Take out a sheet of paper, or your favorite note-taking app, and list everything that's sitting on your desk right now. Be honest. To be fair, I'll do it too - here's my list:
Now for me, that's pretty much the limit on what I can take before I'm going crazy. In fact, I'm moving the stapler and the card reader right now. Do you have more on your list? Keep in mind, "stack of papers" does not count as just one item. What's in that stack? Mail that hasn't been opened? Checks that haven't been deposited? Is there just one stack, or...several?
Let's ask a few more questions: How long does it take you to find something on (or in) that desk? Do you feel comfortable and calm when you sit down to work, or distracted and frustrated? Is everything you need within reach? Conversely, do you like to get up and move a fair amount when you're working (maybe you need to store things across the room)? Are things you don't use every day out of the way? Can you take five minutes at the end of the workday and set everything straight for the next?
I often get the "But ___________________ (insert favorite mad genius here...Einstein, Steve Jobs, Mark Twain, etc.) had a messy desk, and look what they accomplished!"
I suppose that's true. But think what they could have accomplished if they had kept things more in order. We'd be colonizing Mars by now.
Seriously, I understand that different people have different levels of clutter tolerance, and some people can definitely function well and find what they need at a workstation that others would consider chaotic. That's why you need to make a list, and ask yourself the questions. And if you come up short in some areas, maybe it's time to take a look at how you're taking care of things. It's just about being honest with yourself.
Einstein said, “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?” I think he had it a little mixed up. It's not an empty desk. It's an organized one.
Sara Skillen - Certified Professional Organizer®, Certified Organizer Coach®, wife, mom, and serial list-maker. Learning to trust my intuition more every day. Shall we work together?