Careful Where You Clutter: How Mess Creates Energy Pitfalls in your Work Environment

Our office is one of the places where we need to be our sharpest and most focused. We try to limit distractions—close the door, set our phones to “Do Not Disturb,” avoid eye contact with our chatty co-worker—but there may be something insidiously robbing us of energy in our workspace: clutter.

Marie Kondo inspired a new generation to mindfully examine whether an item is beneficial or draining on our lives (with her famous query “does this spark joy?”). Our office and work environment shouldn’t be exempt from this culling of unsupportive items and messiness.

Keep reading to learn:

  • The ways clutter can cause havoc in your work life
  • The types and locations of clutter that are draining your energy
  • How to banish the clutter habits for good

We focus on the office because it’s such an important area for living clutter-free, but these principles can apply in your cluttered home, too.

A bottomless pit made out of thousands of books

How Clutter Fosters Chaos in Your Life

Research shows various negative effects of clutters on our mental and physical wellbeing, such as:

  • It can elevate stress, like the stress hormone cortisol, hurting our mental health and physical health.
  • It’s harder to focus in a disorganized setting.
  • Clutter collects dust, which could trigger allergies.
  • It can overwork some people’s “working memory” making it harder for them to track details and affecting their ability to concentrate.

These findings align with the energy impacts of clutter. We recently spoke on the energy of our work objects and how they contribute to the energy of our workspace. A cluttered office adds another layer of energy—a chaotic and stressful energy that can drain us and negatively impact our work life.

There is a gravity to disorganization that tends to create more clutter and thus more stress, and it’s a cycle worth breaking. Ridding yourself of clutter has an added benefit: you’ll gain extra time in your workday without the distractions or time spent delving through the clutter searching for things.

An assortment of office products including tape, sticky notes, markers and pens, strewn across a black desktop

How to Keep Your Office Clutter-Free

Clutter affects people differently. Some people can handle a little clutter, others need absolute minimalism. Mounds of clutter should always be avoided, but experiment with your tolerance from there. Pay attention to how you feel in a space when it’s empty, cluttered, and everything in between. Post the note of your ideal level of adornment or messiness as a reminder to maintain that perfect balance for you.

Create organization early

It’s easier to arrange your space and files at the outset than to do it after mountains of unorganized mess have accumulated on a cluttered desk. Research has found that it’s more difficult to learn to reduce clutter in your life when you’re older, so it’s important to learn good practices early in life.

However, it’s never too late to start organizing. Figure out a system that works for you and start tackling the piles one item at a time. Then, stick to your system to maintain a clutter-free zone.

A well-organized desk, white desktop, sleek monitor, keyboard and mouse, a few books, a coffee cup, hourglass and two plants in coordinated white pots

Reflect on how you like items organized, make a system, and stick to it.

Types and Locations of Clutter to Banish

There are several areas to focus on when de-cluttering your office:

  • Location matters: Do not accumulate clutter directly in front of you or directly behind you. What’s in front will compete for your attention and what’s behind will hang over your shoulders.
  • Messy desks: They limit your ability to focus or even move and work. They also reflect your mind to those around you. If your boss or client sees a chaotic desk, they may think you’re scatterbrained too; your cluttered desk is a sign of your cluttered mind! Try making designated areas that stay clear as workspaces and defined areas for supportive décor like family photos, crystals, and plants, to maintain a calming and clean desk.
  • Junk Drawers: Beware of the ‘blackhole drawer’. We all have them. Make sure it’s organized as much as possible and tidy it regularly so it’s not an energetic pit.

Out of sight does not mean out of mind. Shoving all the clutter into drawers or closets doesn’t make their energetic drain go away. It may amplify in the dark and forgotten spaces without anything checking or inhibiting its growth. Maybe the kids were right about the monsters in the closets!

You will still feel something draining the space and it won’t change it until you clear out those spaces.

Touch Everything Once a Year

It’s easy to forget that you may have something if you don’t look at it from time to time. An annual cleaning is a start, but a few passes each year is ideal. Multiple reviews also keep the task shorter and more manageable with each pass you do.

Cleanse, Clear, and Refresh

Once the clutter has been physically removed, the energetic effects of clutter may remain. Clean the space with natural cleaners to remove the dust and physical debris. Then, energetically clear the space using holy smoke (you may know it as ‘smudging’) or sound (from a bell, singing bowl, or clapping).

Lastly, open the windows and doors to usher out any remaining energetic drains on the space. You can add a spoken or written intention to keep the space free from the energetic clutter.

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