Ten Tips for Cleaning Off Your
Desk and Keeping it Clean!
By: Janet L. Hall
On July 15, 1993 Walter S. Mossberg, the author and
creator of the weekly "Personal Technology" column in The
Wall Street Journal, was quoted as saying: “The promise of
the ‘paperless office,’ [and home] where documents are
entirely created, distributed, read and stored on computers,
has been about as reliable as the promise of a check in the
Now, almost a decade later, that statement is as true as
it was then and possibly even worse! Many still have the
mind set that everything that is on their computer must also
be printed out, never of course to be seen again! You WILL
have paperwork, in some form or another, until you die. It’s
a fact, a part of life that will not go away. The truth is you will
continue to have piles and junk cluttering your desk unless
you take control of the situation and learn how to handle
everything that lands on your desk.
Take a second and look at your desk, your countertop,
dining room table, or what ever you call your desk or
workspace. How much of your desktop can you actually see
and use? Do you even know what’s in those piles? Does
it look like something might be starting to “grow” from all the
yesteryears of lunches, snacks, and dinners you’ve had
there? Do you have so many gadgets and doodads,
personal items and pictures scattered about on your desk?
When was the last time you saw the whole top of your desk
and it saw a can of polish?
Here are just three interesting statistics from two polls
from Coopers & Lybrand and USA Weekend:
- The average desk worker has 36 hours worth of work on
their desk and wastes up to 3 hours a week just “looking” for
- 7.5% of all documents get lost and 3% get misfiled.
- Professionals spend 5 to 15% of their time reading
information, but up to 50% looking for it!
Think about your desk for a minute and how your days play
- Estimate how many hours of work you have piled on your
- Estimate how much time you waste each week looking for
stuff on your desk?
- How many documents did you lose or misfile last year?
- Are you scheduling regular time to read?
- What do you do with the article, magazine, or memo you
- After reading, if you keep, can you find it if needed?
Ten Tips to Clean Off Your Desk
1. SCHEDULE a date and time with yourself. Write it on
your calendar and keep this appointment, just as you would
an important meeting with a client or a doctor.
- Set a timer for the length of time you have decided to
work on this project.
- Make signs or mark boxes with the following: Current
Paperwork, Reference Paperwork, Historical Paperwork,
Refer to someone else or take home, Supplies, Reading,
and Data Entry (those business cards or scraps of paper that
you need to put into your database, address book, or
- Box of garbage bags.
- Pad of Paper and Pen (to write down anything you think
of doing or to make a to-do list for later.
3. CLEAR and EMPTY:
Take everything off your desk and out of your desk drawers.
4. SORT everything into new piles that you made signs for or
the boxes you marked from number 2 above.
5. File or Toss: Click up a FREE copy of our "5 W's of File or
6. Read or Toss: Click up a FREE copy of our "5 W's of
Read or Toss" at
7. Polish your desk and get the dirt and grim out of your desk
8. After sorting ONLY put back on your desk what you use
Daily, such as:
Pen, Pencil, Phone, Phone Pad, Desk Workbook,
File, Computer, Calendar, and Lamp.
9. Do NOT put back on your desk items that are seldom
used and NOT used daily, such as:
Gadgets/Toys, Glue, Scissors, Hole Puncher, Pencil
Sharpener, Ruler, and In/Out Box (your
Tickler File will
10. Drawers: Before you start putting things back into your
desk drawers, think of how you would like to utilize them,
and consider which hand is habit for you to open a drawer.
The hand that is “habit” should be the same side of your
desk drawers that you store frequently used items, such as:
Supplies, Stationary, and Current Files.
Ten Tips for Maintaining a Clean Desk
1. When you stop working on a project put it away.
2. Put date or calendar related papers/files into your
file as soon as they land on your desk.
3. Sort through mail and toss out all junk mail as soon as it
4. Schedule regular reading time and put “to read” material
in a reading folder.
5. Do NOT use scraps of paper or sticky pads. Use your
Desk Workbook to record all your notes, ideas, phone
numbers, web site and email addresses, errands, and to-
6. Schedule regular desk maintenance.
7. Schedule filing time and store your to-file in the
corresponding date of your
8. Make a frequently called numbers sheet and store under
your mouse pad or inside a drawer.
9. Create a Pending Folder to store papers or files in that
you are “waiting” for more information, someone else to get
back to you on, or something you have ordered.
10. Dust, polish, and wipe down your desk weekly.
Like the caterpillar that goes through
metamorphism, changing into a beautiful butterfly, so can you
and your office environment by applying feng shui.
Two set multimedia CD (4 hours)
Follow-along study guide (26 pages)
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assignments via email
Janet Hall, The Person/Place Energy Mover, is a Professional Organizer -
Certified Pyramid Feng Shui Practitioner, Speaker, and Author
and can help you regain control of your life, your time, your
stuff, and your environment. FREE newsletter, OverHall IT! at
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