Declutter your work space and spark progress


When Susan Carnes watched the Netflix show “Tidying Up With Marie Kondo,” she immediately decided to kick her office clutter to the curb, purging filing cabinets, drawers and shelves, and throwing out desktop organizers and other detritus 20 years in the making.

Carnes, a corporate communications director at human resources consulting firm APTMetrics in Darien, Conn., tapped into the KonMari method by asking herself if these items brought happiness.

“Sparking joy was very important,” she says. “I kept copies of marketing materials that I felt pride in designing or writing. I did keep one copy of [each of] the many brochures we produced over 20 years to have a historical archive.”

She did, however, discard “tons of paper I was saving for no reason” and “colored paper for reports we don’t do anymore because everything is digital,” overhauling her office over the course of three days.

“It was long overdue,” says Carnes, now enjoying post-purge peace. “I feel more focused and forward-moving. I find myself more interested in learning some new skills, like literally my calendar has opened up.”

Psychotherapist and therapeutic relationship coach Rachel Wright of Washington Heights sees a positive work impact after KonMari-ing her home office.

“Each time I declutter, I get at least two new clients. It truly feels like I create space for something new,” says the co-founder of Wright Wellness Center, which helps people claim strong relationships and fulfilling sex lives. “I wanted to feel more clear in my thinking and less distracted by piles of paper.”

Wright kept tax returns, confidential client information, receipts and special thank you cards and put them in storage bins so they’re out of sight, out of mind. She tossed financial documents from over seven years ago, bank statements, staplers that no longer worked, an old one-hole punch, rubber bands and random notes with phone numbers.

Five garbage bags later, Wright feels lighter, too. “It’s so much easier to find things and as a result, my mind feels like it gets to rest more.”

This is not just an illusion. Eliminating excess ultimately streamlines organization, saves time, increases efficiency and boosts productivity. According to data from a 2010 Brother International Corporation survey, 87 percent of office workers said they felt less productive when their workspace was disorganized.

Susie Hayman, president-elect of the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals, professional organizer and founder of In Your Business in Richmond, Va., underscores the data. “[Decluttering] does increase productivity. It’s a shift in mindset and it’s not just the physical clutter, it’s the emotional clutter in your brain and intangible things that cause people to be less productive.”

So, if you’re spring cleaning your office, Hayman suggests starting at your desk, especially because it’s common to feel overwhelmed in the beginning. “Usually if you can get a desk cleared off, that makes someone feel instantaneously better.”

In fact, Andrea Correale, president of Elegant Affairs Caterers, an off-premise caterer and event design company in Glen Cove, LI, and downtown, encourages her 35 employees to “dive into their desks and throw out all old papers.” She’s providing lunch and hiring a DJ one day this month to spin party tunes so everyone can collectively purge their space on company time.

“When you clean house, whether it’s your closet or your office, you are often left with a feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction,” says Correale. “It’s like starting a new school year. Wipe the slate clean, dig your heels in and forge forward.”

If your employer doesn’t set aside time, experts recommend scheduling small increments on your calendar. Smith Banfield, organizing and design consultant and owner of Clear Space in Clinton Hill, says, “Just do it piecemeal. Set the timer for 15 minutes and see what you get done.”

Banfield recommends being methodical instead of impulsively tossing everything. “If you start getting rid of everything and your boss says, ‘Where is this file from six months ago?’ you’d better have it in the cloud, you’d better have access to it. It’s up to you to know what the important things are.”

While the same rules apply to your home office and coworking space: Ask yourself what is important and urgent that needs to be within reach. “Go through everything, make broad categories [like client work and resource materials] and ask where it needs to live. Put items in the same category together,” says Banfield.

Decluttering and establishing organizational systems results in a quintessential win at work, Banfield says. “It saves your energy, [and] puts yourself in the best position to perform and outperform others.”


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