Organizing paper clutter – why a neat desk makes sense | UniKeep

How to organize paper clutter
Organizing paper clutter

Working from home has recently become the new normal. And we’re still adjusting. With adults and kids at home, all day, every day, there’s one thing we can count on. Paper. Lots of it.

There’s always a steady stream of paper coming into our homes. Unopened mail, files, folders, office paperwork, and schoolwork piles up and we’re left staring at stacks all over the house. Paper clutter breeds disorganization which has distressing results on our efficiency and our psyche.


The Paper Culprit

The National Association of Professional Organizers ( NAPO) says the top reason for our disorganization is paper clutter. Having a messy desk isn’t a problem until things get lost.

Paper clutter hurts productivity in another way – it overloads the brain. An overwhelmed brain can’t give any single thing the attention it deserves. The result? Your work quality suffers. AnyJunk claims that “overloading forces your brain to divide its power,” and makes it difficult to sift through information, move quickly between tasks or have a strong working memory


Sloppy but smart?

But not everyone is a neat freak. Scientific geniuses like Albert Einstein, Mark Twain, and Steve Jobs were well known for their sloppy desks. In their defense, there’s a good amount of research showing that messiness makes us more creative. Visual clutter supposedly allows our minds to wander and make the different connections necessary for creativity.

Albert Einstein was known to have a notoriously messy desk. Think it bothered him? Not in the least. He responded to critics by pointing out, “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign of?”

Messy or neat? Judge for yourself. See the workspaces of Albert Einstein, NASA scientists, Stephen Hawking, and others.


Don’t judge me!

Even though your messy desk may work just fine for you, be prepared for some judgment from your coworkers.

In a study released by The University of Michigan, psychologists conducted three experiments that explored how the degree of messiness in a workplace affected perceptions of the owner’s personality.

In each situation, the messy desk owners were seen as “neurotic, careless, cranky and uncaring.” And the participants who judged them also said they would treat them differently because of their sloppiness.

How to organize paper clutter


Enough is enough

If the scorn of your co-workers isn’t enough to convince you to clear your messy desk, maybe your overwhelmed brain will. For me, the clearing out process begins with a few questions. How much mess is too much? Will it energize me or bring me down? Will all the pens, papers, sticky notes, and folders distract me from my work?

And what about all that stuff that should have been filed or thrown away months ago? I don’t want to look at projects from six weeks ago still taking up valuable desk space.

That being said, there’s a big difference between standard office clutter like sloppy papers and a few too many pens and a toxic mess of old food wrappers, dirty coffee cups, and empty pop cans. If you’ve got a filthy mess, clean it up.


Reclaim your desk

You can find any number of “how-to’s” about the many ways to organize your desk at home or at work. When the mess is too much for me, I’m determined to clear it out That’s why the “in for a dollar, in for a pound” method works best for me. This method requires brutal decisions about what MUST be thrown away versus what’s worth saving and organizing.

Here are a few tips about how to attack the mess on your desk.


On top of the desk

First, clear your desk completely. Clean any dirty, dusty surfaces with disinfecting cleaning wipes or a damp paper towel.

    1. Throw away unnecessary papers. If they’ve been there for a long time it usually means you’ve already put off a decision about whether to keep or throw them away. If it should be filed, do so. If not, throw it out.
    2. Avoid duplicating what you store electronically and on paper. It defeats the purpose of “going paperless” if you still feel you need a hard-copy backup. Copy those things only if and when you need to.
    3. Return extra paper clips, pens, and notepads to a designated place inside a drawer or a desktop organizer.


Commit to an organizational system

Once you’ve decided what papers to keep, here’s an idea for how to organize them. Try a UniKeep binder.

This binder is a fully-enclosed, case-style binder with plastic rings. Nothing falls out or gets lost and it provides dust-free, archival-safe protection for your documents and projects. The binder’s clear polypropylene overlay makes customization and repurposing a breeze, so you can use it again and again.

How to organize paper clutter

UniKeep case style binders, color-edged folders, page protectors, and CD pages make the perfect home office storage system.

The UniKeep binder functions as a completely customizable planning, identification, and storage system. Pair it with sheet protectors, pocketed pages, and divider tabs and you have a great organizational tool. You can customize it further by inserting your own cover design.

A good idea comes from the experts at Fantastic Cleaners. Implement a simply shared cleanup routine. Clean the desk of the person nearby and thus make a healthy switch. The effect is simple, yet rewarding micro teambuilding.


Do more with less

Take a long look at your desk space. Do you really need to have the tape dispenser and stapler out every day? How about that stack of three sticky note pads on your computer stand?

Start taming clutter by deciding:

  • What needs to be put away – if it doesn’t belong with you, place it where it belongs
  • What can stay on your desk – what do you use every day?
  • If you haven’t used it in months, give it away or throw it out. This goes for equipment, supplies, personal items, etc.


If you have too many old magazines: clip and save just the articles you like and will read again, such as recipes, decorating, and household how-tos.

 tabbed dividers

Sheet Protectors

Insert the articles into UniKeep page protectors and use tabbed dividers to create subsections. Consider unsubscribing to magazines you don’t have time to read. Did you know that you can request a refund for the unused portion of your subscriptions?

Shred anything with personal information: Shredding credit card offers, old bills, and documents with any personally identifiable information to reduce your chances for identity theft.

Remember that clearing clutter will save time because you won’t be searching for what you need. And it will instantly lift your spirits!


Do a little organizing every day

It’s very rewarding to work in a neatly organized, clean workspace. But keeping it that way takes practice. Make it a habit to clean up a little each day so you don’t have an overwhelming mess to deal with by Friday.

Speaking of Friday, it’s a great day to do a quick audit of your desk and office space and get ready for next week!


About UniKeep

If you have a creative interest or hobby, look to UniKeep for organizational kits. Our binders, kits, accessories, and office products are available in a full line of styles and sizes, for everything from photos, crafts, video games, and recipes to wallets for CDs and DVDs.

Contact UniKeep at 1-800-829-8117 or click

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