Best Jobs

How to plan for harmony in your work cubicle

A Friday desk cleaning brings order to Monday at the office


Why you need a four-step plan. Spring has sprung, and if so have the spores at the bottom of an old coffee mug in a far corner of your overrun office, it’s time for a Spring cleaning of your workplace. We asked Clare Kumar, professional organizer of Toronto-based Streamlife, to break down her famous four-step PLAN in making your office, desk or cubical spick ‘n span—and keeping it that way.

P is for Prioritize 

An encouraging thought to start: Kumar’s first step involves exactly no cleaning, sorting or organizing—just thinking. “Get really clear on what activities you need to perform in this space and how you want the space to feel while you’re doing them.” This varies widely by profession—a video podcaster might need four screens, an architect a wide flat service—but everyone’s space should both function and feel good.

Related: How to avoid disaster at the office party

L is for Liberate 

Instead of the meaner word “declutter,” which devalues things of importance into a broad messy pile, Kumar suggests you “liberate” things that are no longer serving your priorities from Step 1. “This includes old research, projects you’re no longer working on, taxes from ten years ago when you only need seven.” Sounds obvious, but for many, letting go can get emotional. A teacher’s office, for example, is often ram-packed with student art and old toys.

A is for Arrange 

You needn’t be an interior designer for this; a simple formula will tell you exactly where things should go. “You want to spend the exact right amount of time to retrieve them,” Kumar says. “You want absolute access stuff desktop, reference stuff close by and archives can be further away.” Wherever possible, think vertically; wall space, bookcases, tall cabinets and stand-up desktop folders are all great choices for a personalized spot that works perfectly for you.

Related: 10 burning questions about millennials in the workplace, answered

N is for Nurture 

Now that your office is sparkly clean, do yourself a favour this year and cultivate some good habits to keep it that way. You’ll fare far better by adopting your own style. “Some people clean as they go, others clean daily, but I’d say even once a week is great.” Kumar’s a big believer in a Friday cleaning that you can look forward to all weekend. “On Monday, you’ll feel a sense of control.”

Bonus Tip: Clean and functional is great, of course, but shoot further for an office that truly inspires. Degrees and diplomas (framed and hung) spark confidence, as do de-dusted and displayed awards, but don’t forget to add some personal touches like art and photos. Both evoke a ton of warm feelings while taking up almost no space. “Sometimes you don’t need the actual stuff, just the memory trigger.”