Paper, Pens, and Pretty Things: three small ways to free up space in your home office

It’s not a secret: offices get cluttered.  Sure, there’s a lot sitting on the desk that you need: the notes from yesterday’s meeting, the mug of coffee, the printer, the other mug of coffee.  But there’s also likely a lot of excess items that only muddle your space.  Clear thinking is promoted by clear workspaces, so if you find yourself getting easily distracted while working, perhaps clearing a few things out of the office will help.

(Disclaimer: if your workspace is already clear and you’re getting distracted by Instagram, Tasty videos, and Jimmy Fallon’s most recent lip-sync battle, at least know that you’re not alone.  But that’s a separate conversation altogether that we’ll have to schedule for a later date.)

It’s not like organizers are immune to cluttered desks.  Even as I type this, I’m eyeing the empty wrapper from this morning’s protein bar, and the unnecessary amount of post-its taking up the space above my keyboard.  But daily cleanup set aside, there are a few things to think about that will help with clutter in the long run.  Specifically, there are three categories that, once reviewed and purged, will free up more space than you’d think.

1.     Paper Documents

Most monthly bills and statements are available online, but if you prefer paper copies, you still don’t need to keep everything.  When it comes to paperwork, many financial institutions recommend only keeping the most recent month of utility bills, one year’s worth of bank statements and pay stubs, and seven years’ worth of taxes.  If you’re unsure of how long to keep a particular category, online resources such as finra.org provide detailed lists of how long to keep a variety of documents.  It may not sound like it would make much of a difference, but you’d be surprised by how much extra space you can create in the file drawer.

2.     Writing Utensils

It may cost thirty minutes, but take the time to test every pen, marker, and highlighter shoved in the desk drawer or overflowing desktop holder.  Chances are, lots of them don’t work so great anymore, and can be thrown out.  There’s no point in aggravating yourself every time you have to dig through the writing utensils to find one that works.  Plus, don’t you have a few favorite go-to pens and pencils you always use anyway?  Keep a few spares, but don’t let the rest take up valuable space.

3.      Knick-Knacks

The handmade figurine collection from your European tour is fine, but the cheap, free giveaways from the last company conference don’t need to stay.  Keep the knick-knacks and décor that have sentimental value, the kind of items that bring a smile every time you glance at them.  If there’s no such value to an object, then get rid of it, it’s just adding physical and visual clutter.

Now you go purge some old bills, I’ll go throw away my protein bar wrapper, and then we can all get back to work.