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Have a Tidy Desk, Even If You’re a Slob

Depending on which experts you ask, a messy desk is either a sign of creativity or a serious impediment to getting stuff done. No matter which school of thought you belong to, there are times when it makes sense to organize -- even if it's just temporarily, in order to keep track of a particularly sticky project or impress a new boss. If you're Team Messy, but you need to be neat, here's how to do it.

Depending on which experts you ask, a messy desk is either a sign of creativity or a serious impediment to getting stuff done. No matter which school of thought you belong to, there are times when it makes sense to organize — even if it’s just temporarily, in order to keep track of a particularly sticky project or impress a new boss. If you’re Team Messy, but you need to be neat, here’s how to do it.

home office 

(Photo Credit: DavidMartynHunt/Flickr)

1. Give yourself a head start.

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Don’t wait until the last minute to try to change the habits of a lifetime. At least a week before you want to get things in order, start prep. Get a garbage bag and committing to filling it with trash or documents to shred. The week’s lead time means that you’ll be less likely to throw out something you need, rushing around to make your deadline.

2. Start with what you can’t see.

“Clear out permanent files and drawers so you have a place to put the items on your desk,” suggests Gwen Moran at Fast Company. “Return unused office supplies — another source of clutter — to their storage area.”

The idea is to create a place to put all the important files you’ll unearth when you get to the archeological dig on your desk top.

3. Put like with like.

“Cluster together your desk accessories: your stapler, tape dispenser, pen and pencil holder, and a small pad for taking notes can be organized near your telephone, so you can easily find and grab them,” writes professional clean person Jolie Kerr at Time Out New York. “Store less frequently used items like staples, rubber bands, spare Post-it notes and so on in an easily accessible top drawer.”

4. Recognize the difference between clutter and filth.

Your co-workers might give you a pass on a few piles of paper or an exuberant collection of desk toys, but the second your workspace gets mice, all fingers will be pointed firmly in your direction — especially if your clutter involves foodstuffs. If you can, it’s best to get out of the habit of eating at your desk altogether, but no matter what, make sure you throw out your containers and wipe down all surfaces after eating. It’s better for your health, and less likely to call unwelcome guests into your work area.

Tell Us What You Think

Do you prefer a messy desk or a neat one? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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