How To Clean Your Desk Clutter & Make It A Habit

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Today's declutter mission is to clean your desk of clutter, and then to begin the process of making it a habit to clear off your desk top regularly.


How to declutter and clean your desk top off in your home office, plus how to build habits that will keep it that way from now on {on Home Storage Solutions 101}use this Pin it button to save to Pinterest
This article is written mainly from the perspective of your home office desk, since we're taking on this mission as part of the Home Office Organization Challenge. But it can equally apply to the desktop at work, or to whatever table or flat surface in your home that you use to work on your household papers, even if you don't have a home office desk.

The Problem: Flat Surface Syndrome

The problem that you face when looking at your messy desk is that flat surfaces almost beg to be filled, with paper, knick knacks, stuff you're just putting down "for a second" and all kinds of other stuff.

If you suffer from flat surface syndrome you're definitely not alone! (***I've written an article all about how to declutter any flat surface here that might be helpful to you, if you want some extra guidance!)

For example, a reader, Lynley, sent in this photo of her cluttered desk, which you can see below, and which is actually her dining room table. This is nothing I haven't seen on my own kitchen table or desk in a middle of a project myself. I think we can all relate, right?

Why Having A Clear Desk Is Important

But there is a reason we all want to clear off our desks.

The paper piles, the mess, they make it difficult to actually do any work at the desk or to find the things you need when you need them.

messy desk at the dining room table
In fact, lots of productivity experts have said that one of the best habits we can have is to clear off our desks each evening, at the end of the day of work, so that the next day we're starting fresh.

This makes sense, doesn't it? It is daunting to try to push and shove everything to the side to try to start a new project or task on a cluttered or messy desk. In fact, many of us have home office desks and still end up doing our household paperwork on the couch or the kitchen table because our desks are too full to actually use them.

Well no more!

Today's Mission: Do The Big Clear Off!

So today we're going to focus on clearing off your desktop so that you can actually use it regularly and consistently, just like it is meant to be used.

Here's an example of a desk covered with paper piles and other stuff, sent in graciously by a reader, Lawanna.

desk clutter


This is not to pick on Lawanna. Far from it. This is pretty usual after a couple of days without cleaning off your desk, or after (or during) some type of big project. Like I've mentioned before -- I've been there! I think many of us can relate.

So what should you do? Just start tackling the desk clutter one little section at a time purging clutter, and putting things away where they should go instead of having it just stacked up to deal with later.

Much of the clutter on your desktop is really delayed decision making. Now it's time to decide what to do with these things, and just do it.

Hopefully you've been following along with the paper clutter missions that are part of the Declutter 365 series for a while now, because if so this won't seem like quite so daunting a task.

That's because for many of us the thing we need to deal with on our desks is piles of paper. And it is paper that either just needs to be decluttered or that needs to be filed as part of your home filing system.

So if you've done many of these previous 15 minute missions then today's mission really won't take quite as long. If not, then I suggest going back to some of those missions to help you tackle the paper stacks and again, just taking it 15 minutes at a time. There is a reason I waited until now in the year to do this particular mission. :)

After you've dealt with the paper clutter go ahead and deal with anything else still on your desk top that shouldn't be there, putting things away or decluttering as necessary.

I would urge you not to have too many knick knacks or even office supplies out on your desk. Sure, it doesn't have to be completely clear when you're done, but edit and reduce the total amount you keep out. Put as much stuff into drawers or in other places as possible, keeping in mind supplies may need to be still within close reach for convenience. For example, your stapler doesn't have to sit out, but put it in the desk drawer to grab easily when you do need it.

The goal is to have plenty of room to work and spread out during the actual tasks you're doing at the desk, and these little things can still make the space feel cramped.

Of course, once you get it clear you need to work to keep it way from now on, which is what the next section of the article discusses.

Top photo courtesy of brian kusler, and second photo, showing a before and after of a desk top, is courtesy of a reader, Windy

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Simple Habit To Adopt To Keep Your Desk Cleared Off From Now On

How to clear your desk of clutter, and then keep it that way with simple habits {on Home Storage Solutions 101}use this Pin it button to save to Pinterest

As with many of these decluttering missions, clearing off your desk one time will not keep it that way forever.

That's unfortunate, but true.

But changing a few actions and habits can make this the last time you've got to do a big desk clean off. Instead, I urge you from now on to do lots of little desk clean offs.

It's really as simple as what we often tell our kids, clean up after yourself when you're done.

So if you finish paying the bills, go ahead and file or shred papers right then, put away your stamps, envelopes, and pen, and just make sure everything gets put away when you're done.

Simple, yes? Well, it really is. The issue is that for it to be simple you've got to have your organizational systems in place for all the paperwork you're dealing with at your desk.

That's what we've been working on for quite a few weeks as part of the 52 Week Organized Home Challenge, in the whole paper organization section of the challenge.

So if you're struggling with this habit, consider that you need to work more on your paper organizational systems so that putting away everything after each use is a simple and quick task. (Click the link to get to the site's paper organization articles, plus links to all the organizational challenges related to paper.)

So to give you some inspiration I've shown several before and after photos sent in by readers who've tackled this mission. They've done a great job, and I know you will too!

When you've done your own desk declutter I'd love to see your result. You can submit your photos here and I'll add the best ones here to the site!

Photo courtesy of a reader, Christi

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Messy Desk Transformation: From Chaos To Organized!

Before

Before

Before After

I got these before and after pictures from a reader, Tanja. What a transformation she had when she did this mission!

She said, "Thank you for you tips. Here are a before and after photo. Thank you so much for your motivation :)"

home office desk top decluttering mission successuse this Pin it button to save to Pinterest


In addition, here's some more photos I've received from other readers who've done this mission.

Before and after results when Lori decluttered her desk top {on Home Storage Solutions 101}


The photo above was sent in by a reader, Lori, who said, "Totally decluttered my desk, the drawers, created a filing system and created a home for all kinds of different items! It's the best!"

Results of a decluttering project to clear off desk top {featured on Home Storage Solutions 101}


The photos above were sent in by a reader, Dee, who said, "before and after of cleaning out a desk." Wow, look at the difference!

How to declutter your desk area in your home office, and then keep it that way {on Home Storage Solutions 101}


The photos above were sent in by Regina, who said of her after picture, "After. I still need to do more but this is manageable."

That's a great point Regina! Depending on how much clutter you've got on your desk top it may take quite a few 15 minute sessions to get rid of it all. That's OK, and the more you remove the better you'll feel! Any progress is good progress!

You can see the progression of the decluttering process below.

Progression from beginning to the end of the decluttering process when clearing of desk top, sent in by a reader Karen {featured on Home Storage Solutions 101}use this Pin it button to save to Pinterest

A reader, Karen, sent in the photos above, showing her progress as she decluttered her desk top. She said of the middle picture, "Only got to do the one session and then motherhood called! This is where I left off." Once she had time to finish though she sent in the last photo of the grouping, saying, "And where I am now! Drawers are shaping up too!"

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Sometimes Getting Rid Of Desk Clutter Means Adding A Bit Of Storage

Here's another before and after picture from a reader, Katherine.

She explained, "Had to share my before and after of the 'drop zone' of our house. It was always being covered in random things so I did a major downsize of the desk and got ones with drawers to hide any mess."

I think this is great! Katherine recognized that she had a problem with desktop clutter and wanted to combat it not just once, but for the future as well. So she added storage, in this case desk drawers, for the area to make sure there was a place to put the stuff that just got placed on there and that was causing an eye sore!

You definitely have to analyze what your clutter problem is, so you find a good solution that addresses your problem.

Are You Ready To Declutter Your Home?

declutter 365
I hope seeing these pictures has inspired you to clean your desk and get rid of desk clutter.

When you begin to declutter the feeling you get is contagious, so if you're loving the results you're getting I would encourage you to keep going.

I've got a whole series of 15 minute decluttering missions (eventually 365 of them!) that you can do.

Just pick and choose the ones you want to do, that will make a big impact in your home. But if you want someone else to tell you the order you can also grab the 15 minute daily decluttering mission calendars and follow along as we all get our homes clutter free together!

Related Pages You May Enjoy

Getting Clutter Free 15 Minutes At A Time Hall Of Fame

Getting Rid Of Home Office & Technology Clutter Hall Of Fame

Go From Clean Your Desk Clutter & Make It A Habit To Home Page

Comments for Sometimes Getting Rid Of Desk Clutter Means Adding A Bit Of Storage

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hint for a clean desk
by: Anonymous

I keep the top drawer of my computer desk for papers I am still working on. When I leave (or company is coming) I pick up the desk-top mess and put it in that drawer. When I come back to the computer I get the "mess" out and continue working.

Ouch. This one is tough for me.
by: H

Ouch. This is my particular Achilles heel that I never seem to get on top of.

One thing that helps me (since a large part of my problem is I can't ever get started); when I do manage to clear my work space off before finishing up for the day, it helps immensely if I leave out a folder of papers, forms, contact info I'll need first thing the next day. Less chance of being lured into any of a thousand distractions while hunting for these before getting started the next day. (I'll just check email/ Face Book/ Pinterest, etc...)

Items left to do
by: Anonymous

I need a desktop system for things that are NOT done. If I put "to do" paper away, I risk forgetting about it.

Dated folders & Vertical catch all files
by: Anonymous

One of the things that has helped me A LOT is to put a hanging file folder holder (IKEA) on the wall and put folders for different things like bills to pay before the 15th and after the 15th. I grab the folders twice a month and deal with that paperwork as I go. I also have a to be filed folder for when I'm in a hurry. Another clutter maker are the random coupons that I file by category. Going out to eat? Grab the dining couple file. I also use a vertical filing system from Martha Stewart in a magazine holder box for all of the kids school stuff that piles up. I don't always need it, but when I do it's nice to know its all together and I can leave the holder out since it's attractive and doesn't take up a lot of room. I've only decluttered a few areas of my home so far, but those are my favorite places in the house. Thank you for this site and newsletter! It's so helpful!!! Life-changing really.

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