Does Workplace Clutter Rule Your Space?

Workplace clutter

Does workplace clutter rule your space? It can ruin your productivity. Below are some statistics about the clutter in the workplace. Do you identify with some of these statistics?

From one of my organizing idols, Judith Kolberg.

What clutters your workspace? Click To Tweet

In December 2009 the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals and Office Depot conducted a survey of over 1,023 office workers on the question of “What clutters your workspace?”

Their response? 32% said food. Yikes! It’s just another indication we are not taking our lunch breaks and instead of working at our desks.

The same number of respondents reported newspapers and magazines clutter their workspace (so much for digital reading). I wonder if these are work-related journals or reading, or are they personal reading that is wasting more work time.

31% have coffee cups nearby (since when is that clutter?), and 28% report “personal hygiene products.” Toothpaste? Combs? What could that mean? This type of clutter is part of what does along with having people who spend long periods of time in space.

Hey, whatever it means, it’s not a problem if people can get their work done. And that’s the point. Disorganization in the form of lost time looking for items, tardiness (read more here, Does Lateness Affect the Workplace), and missed deadlines are good reasons to clean up clutter, according to the survey. Get the complete results at here.

Thanks, Judith

Read more about workplace clutter:

How to work from home and be more productive

6 Solutions for a More Efficient Work Station

Interruptions at Work – How Much Do They Cost?

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Janet Schiesl

Janet has been organizing since 2005. She is a Certified Professional Organizer and the owner of Basic Organization. She loves using her background as a space planner to challenge her clients to look at their space differently. She leads the team in large projects and works one-on-one with clients to help the process move quickly and comfortably. Call her crazy, but she loves to work with paper, to purge what is not needed and to create filing systems that work for each individual client. Janet is a Past President of the Washington DC Chapter of the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals (NAPO) and was voted 2016 Organizer of the Year by the Washington DC Chapter of NAPO.


  1. Juli Monroe on October 4, 2010 at 5:31 pm

    Interesting. Now that I have an actual office in my home, one of my office policies is no food. (I break that rule occasionally for a dark chocolate M&Ms break in my comfy chair by the window.) Water and sometimes iced tea are the only liquids allowed.

    And looking around, the only clutter is the stuff left over from my son’s occupation of the room. Not bad. One month into my office, and it’s still clutter-free.

  2. Janet on October 4, 2010 at 6:47 pm

    Juli, staying organized is sometimes the hardest part, so great that you are keeping up. Isn’t it nice to spend time in an organized office? It almost makes work more fun!

  3. Juli Monroe on October 4, 2010 at 7:05 pm

    It definitely beats “hoteling” at my dining room table! It makes it more fun, and I’m more productive because I’m in “work” mode while I’m here. Better ergonomics help too.

  4. Seana Turner on January 20, 2020 at 9:03 am

    I think this all definitely rings true to me. I see food and coffee cups all the time, and what is funny is how we allow the “remnants” to remain in our spaces even after we are finished with them. Nothing is more productive than a clear surface, so get that stuff out of there!!

    • Janet Schiesl on January 20, 2020 at 2:18 pm

      I agree Seana. I love a clear work space. Having all that clutter around can be so unproductive.

  5. Janet Barclay on January 20, 2020 at 9:03 am

    I’m curious to know whether newspapers and magazines are still common desktop clutter 10 years later! I bet that “personal hygiene products” would usually be hand cream and maybe hand sanitizer. Like Juli, I have a “no food at desk” policy which I’ve broken probably fewer than five times in the nearly 15 years I’ve been working in my home office. It’s mainly to ensure I take breaks, but it also helps to keep my desk (and my keyboard) clean.

    • Janet Schiesl on January 20, 2020 at 2:20 pm

      I think I should try the same rule to force me to take breaks too. It’s been a long time since I worked in an office, but I bet you can’t find many newspapers around. It’s so easy to read news on the internet.

  6. Linda Samuels on January 20, 2020 at 9:56 am

    It’s always an interesting exercise when you look at a space (workplace or otherwise) with a fresh pair of eyes. It’s often the case that things land and then remain there without further thought. And that’s one way that clutter can begin. Or, the things never had a real “home,” so they sit whereever- another clutter-inducing culprit. I used to have a no-food-at-my-desk-rule, but I have to say that the rule has long been dismissed. I often have a beverage at my desk as I work. However, I don’t leave it there indefinitely. When I’m done, it goes in the dishwasher.

    • Janet Schiesl on January 20, 2020 at 2:22 pm

      Clutter blindness is so normal for a lot of people. Just clearing that stuff away can make a dig difference.

  7. Sabrina Quairoli on January 20, 2020 at 12:30 pm

    These days I am at my desk most of the day and found that if I don’t keep my papers organized, it can get unruly fast, resulting in a disorganized space and mind. I like to revisit my space each year to see what worked, what didn’t work, and what needs improvement. This gives me more clarity on my business as well as my time management. Thank you for sharing.

  8. Janet Schiesl on January 20, 2020 at 2:23 pm

    I clear my desk at the end of each day. I like to start fresh in the morning and then spread out my work, but it always goes back at the end of the day.

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