A cluttered workspace with paper everywhere, clipboards, phone, glasses, and sticky notes.

Decluttering your workspace is not just a nice-to-have—it’s a must to maximize productivity and improve your mental health. A cluttered desk or disorganized office creates more than just an unpleasant atmosphere – it hinders your ability to focus, causes stress levels to go up, and you’ll spend time looking for misplaced items. You might not notice it immediately, but the chaos around you is subtly eating away your concentration and creativity.

A clean and neat workspace can make an enormous difference in your work life, whether you are an experienced professional managing multiple responsibilities or just beginning your career. In fact, various studies have shown that a well-organized environment can boost productivity by up to 40%. So, if you’re constantly distracted or feeling overwhelmed, it’s time to consider a workspace makeover.

The benefits of decluttering your workspace

If you’re still on the fence about tidying up, you may be surprised by the benefits a clutter-free workspace offers. Here are some of the most significant benefits that make the effort well worth it:

Improved focus and concentration

When your workspace is clean, your ideas can flow freely. You’ll concentrate much better on the task at hand when there are fewer distractions. According to a study by Princeton University, physical clutter in your environment leads to decreased performance and increased stress. Decluttering allows your mind to stay laser-focused on what matters most.

Enhanced productivity

As the saying goes, time is money, and a disorganized workspace is notorious for wasting it. Imagine how much time you lose daily searching for a missing document or untangling charger cables. These moments add up. Another study, this one by the National Association of Professional Organizers study, found that clutter leads to procrastination, costing professionals up to an hour a day in lost time. What could you accomplish with an extra hour?

Reduced stress and anxiety

Clutter can be a constant visual reminder of tasks and responsibilities, causing unnecessary stress and anxiety. On the other hand, an organized workspace promotes peace and control. 90% of Americans admit that disorganization negatively impacts their work, as reported in a survey by OfficeMax. Cleaning up your space can be an effective way to alleviate work-related stress.

Better professional image

First impressions matter. An orderly workspace conveys professionalism and competence to clients, colleagues, and superiors. When speaking on camera during meetings or giving presentations, this impression is especially important.

Streamlined workflow

An organized desk facilitates a smooth workflow since having a designated spot for your essential items means you won’t have to stop working to find them. You’ll find that this seamless process boosts your efficiency and enhances your work satisfaction.

Health and safety

Last but not least, a clutter-free workspace is safer and healthier. Stacks of paper can collect dust, aggravating allergies and respiratory conditions, and tipping hazards, like cables, are eliminated, reducing the risk of accidents. By keeping your work area clean, you’re also promoting a healthier atmosphere.

Tip: Improve your organizational skills at work, so you can efficiently plan your workday, complete tasks, and projects on time.

Tips for decluttering your workspace

Now that you’re convinced of the numerous benefits of a well-organized workspace, let’s talk about how to declutter it. Use these tips to create a productive and peaceful space:

Start with a clean slate

Emptying your workspace completely is the best place to start. Take everything out, including papers, stationery, and gadgets. It’ll be easier to visualize your ideal setup with a blank canvas. You’ll also eliminate the dust and grime accumulated by wiping down your desk and other surfaces.

Categorize your items

While you remove items, categorize them according to what you need daily, occasionally, and rarely. You should have easy access to essentials like your computer, phone, and some stationery. Drawers and shelves can be used to store items you use less frequently. Things that are rarely used should be removed altogether. Using this system, you can position items in the most logical and accessible spots.

Prioritize vertical space

When it comes to organization, vertical space can be invaluable. You can keep items within arm’s reach using shelves, wall-mounted organizers, and pegboards. Taking advantage of vertical space will free up your desk for tasks requiring concentration and focus. Remember, a clear desk means a clear mind.

Implement the two-minute rule

The two-minute rule is simple: If a task takes less than two minutes, do it immediately. File paper you receive right away instead of letting it clutter your desk. You can use this principle to accomplish small organizational tasks such as answering an email, putting a book away, or throwing out trash. By taking small steps like these, clutter can be prevented from building up in the first place.

Use storage solutions wisely

Invest in high-quality storage solutions to make finding things easy. Drawer organizers, filing cabinets, and storage bins can help you stay organized over time. Opt for transparent containers, if possible, so you can see the contents without opening them. For faster retrieval, label your storage solutions as well.

Keep a regular cleaning schedule

Maintaining an organized workspace requires consistency. Make it a habit to clean up at the end of each day or week. You’ll be amazed at the difference 10 minutes makes in keeping your space clean. Scheduled clean-ups help identify what’s out of place and restore order.

Limit personal items

Personal items can make a workspace feel comfortable, but too many can clutter it. Choose one or two items that bring you joy or motivation. Too many personal items on your desk can be distracting and take up valuable space.

Go digital where possible

Choose digital options over paper by storing important documents in the cloud for easy access. In addition to freeing up space, this makes finding documents easier. Just be sure to keep backups and organize your digital files for accessibility for quick access when you need them. 

Eliminate duplicate items

Take a close look at your office supplies. Do you really need five staplers or a dozen pens scattered around your desk? Probably not. Keep one of each essential item and store the duplicates or give them away. It frees up space and makes it easier to find what you need.

Use cable organizers

Cable clutter can be a major issue when you have computers, phones, and other electronic devices around your office. You can keep your cords neat and organized by investing in cable organizers. Use cable management solutions like velcro ties, cable boxes, or under-desk racks to keep your space looking neat.

Color-code your filing system

Implement a color-coded filing system if you handle a variety of documents. You can sort files according to their types. For instance, red for urgent tasks, blue for financial documents, and green for client information. You can find documents faster and add a visual element to your organization.

Establish boundaries

Setting boundaries is essential when sharing an office. Establish what areas are your personal space and what areas are shared. If shared spaces are not properly managed, they can become clutter magnets.

Have a ‘To-Do’ board

Use a ‘To-Do’ board instead of writing down tasks randomly. You can keep track of tasks and deadlines with a physical whiteboard or a digital app. You can also declutter your mental space by keeping a centralized task list.

Use adaptive furniture

Invest in adaptable furniture. A standing desk, for example, can be adjusted to a variety of heights and has built-in storage. Adaptive furniture allows you to customize your workspace according to your needs, resulting in a more organized working environment.

Decluttering your workspace can initially seem daunting, but the rewards are endless. From sharper focus and elevated productivity to reduced stress and a healthier environment, you’ll be glad you picked up those storage bins and started organizing.

Remember, decluttering isn’t a one-time thing; it’s a continuous process. Consistency is your best friend when it comes to maintaining an ideal workspace. These tips can transform your workspace into a productivity machine. Your time and effort will pay off, not just at work but in your personal life as well.

Get started today and watch how a clutter-free workspace can help you achieve new milestones and tackle challenges with renewed energy. Your future self will thank you.

Home / Career Advice / Workplace Tips / Decluttering Your Workspace: Tips for Boosting Efficiency and Focus
Pete Newsome headshot


Pete Newsome is the founder of zengig, which he created after more than two decades in staffing and recruiting. He’s also President of 4 Corner Resources, the Forbes America's Best Staffing and Recruiting Firm he founded in 2005, and is a member of the American Staffing Association and TechServe Alliance. In addition to his passion for staffing, Pete is now committed to zengig becoming the most comprehensive source of expert advice, tools, and resources for career growth and happiness. When he’s not in the office or spending time with his family of six, you can find Pete sharing his career knowledge and expertise through public speaking, writing, and as the host of the Finding Career Zen & Hire Calling podcasts. Connect with Pete on LinkedIn