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Tips to Tackle Desk Clutter

Desk cluttered with papers and files

Even if you love your work, at the end of a long day of it, you want to get away. If you work at a desk, getting away means away from the desk – which is precisely why most of us leave piles of papers, files, catalogues and sticky notes at our workspace every day. Cleaning it up is, well, more work. So you leave it. And it grows, along with dust and scraps of paper that nobody can get too because of the clutter.

Master Clean crews see this phenomenon all the time. For both our residential clients who work at desks in their homes, and our office clients who have suites of desks in their workspace, cluttered desks are a common problem. We encourage all our clients to unclutter before we clean, so our crews can effectively eliminate dust and disinfect surfaces. But we know that’s easier said than done. So we have compiled this list of tips to tackle desk clutter, and to keep if from piling up in the future:

Touch paper once

Resist the urge to put a piece of paper down and “deal with it later.” Take action on it, then file it or recycle it.  Remember this mantra: Everything has a place. Find an immediate home for all your documents. The best home is a virtual paperless one.

Go digital

Eliminate the need for tangible documents by transitioning to digital as often as possible. Scan receipts and invoices into a network database, use a shared Google calendar, and keep virtual sticky notes on your desktop rather than a slew of real ones that lose their adhesiveness and become lost. It’s unrealistic to go paperless for all your work, so follow the next three guidelines for sorting paper.

Slot pending work

Keep pending work organized close at hand by using slotted trays to sort paperwork into relevant categories like invoices, forms, outgoing mail, contracts etc. or whatever categories are most appropriate for your work. Limit these trays to paperwork that you anticipate needing ready access to in the near future or on a routine basis.

Hang past work

Use hanging folders in file cabinets to group together pertinent documents that you need to store for future reference.

Embrace the hole puncher

If you have multiple accounts or projects, use large 3-ring binders or smaller 3-ring notebooks to store necessary paperwork or documents specific to that individual venture.

Gear up

Equip a drawer with a compartmentalized organizer so that you can keep pens, paper clips, pencils, highlighters, and scissors in a designated space. Or invest in a desktop supply caddy. Or upcycle: Short jars and coffee mugs make great pencil holders; sturdy clothes box lids hold papers tidily; small checkbook boxes and jewelry boxes are the perfect depth for drawer organizers. Buy a wall hanging cork board or magnet board to help keep clutter off your desk. Invest in a labeler so you (and others) can navigate and locate things quickly. Use the largest font possible to speed the location process.

Once you have created the filing and storage systems, above, the task of uncluttering your desk can be done quickly, in about  5-10 minutes every day. The benefits are tremendous.  Not only can your workspace be effectively dusted and disinfected, your space will send a message to visitors about your work ethic. You’ll be more productive, you’ll have peace of mind, and possibly look forward to the next work day a bit more.

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