The impacts of clutter in the workspace.

Take a moment to think about your own office, be it at work or at home. Is it causing you to feel overwhelmed? Stressed and flustered trying to find things among the clutter?

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We’ve all been there either at home or in the office. Trapped within a never-ending pile of clutter, files, and poorly designed workspaces.

I’ve worked in an office where we housed everything but the kitchen sink. I had a box of wellingtons at my feet, DIY supplies in the cupboard, and an endless stream of paperwork. As much as I tried to keep the place organised, my attempts were futile. Looking back it only added to my increasing anxiety. Although I joked and said ‘I know where everything is‘, I didn’t. And nor did my boss if he were to be entirely honest. As much as I miss the work I certainly don’t miss the dusty, cold, and frankly chaotic workspace.

Take a moment to think about your own office, be it at work or at home. Is it causing you to feel overwhelmed? Stressed and flustered trying to find things among the clutter? Are you constantly promising that you’ll dust that one spot behind the monitor? And, most importantly, are you working comfortably with out stretching or straining?


How clutter in the workspace can negatively impact our health.

>> Reduces productivity.

An overly cluttered workspace causes us to waste time looking for documents and files which should be readily available to us. The same goes for the information held on our computer systems. If it’s not organised and easy to locate, chances are you won’t be able to find it when you need it most.

When we’re able to be productive and whizz through work quicker than Sonic, we feel more motivated! Not only that but it increases our confidence levels and makes us feel like we’re ready to tackle the next task. Clutter and disarray in the workspace can only succeed in holding us back from our true potential.

>> Clutter impacts our emotional response and relationships with others.

An overly chaotic workspace can lead to emotional exhaustion. It may not be apparent immediately, and it may even be mislabelled as a lack of motivation. But if you find yourself putting off tasks because you can’t be bothered looking for files or tackling a mountain of documents, then chances are you’re exhausted by your current environment.

But how can it impact your relationships with others? Emotional exhaustion often leads to shortened tempers, frayed nerves, and a lack of patience. If you’re working in chaos and find yourself snapping at your co-workers or partner, it could be caused by a lack of organisation.

>> Increases our stress levels.

Ah stress. One of my favourite topics to cover on this blog. Having a disorganised and cluttered workspace can lead to an increase in stress levels. I mean, wouldn’t you be if you were drowning under a mountain of paperwork? Most of which could probably have been disposed of weeks ago.

If you’ve read my other posts on stress and the impacts on your health, you’ll know that it doesn’t just stop with feeling a bit frazzled. Stress can negatively impact our physical health, mental health, sleeping schedule and can even cause significant changes to our diets.

Impacts of stress on work performance include;

  • A decrease in productivity due to an inability to process simple tasks.
  • Becoming overwhelmed easily, even with the simplest things.
  • Short or long term absence from work due to stress and its impacts. In fact, a study found that workplace stress costs American businesses up to $190 billion each year.
  • Poor work performance due to a lack of focus, ‘follow-through‘, and motivation.

>> Other health implications.

Having a cluttered and disorganised workspace entices dust, germs and even pests. Have you ever lifted a pile of papers or books only to find a spider has set up house? I know I have!

Although dusting, sanitising and giving your workspace may be the last thing on your mind, it’s very important. Home office or not it’s important to keep your workspace as free from germs as possible. This has become increasingly important over the last few months due to COVID-19.


Take your office from zero to hero.

One. Invest in lockers, filing systems, and adequate storage.

Having enough storage is important for maintaining a well organised and clutter-free workplace. It makes life easier when all your files are in the correct place, documents are where they should be, and scrap is, well, scrapped!

In my old house, I didn’t have an office. In fact, I worked in a very small corner of the living room with no storage, no filing system; Nothing. We didn’t even have a kitchen table. It was brutal! But now my partner and I both share a home office and it couldn’t be further from our previous lives.

Everything has its place. I use the CEP Filing Drawers from Viking for my notebooks and documents. While the bigger storage drawers are for things like tarot cards, crystals, technical objects, and general office supplies.

It’s also important to organise our computers and laptops so that files, documents, pictures, etc are easy to find. Doing a regular clear out also helps free up disk space and prevents lagging.

Two. Keep on top of clutter to stop it getting on top of you.

Don’t let the clutter build up in the first place! If you tidy as you go along it prevents the clutter from getting out of hand. Once it reaches a level where you start to become affected, it’s already too late, and the task of decluttering becomes more of a chore.

I like keeping my workspace tidy but I’ve also fallen into the trap of ‘I’ll do it tomorrow.’ I’ve allowed my workspace to become so overcrowded and disorganised that I’ve actually dreaded walking into my office. It takes a toll on my productivity, my mental health, and makes me feel discouraged. I’ve now adopted a system where I de-clutter at least once a month, and throw away the things I no longer need on a regular basis.

Looking for some interesting ways to style your home office? Check out this post over at Design Muse Blog for some fun and cute ideas!

Three. Tidy up your leads and cables.

Cable management can be difficult to keep under control. Especially if you’re working with a smaller space. But it’s very important that cables and leads are kept well organised and maintained. Not only can they become a fire hazard, but damaged cables can cause small electric shocks due to exposed wiring. If you’re connecting cables over a great distance they can also become a trip hazard so it’s important to bear this in mind when thinking of design and organisation.

What can you do to manage your cables at home? You can use cable ties, tubes, and general wire tidies which can be sourced from Amazon or your local supermarket. If cables and leads have to travel a long distance, you can attach them to skirting boards and doorframes using clips which can be either attached using screws or self-adhesive.

If nothing else, it’s always nice to walk into an office with correct cable management as it looks more professional, visually pleasing, and gathers less dust.

Four. Create to-do lists.

To-do lists are an amazing way of keeping all your tasks in order. I personally love lists and take great enjoyment in ticking things off as I go along. But it’s possible to overdo it.

When creating to-do lists always keep it simple, small, and specific. Some experts believe that you should have no more than seven items on any to-do list at a time. For example, when planning this article my to-do list looked a little like this;

  • Research and take notes on section A.
  • Draft three hundred words from research for section A.

Each day I would research and draft a section. Sometimes I’d tackle two at a time and maybe even three if I was feeling energetic. This allowed me time to tackle other articles and tasks that I had throughout the day.

When getting started with your to-do list, try and kick things off with the task you least want to do. Although it might be nice to start off easy, our willpower is limited. Therefore it shouldn’t be wasted on completing the easiest and arguably quickest tasks. Once we get the biggest and scariest out of the way we’re free to fly through the rest without dread.

Finally why not think about rewarding yourself for each task or at the end of each day? When studying for my final year exams I would treat myself to a sweet for every section I successfully studied and created notes for. This pattern continued until the day of the exam, after which I treated myself with an evening in bed and video games. Having a reward to look forward to can help motivate us to the finish line.

Check out these notebooks from Viking! There is plenty of space for lists, notes, and even doodles! I’m keeping the Pukka notebook for a special project!
Five. Think about ergonomics.

Comfort when working from home should be our number one priority. It not only increases our productivity but prevents repetitive strain and unnecessary stressors. Although not everyone has a dedicated home office, as long as you have the correct desk and leg space, you should be able to make the best of a bad situation.

  1. Make sure you’re working from a desk that has adequate legroom so that you can sit close to your laptop or computer without unnecessary stretching. Try to keep your feet firmly on the ground or on a footrest. DO NOT sit with your legs cross as this increases the likelihood of ‘hunching‘ over, and strain the circulation in your legs.
  2. If possible use a separate mouse and keyboard with laptops. I personally use a chrome book so this isn’t an easy option for me, but I much prefer using an external mouse for comfort.
  3. The top of your laptop should be level with your eyes. This means you may have to prop it up so that you’re not looking down at it.
  4. On that note, make sure all computers, laptops and accompanying technology are directly in front of you. This means you should not be overextending your neck to look up, down, or in either direction. Your keyboard and mouse should also be directly in front. Finally, there should be adequate room for your forearms to rest on the desk with ease.
  5. Your chair should ideally be adjustable but, again, we don’t all have that luxury. If you do have an adjustable chair make sure it’s at the correct height for you. But if not, you can use a rolled up towel for lower back support and a cushion to prop you higher if necessary.
  6. Posture is important! Take it from someone with chronically bad posture and, as a result, suffers from upper back pain. If sitting, ensure that the small of your back is supported using the method mentioned above, or a back support. Your shoulders should be relaxed but not slumped forward. Make sure your legs are comfortable and, as stated, your feet should be on the ground or a footrest.

For more detailed information on ergonomics while working at a desk, check out the Health and Safety Executives free guide.


Interested in learning more about home organisation? Check out this post over on A Life With Frills! Your office isn’t the only place that can feel distracting and overwhelming. Learn some top tips to help you stay organised and motivated.

You can find a full range of office essentials over on Viking!

88 comments

  1. Clutter makes me distracted. It leaves me with a feeling like I always have something I need to do.

  2. Yyyooooo…there was no lie when you mentioned that you spend ages looking for just one document! I remember there is a university lecturer, in whose office I spent many days and times and gosh, he had so much clutter in there! I always wondered how he managed to live and work in such a space!

  3. I need to declutter my office asap! We are moving next month and my plan is to minimize the clutter.

  4. There’s nothing really good that comes out of the clutter and messy workspaces. I can’t tolerate it either

  5. Oh, I cant tolerate messy and cluttered soroundings. I am suffocated seeing those papers or objects lying in the corner without any purpose. for the house, before going to bed, I ensure everything is tucked in its proper places.

  6. I can really relate with this one. I agree, clutter and messy working area has a negative impact especially to someone’s productivity. In my case, if my working area is messy, it feels like i have less energy and less motivation to work.
    Thank you for sharing these tips

  7. It is really hard for me to have a tidy workspace. I am always doing and managing so many tasks at once, but I agree that a tidy workspace is more comfortable and less distracting. I need to get better at this.

  8. I love all the wee pieces they sent me. They’re all so useful and gorgeous! Thank you for taking the time to read and comment!

  9. Clutter adds stress to me personally. If it is at work, would be disastrous. I think it is good to little by little tidy up the space we’re working on

  10. I work best in clutter – I know where every thing is and can just put my hand on it straight away!

  11. Wow..this blog post is very helpful and beneficial..Thanks for sharing all this is really amazing..These all products seems to be very attractive…loved it..Great work…

  12. Those notebooks look beautiful. I love stationery! It is so true, there is that saying tidy space tidy mine. I always work best in a tidy and organised space!

  13. Very true clutter free office or home, it helps greatly in brining in good energy and keeping bay the negative vibes.

  14. Sometimes some people can find i easier to work with clutter than others. I thought I could but it just kept stressing me out.

  15. I used a shared workspace so I know it works. It drives me crazy, is it not a good experience. Love this post, thanks for sharing it. – Paolo

  16. Thank You so much for sharing this, working in a cluttered and messy place will reduce your productivity. Love this posts, thanks for sharing this.

  17. Lots of great suggestions here! I totally agree that clutter can affect your work productivity. When my home office gets cluttered I don’t function as well and know I need to start clearing out the clutter.

  18. I am working really hard towards being more organized, that’s not in my nature.

  19. I was planning to de-clutter my desk today – this is the perfect motivation for me to get started, I know how it will feel!

  20. I can’t work on my blog properly when the space around me is messy! I need to clean before I started writing! x

    Lucy |

  21. I can never function when my living space is cluttered. It makes me brain feel so frazzled! I’m trying to be better about staying motivated to keep up with the cleaning.

  22. Yes! We have been working on decluttering our home office and slowly our entire house!

  23. I used to be that co-worker. I had notes to remind me of everything. I’ve since given that up just to use phone alarms lol!

  24. I love Viking so much. I loved them when I was working full time as a health and safety officer and I love them now. We had to deal with them on an industrial scale to get desk equipment that was ergonomically suitable and they were always great!

  25. Paper is my major downfall! I keep all my scraps just in case. I’ve had to learn to let that go though, just to keep things tidy.

  26. I can’t cope when its messy. I’ll let it go for a while until I get to the point where I lose my mind!
    Thank you for reading! 🙂

  27. Loved this. It’s so true that when I’m surrounded by clutter it makes me stressed and I can’t think clearly especially when I need to work.

  28. I think clutter is any part impacts us in a negative way, its very important to de-clutter every now and then, and for me the day I de-clutter is such a peaceful and great experience.

  29. Great advice! I know that the moment that my office starts to get cluttered, I instantly start feeling more stressed out. I’m a master of the ‘to-do list’ because they keep me organized and focused. That being said, I actually have a list focused on organizing the office throughout the week. it keeps it from getting cluttered and impact not only my work but the rest of my life.

  30. this is a very important topic as work can already be sometimes stressful, this has helped alot so thanks

  31. I use a shared workspace and one of my coworkers puts post-it notes EVERYWHERE. It drives me insane… I only use them to write something down and as soon as I’m done they’re in the garbage. I hate clutter.

  32. These are all great tips! I know I get nothing done if I have a cluttered workspace!

  33. Clutter gives me so much anxiety! To be honest my desk is a mess. I wonder if that is why I’m such a wreck when I have to do work. I love these tips

  34. Great tips, you’re the second person who I’ve seen do a post with viking desk products today and it’s making me so excited to get my office and shop for desk supplies!

  35. I loved reading this! As a neat freak, I always find myself organizing, de-cluttering, and tidying up! I definitely agree that you are more productive when you are working in a clean and organized environment. All of your tips are spot on! The one thing I still need to do is get a keyboard and a mouse. I work from my MacBook, and it definitely gets uncomfortable after working for 7+ hours!

    Thanks for sharing this incredible post!

    Much love always,
    GABBY

  36. Great post! I have this problem at work where paper just keeps piling up and it gets so overwhelming I just push it aside and forget about it for a while…

  37. Great post! I’ve become more organised recently as I feel I can’t concentrate when things are unorganised. I found it really helpful to have planners to organise thoughts and ideas. I don’t have my own office at the moment but I hope to have one in the future and I’ll be referring back to this post to help me keep it organised and tidy.

  38. This does happen to me all the time. Whenever my house or office is messy, I just don’t want to work or do anything at all but in the end I have to do it all to fix the issue!

  39. I feel like clutter has this impact in all areas of my life! I’m always tidying and organizing because to otherwise it’ll drive me crazy!

  40. I share the dining room as the home office with my partner. There’s more than enough room, but it’s so cluttered at the moment, especially when you add in its now a school as well! I’m desperate to get it sorted out, it stresses me out.

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