Office Decluttering: The Struggle Is Real. (Here’s What To Do About It.)

Office decluttering strategies

Are you going crazy, or are those piles of paper actually cluttering up your brain as well as your desk?

Good news is you’re not going crazy. Studies show that when there’s clutter in our field of vision, our minds feel cluttered, too. 

Clutter makes it hard to focus. 

Bad news is you probably have some cleaning up to do. But it’ll be worth it. With a tidy office, everyone will be more productive. And you’ll actually be able to find your phone charger. 

Let’s get started. 

When NOT to declutter

First things first: there’s one situation where decluttering might not be the best idea. Namely, when creative types are involved. 

Some creatives will swear that there’s method to the madness of post-it notes and coffee cups swirling around their desks. Well, some research does support that messy spaces make people more creative. 

Everyone is different, after all. So as long as it’s not bothering anybody else, you might want to leave them to their chaos (within reason!). For everybody else and for shared spaces, decluttering is probably the way to go.

Strategies for office decluttering 

How do you know what to get rid of and what to keep?

The famous Marie Kondo method of asking “does this spark joy?” isn’t always useful in the office. Does that cabinet full of legal documents spark joy? Probably not, but that doesn’t mean you should KonMari it straight out the window.

Try these practical decluttering strategies for workplaces instead.

Take a problem-solution approach

Before you dive in, take some time to think about what your/your business’s main problems are. Decluttering is about more than just throwing stuff away — it’s also about addressing the source of the clutter.  

Some possible problems: 

  • Physical limitations/lack of storage space
  • Disorganisation (e.g. disordered files, messy warehouses, etc)
  • Uncleanliness
  • Inefficient systems

Often these problems are interrelated and fixing one will improve the others. Still, it helps to understand what your specific problem areas are so you can better solve them. 

For example, throwing away boxes of paper files will temporarily clear some clutter, but changing the underlying system that put them there — say, by moving to a digital order system — fixes the problem for good.

Use the three pile technique

When you get to the sorting-through-junk step, here’s a super simple strategy that makes life easier. Put every object into one of three piles: save, recycle, or donate. Once the latter two piles are gone, work through the “save” pile to work out where to put the things you’re keeping.

Wipe the slate clean

Here’s another technique. Imagine for a second that you get a new phone. It’s gloriously bare. `The home screen is unsullied by the hundred apps you had on your old phone. What do you do?

You reintroduce, one at a time, the apps that you actually use, as you need them. That way you naturally cut out all the pointless ones. 

You can do the same for desks and other spaces. Wipe them clean, take everything off and out of them. And then reintroduce things as you use them. Whatever hasn’t been put back after a week or two? Meh, it can probably go.

Tame your cables

Wireless tech is great, but cables still have their place in an office. The problem though? They create a lot of unruliness. Tame those cable tentacles by investing in some cable boxes and cable holders. Labelling cables can also help you find what goes where. 

Make the kitchen a team effort

Is anyone going to eat that six month old jar of pickles? Where did all these Tupperware containers come from, anyway? Questions to ask when you get the whole team together to give the staff kitchen a do-over. 

Give staff the option to claim any excess stuff that’s accumulated in shared spaces like the kitchen. Whether it’s reclaiming something they left there in the first place or taking home some orphaned item they think they could make use of, it’s a more environmentally-friendly way to clear some clutter. 

Encourage staff to keep things tidy

And while we’re at it, there are other ways to encourage all staff to get on board and keep things tidy. Remind them regularly about the link between cleanliness and safety (Clutter causes obstructions! Dirty kitchens spread germs!) Schedule days or times for tidy-ups. And make sure they have all of the tools, systems and processes they need to keep things organised. 

Digitise

Eliminate paper clutter by ditigising what you can. Think beyond the obvious. Here are some digitisation ideas to get you started:

  • Use apps for things like task lists and notes
  • Scan receipts and invoices
  • Digitise contact details off business cards
  • Subscribe to digital issues of journals and magazines
  • Download the digital versions of instructions manuals for gadgets

Look at what paper items have accumulated in your office and search for a digital solution for each. 

Declutter digital spaces as well

Digital spaces also get cluttered (doesn’t your desktop know it). Delete unused files, make sure your backup systems are efficient and secure (get in touch with us if you need help with that one!) and get everyone following the same document naming and filing protocols. Your digital spaces will be much easier to navigate.

Start small

And one last bit of advice: if your clutter is out of control (or even if it isn’t) the idea of facing it can be overwhelming. 

Start small. Tackle one area at a time. 

If one room is too much, break the task down even smaller. Start with one desk, or one drawer. Things will seem more manageable and you’ll build confidence that, yes — you can do this! 

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