Does your desk look more like a crime scene than a workspace? Is your job one where you interact with people face-to-face on a daily basis? If you answered “yes” to both questions, now’s the perfect time to look into cleaning up your act.

Whether you like to believe it or not, coworkers and clients often judge your professional potential by the amount of clutter that surrounds you. And the last thing you want is to be sending nonverbal cues that you’re disorganized and unfocused.

Even if you’re the only one who ever sees your workspace, it won’t hurt to give these tips a shot. You’d be surprised how quickly items on your daily to-do list get crossed off when your desk is clean and airy.

Here are 10 simple tips to help you get your desk space in tip-top shape:

1. Give yourself less room to be messy

Consider downsizing your computer desk (especially if you primarily work on a laptop). It’s hard to have a cluttered desktop when there’s only room for a computer, a phone, and a pen or two.

2. Keep the essentials out in the open

Pare the items on top of your desk down to the things you use several times a day. Your computer tower, monitor, one or two pens and pencils, a lamp, highlighter, family photo, and phone will usually do. Keep papers filed away unless they’re something you’re actively working on that day.

3. Get rid of duplicates

Once you have your desktop essentials set aside, get rid of the extra office supplies you’ve unwittingly been hoarding. No one needs 3 staplers, 2 staple removers, 12 steno pads, 100 pens, 14 thumb drives, or 8 boxes of paper clips. Trust your office manager to have more of something if you run out of it.

4. Keep the secondary essentials in your closest drawer

You can keep things like extra pens, whiteout, stationary, binder clips, and staples in your closest desk drawer. A compartmentalized storage tray can help keep things organized while out of sight.

5. Hide it in plain sight

Attractive decorative storage trays, drawers, and cubes work double duty by keeping non-essentials out of the way and giving your desk some personality.

6. Use your walls (sparingly)

Instead of putting sticky notes anywhere you can or having a clogged cork board, use a whiteboard. This ensures your daily to-do list is never more than you can actually handle in a day, and keeps you from having to solve the mystery of the missing Post-It. Keep your floorspace clear by using hooks to hang things like bags and coats.

7. Files are your friend

If it’s a completed or upcoming project, file it away accordingly. If it’s ancient or obsolete, trash it. If it’s something you’re actively working on that day, it can stay in a file folder on top of your desk.

8. Lose the paper trail

Make digital archives (scan, then save as a PDF) of old documents then toss them (or put them into storage if you’re really attached). Doing this will let you free up file space that can be used for in-progress projects.

9. Keep a shredder next to your trashcan

Have one multi-tiered storage tray for incoming and outgoing mail. Resist the temptation to start another pile somewhere else once it’s full. Open your incoming mail over the trashcan and immediately shred or recycle what you don’t need.

10. Schedule daily maintenance

Once you have everything under control, set an alarm on your phone and schedule 10 minutes at the end of each workday to keep it that way. This will help you get into the habit of being tidy. Plus, it’s much easier than waiting for things to pile up and having to start from scratch every time.

(Photo credit: Businessman with Messy Desk Asking for Help via Shutterstock)

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