- Once you review the whole home, put the items out in a large, uncluttered workspace. Group like items together.
- Make a list of any missing tools, refills, or supplies.
- Toss or recycle any broken items.
- Looking at what is left, consider the duplicate items. Some items, like scissors, may be needed in more than one area of the house. However, you may find one stapler on a desk is plenty for a household.
- After reviewing the duplicate items, pick the best ones to keep and label them for the area where they will reside. For the scissors example, one set of scissors will be labeled “kitchen” and one labeled “office.”
- Next, put the items back in their appropriate rooms. You should have significantly fewer items than before.
- Finally, create a shopping list for the storage bins and missing supplies you’ll need. Label these inconspicuously, such as on the bottom, to ensure they end up staying in the correct space.
Once you complete these steps, you’re ready to start planning your space.
Define Work Zones
To best maintain your organized items, define work zones throughout your home. While some people have distinct office areas for each family member, others make do with multi-purpose zones.
- Start by considering what kind of “office” work you do. Make a list of tasks such as filing, checking emails, sorting mail, schoolwork, take-home projects, or paying bills.
- Think about where you like to do this work. Do you prefer to sit at a desk? Do you like to spread out on the living room couch? Define when and where you will do your “office” related tasks.
- Make a plan for how you will keep the necessary tools and supplies organized and in reach. For example, if you like to do your filing at the kitchen table, your folders should be in several small boxes or a rolling cabinet. Then, you can bring it with you when you add new papers. Conversely, if you prefer to answer working emails sitting at a clear desk, make sure you have a space set up.
- List any storage that may need to change. You may require a new cabinet, caddy, or bin.
- Sketch how you plan to use the space to help you visualize the process. Even if you aren’t artistic, you can cobble together a collage. This helps you plan better.
- Start shopping or making the appropriate pieces to store your supplies.
- As you bring in each piece, be careful to keep the receipts. You may find that you will return some of the items if you find a better product.
- As you put together your work zones, label the items that “live” there. This helps ensure that you don’t buy duplicates again in the future.
- Discuss the new situation with other household members. They should be aware that items need to be returned to the appropriate spaces.
- Monitor how you use each space over the coming weeks. You may find some adjustment is needed to suit your natural rhythms.
Then, you can start making it pretty!
Hide or Display
The decision to hide or display office supplies is a highly personal one. Some people prefer to stow away items in something opaque. Others like to display neat, organized tools and supplies. For each preference, there are so many ideas to customize your office storage.
Below are some ideas to hide your office supplies.
- Cube Shelves with bins
- Files in a Trunk
- Pegboard Box
- Over-the-door baskets
- Drawer Dividers
- Storage Box
- Printer Pull-out Cabinet
- Tech Drawer
- Storage Bench
- Extendable Desk
Below are some ideas to display your office supplies.
- Floating Shelves
- Colorful Corkboards
- Hanging Folders
- Glass Apothecary Jars
- Industrial Printer Cart
- Wire and Clips Display
- IKEA’s Fintorp System
- Peg Boards
- Book Rack
- Industrial Shelving
Depending on your preferences, you’ll gravitate toward a “hide” or “display” style of organizing. Take note of this as you plan your space and make sure you keep things tidy.
Plan your Projects
Now that you’ve completed the first level of organizing, it’s time to start ticking projects off your long list. The purpose is simple: cleaning out old supplies and tools. Over the long term, this will free up your mind to focus on the projects that you truly wish to complete. Often, I find I have the weight of potential projects keeping me from productivity.
Use These Up
- Notepads or Journals
- Specialty tools
- Fittings, fasteners, or connecting pieces
- Pens, markers or writing tools that may dry out
- Anything with scents that may expire
- Paints or inks that could dry up
- Kits for hobbies or crafts
- Patterns or instructions
- Seasonal or holiday supplies
- Supplies with trendy colors or patterns
- Leftover paint or glue
- Fabric scraps
- Lace, Rickrack or trimmings
- Paper scraps
- Yarn or String
- Wood or wooden pieces
Once you have used up these supplies, create a project list to use anything leftover. You should only keep supplies that you plan to actually use. Work through these like they are a priority. Soon, you’ll find your self and your space will feel lighter.
Tips to Declutter Your Office
Now that you have organized your office, you’re ready to get to work. I’d love to see your workspaces, whether they are a separate room or a movable setup. Join the conversation on my Instagram.