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Getting Rid of Clutter: Pick a Method for Your Office

Many methods for getting rid of clutter in the home can be used in an office environment. Here are four popular decluttering trends and how to adapt them for the workplace.

Decluttering isn't just a goal or a trend — by now, it's an entire industry unto itself. You can read dozens of books and websites, written by experts, to help you conquer your clutter. If that's not enough, you can hire consultants to make a house call and provide personal advice.

Each decluttering guru presents their own strategy for making these tough decisions. While most are geared toward cleaning out the home, plenty of them apply to the office, too. Here's a few of the more popular decluttering methods, and how they might apply to your workplace:

1. The KonMari Method

Japanese decluttering expert Marie Kondo, author of "The Life-Changing Joy of Tidying Up," famously advises people to consider each of their possessions individually, and only retain the ones that "spark joy." That sounds like it wouldn't apply to a workplace — for example, you definitely need your printer and laptop, but do they really bring you joy?

But Kondo's explanation adds some nuance to the picture. As she said in a Quora post: "When you use joy as your standard, you confront each of your things earnestly, and reflect on whether they make you happy in the present. Consequently, you will begin to realize what kinds of things you want to surround yourself with and what your idea of happiness is."

You might think about what kind of business you want to run, and what that business means to you. Why are you doing what you do? Then when you consider any object in your business, you can view it either as something that supports that goal, or doesn't. A laptop, then, might be a prosaic item — but when you think of it in a different light, you can find joy in what it allows you to do. Keep anything that brings you the joy of supporting your business, and get rid of anything that doesn't.

2. The Packing Party

The Minimalists (Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus) maintain that decluttering isn't just about cutting out extra stuff; it's about making room for things that are more important. By surrounding yourself with extra items, you're wasting time and energy, bogging yourself down mentally as well as physically.

They propose a packing party: Gather your employees. Then, box up everything in your workplace, as though you were moving locations, and label each box carefully so you'll know how to find what you need. At that point, start to remove only the items you need, as you need them. You will quickly find out which things are actually necessary to your business, and which ones are just taking up space. Odds are, a lot of these unused items can be donated or recycled.

3. "Seeing" Clutter

You live with your workplace clutter every day — it's possible that most of it has become part of the scenery for you and you don't really notice specific objects any more. "We sense clutter, but as we move through our regular lives we lose sight of it," according to advice website The Declutterer.

You may need a fresh eye to spot all the extra stacks of paper, electrical cords and excess office supplies lying around. The Declutterer offers a few ideas for seeing things more clearly, including taking photos or video of your workspace — looking at the images through a camera lens can help you view the environment in a different way.

Another thought is to invite newcomers into your office. This might help prompt you to see things through their eyes, and you'll be more aware of the messes you might normally miss. By taking mindful steps to shake up how you see things, you can quickly zero in on what to clean up or clear out.

4. The Four-Box Method

Then, there's just the simple strategy of sorting. In his blog Becoming Minimalist, Joshua Becker describes starting his minimalism journey with the Four-Box Method. For each area of your workplace, get four boxes and label them as follows:

  • Keep
  • Trash
  • Donate
  • Relocate

Having to pick a category for each item can force you into making decisions that you might otherwise avoid. If you aren't up for some of the more sweeping suggestions above, this may just be a good place to start.

Choose a decluttering method that suits your work environment. Set a date, invite your staff to participate and give it a try. Even if the results aren't perfect, you'll clear out some of the clutter and enjoy a tidier, more organized workplace.