How to Declutter and Simplify Your Office Life

A woman covered with Post-it notes wondering how to declutter

A desk piled high with papers, disorganized files and an office life filled with an ever-expanding range of devices and programs can drain your motivation faster than you drain your coffee mug. You need to know how to declutter.

If spring is time for cleaning,  there’s no better time than right now to get started. Read on for three steps accounting and financial professionals, and managers, can take to start making office life easier and increase productivity, on the way to achieving an ideal work-life balance.

1. How to declutter? Box it up

Clearing the clutter sounds simple. So why is it always so difficult? Sure, you don’t need two staplers on your desk, but it’s always good to have a backup. And that bulky electric pencil sharpener is a necessity. Never mind that you almost always use a pen. When it’s time to throw stuff out, suddenly every item you have seems essential.

This week, try a different approach. On Monday, bring a box to your office and empty your desk. Put everything in the box – address book, calendar, calculator, scissors, you name it. Throughout the week, only take items out of the box when you need them to do a task. When you’ve finished using the item, find a place for it on or in your desk. By Friday afternoon, all of the items that are truly essential will be in their place, and you might be surprised how many items are still in the box for storage elsewhere.

2. Think 'flow' with your office life

As you begin to realize which items you use the most, apply that knowledge when deciding where to keep everything. Obviously, your most essential items should be close at hand. Additionally, try giving your desk a “left-to-right work flow.” Place your inbox, phone and computer on the left side of your desk.

The middle should be kept clear, as this is your work space. The right side of your desk is for completion: Staplers, paper clips, stamps and any other “last-stage” items should be kept in on this side.

3. Check your tech

Many apps exist to help organizations streamline their processes with technology tools. You can choose from software designed to increase an organization’s ability to collaborate to secure cloud systems that make sure all employees can access essential data, regardless of location.

On the flip side, it’s easy to go overboard on the tech help. If you’re loaded down with so many mobile devices that “android” more accurately describes your appearance than it does your tablet, you know you have a problem. Or perhaps you have so many organizational apps on your smartphone, you can’t remember which one you use as a calendar and which contains your to-do list.

The key is to keep it simple: Focus on multifunctional apps and programs that can cover all your needs, and consolidate your mobile devices. One or two should be plenty.

While you're finding out how to declutter and simplify your office life, don't forget to take time off — from your devices AND your desk.

Is it time for a deeper look at spring cleaning, say, for your job? It doesn't hurt to take a look at what's out there.  


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Editor's note: This post was originally published in 2014 and was updated in 2016.

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