Clean Desk Club

Remember when you were a kid, how finishing every bite of food on your plate qualified you to be a member of the “Clean Plate Club”? As adults watching our waistlines, we’d do better to get rid of the clutter in our work areas (than the crumbs on our plates) and join the Clean Desk Club.

Anyone familiar with Best Results Organizing’s principles knows that it’s not just about the aesthetics of keeping things tidy. An organized desk preserves four life/work essentials: sanity, functionality, security, and reputation.

Sanity – Don’t doubt it for a minute–clutter is distracting. It’s already hard enough to pay bills, sign permission slips or plan business tasks with the environmental clutter of phone calls and interruptions deterring your focus. Tangible clutter on and around your desk too easily hides your work priorities under sedimentary rock-like layers while sending out a siren call, forcing you to cast your glance on low-priority attention-stealers. Having to select 4 pens from your pencil cup before finding one that works is enough to drive anyone around the bend. Clear the decks…and clear your desk…to turn chaos into calm.

Functionality – An organized desk helps you save time and money, allowing you to focus on the essential tasks at hand. With reference papers in labeled files (instead of toppling piles) and action items awaiting your attention in a tickler file, you can concentrate on your priorities. Remember the Best Results Organizing mantra: “Don’t put things down; put them away!” Define homes for reference and research files, action items and office supplies based on my Prime Real Estate principle—the more often you use something (or should be using it), the closer it should be to you.

Security – Who wanders by your office? Customers, vendors, consultants? Friends and family of other employees, maintenance staff, and colleagues? Even in a home office, where only the UPS guy, babysitter, and pizza delivery lady see your desk, it’s crucial to protect sensitive data from disclosure—whether that’s your Social Security number and bank data, clients’ proprietary information, or personnel files.

The more clutter in your desktop environment, the harder it is to know when something is missing or if prying eyes have settled on them. Lock sensitive papers and computer backups in fire-safe drawers or filing cabinets; secure laptops with security cables and desktop computers with passwords (and firewalls); shred any sensitive data you no longer need. Don’t post sensitive information on your walls and the periphery of your computer screen! (Take a look around—can you see your IDs & passwords, account numbers or intellectual property? Then so can everyone else.)

Reputation – If clients and colleagues seem reluctant about trusting your judgment, or if your family fears giving you important papers to deal with, the problem may be your desk. Many people assume a cluttered desk represents a cluttered mind. While it’s more important to be sane, functional and secure, preserving your reputation by keeping your desk clear of clutter and maintaining essential items labeled and at arm’s length will help you achieve your goals. Anecdotal research has shown that elementary school teachers are swayed in favor of students with organized desks. Is there any doubt that supervisors, customers, patients, or mothers-in-law might be similarly swayed?

Do you need any further inspiration to clean off your desk? January is national Get Organized Month – why not start with your desk? The second Monday in January is Clean Off Your Desk Day. February is Archive Your Files Month, so you can get those out-of-date folders off of your desk and into the vault. The second Tuesday in March is Organize Your Home Office Day. The year is full of opportunities to inspire you to take charge of your desk, and by extension, your life.

Whether you’re a member of Corporate America or the head of I’m-Paying-Bills-So-You’re-Making-Dinner Inc., whether you’re a CEO or a sixth grader, join the Clean Desk Club for an organized, calm, secure and more productive environment.

Copyright © 2005 Julie Bestry and Best Results Organizing. All rights reserved.


About the Author:   Julie Bestry is a professional organizer, speaker, and author, who helps individuals and businesses save time and money, reduce stress and increase productivity through new organizational skills and systems. Her most recent book is 57 Secrets for Organizing Your Small Business. For information on how Julie can turn your chaos into serenity, visit Best Results Organizing at

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