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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 mail.”

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:

  1. The average desk worker has 36 hours worth of work on their desk and wastes up to 3 hours a week just “looking” for STUFF!
  2. 7.5% of all documents get lost and 3% get misfiled.
  3. 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 out:

  • Estimate how many hours of work you have piled on your desk?
  • 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 have read?
  • 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 calendar).
  • 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.


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 Toss" at

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 drawers.

8. After sorting ONLY put back on your desk what you use Daily, such as:

Pen, Pencil, Phone, Phone Pad, Desk Workbook, Tickler 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 replace this).

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 tickler file as soon as they land on your desk.
3. Sort through mail and toss out all junk mail as soon as it arrives.
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- do’s.
6. Schedule regular desk maintenance.
7. Schedule filing time and store your to-file in the corresponding date of your tickler file.
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.

feng shui home office

Feng Shui Your Office Course

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)
  • Unlimited email access to me
  • Review/Suggestions of your completed assignments via email

Janet Hall, The Person/Place Energy Mover, is a Professional Organizer - Certified, 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

Copyright (c) 2002-2010 by OverHall Consulting
P.O. Box 263, Port Republic, MD 20676
All Rights Reserved. Permission is granted to reproduce, copy, or distribute so long as article is kept intact, this copyright notice and full information about contacting the author is attached.


Janet L. Hall
P.O. Box 263
Port Republic, MD 20676
Email Janet
Copyright © 1999-2010

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