Does Your Office Need a Declutter?


There’s a good chance your office contains at least some items – clutter – that you simply don’t need any more. It’s easy for the amount of clutter in an office generally and workspaces in particular to mount over time, and there’s a part of many of us that’s wary of throwing anything out ‘just in case.’

It’s worth the effort, though. A clutter-free office can free up space that can be put to more productive use, looks more professional and is a more pleasant and productive place to work in.

The Irony of Clutter

While we might spend months and even years working in an environment full of clutter we no longer need, when we finally get started in its removal it’s remarkable how much we can suddenly do without. We often need a stimulus to make a start – perhaps a major redecoration of the premises or an impending move will trigger a declutter?

Typical Types of Clutter

It may amaze you to discover how much and what type of clutter you’ve shared the office with. Why keep those old prints that were taken down when you last had the office spruced up with a new coat of paint and new pictures? What’s the point of hanging on to that old printer that conked out and was long since replaced with a new and faster model? Do you really need those old documents going back years and no longer referred to? Surely those old boxes of files brought with you the last time you moved offices and have never opened since can finally be thrown out?

How to Decide If Your Office Needs Decluttering

First off, unless you’re super-efficient or have just moved in to a new premises, it’s likely that there will be at least some clutter that could be removed.

The ‘time’ test: how long is it since you used or even touched this item? If more than six months then it’s unlikely you’re going to need it.

The ‘fill up’ method: as you add more items to a file or filing cabinet, older documents could be discarded to make room for the newer items. If you’re trying to cram newer paperwork into a full filing cabinet, then ask yourself if the older documents still need to be there.

The same could apply to shelving: for example, when a stack of trade magazines on the shelf outgrows it, recycle the oldest ones to make room for the new rather than cramming them in or putting up a new shelf to take more.

Cable clutter: tame that tangle of cables running around desks and workstations. Simple cable channels or even rain gutters can help tuck away cabling.

Take a photo: sometimes simply gazing around your office trying to decide what needs removing may be difficult. Taking some photos may throw things into sharp perspective – a good tip is to look at the photos when you’re away from the office itself. Your mind will notice what can go that much more effectively.

Finding homes for items: make it a rule that items have to be stored somewhere, not just left haphazardly on surfaces such as desks, shelves and cupboard tops. This might highlight whether some of those items ‘lying around’ are really needed or not.

Start from scratch: sometimes de-cluttering is done in dribs and drabs and as a result isn’t done thoroughly. Maybe a few obviously obsolete items are thrown away and that’s it. Better to do it ‘from the ground up’ by devoting proper time and focussed effort on it.

Re-evaluate items: our brains trick us into thinking everything is important and needs to be there, so we have to overcome our natural resistance to throwing things away. As items are fished out of their hiding places, ask the following:

  • Does this item have a purpose?
  • Is it outdated?
  • Do we need this or is it here because we ‘might’ need it?
  • Did we even remember it was here before uncovering it?

The answers will point you to the action you should take.

De-clutter every day: inevitably, a busy office will accrue clutter. Make it another office rule to de-clutter for a few minutes each day – or at least each week. Maybe set a little time regularly to do this, then things won’t get out of hand over the longer term.

Ban the ‘miscellaneous’ file and drawer: they can become a real graveyard for seldom used paperwork and other items. It becomes too easy to chuck things in a drawer to get them out of sight, and paperwork in a ‘miscellaneous’ file can soon get forgotten about or – even worse – unable to be found as people forget what’s in there.

Workspace organisation: a lot of the above applies to individual workspaces. Keep desktops clear except for constantly used items, don’t have a ‘miscellaneous’ drawer where everything gets chucked into, and set up a basic yet efficient system for managing incoming and outgoing work.

Digital clutter: encourage staff not to use email as their ‘to do’ and reminder list. Ensure proper organisation of email such as proper mail box organisation rather than one big inbox containing everything, and use flagging and follow up facilities to keep on top of emails.

In a similar vein, keep computers organised with proper filing and keeping the virtual desktop clear. Ask that staff don’t use desktop space as a virtual dumping ground for files and documents – file them properly.

Save Space and Increase Productivity

Once your office is fully decluttered, then a good clean up would be worthwhile to accentuate the ‘clean slate’ feeling. There have been studies undertaken that prove workers feel better and work more productively in a clean and clear work environment, and time not wasted searching for items or working around clutter is more time spent productively.

About the Author

London Office Clearance provides safe and secure office clearance services, including computer data disposal. Take the stress out of decluttering!

Photo credit: Unsplash

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