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Declutter your desk and mind with these tips

Registered Nurse and Mindfulness Expert at Bupa UK
13 February 2018

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This article is more than three years old. It reflects the best available evidence at the time of publication.

Piles of paperwork, plentiful post-it notes and mountains of stationery – does this sound like a familiar scene? Whether you work in an office or at home, allowing clutter to build up at your desk is just far too easy.

The problem is that trying to concentrate when in the midst of all this chaos can feel impossible. Your mind may become cloudy and confused, which isn’t ideal if you’re trying to approach work in a more mindful way.

Here, I look at why clutter can have this effect on your mental health, and give some tips about where to start when it comes to decluttering your desk.


How does clutter affect your mind?

Take a look around you. While you’re doing this, your brain is working hard to process everything you can see. Your brain is also grouping the parts of what you’re seeing into objects so that the scene makes sense. Meanwhile, on a higher level, your brain is trying to make contextual sense of the situation, to help you focus on your end goal and complete the task at hand.

When there are lots of objects and shapes for your brain to take in, scientists have found this can affect how quickly your brain can process situations. It’s also thought that the objects we see compete with each other for our brain’s attention, which might explain why we can feel so confused or unfocused when there’s lots of clutter around us.

Six tips to help you declutter your desk

  1. Use a box. Start from scratch. Get rid of everything on your desk by putting it into a box. Slowly bring something back each day. If it’s the stapler, can it go in a drawer? If it’s a piece of paperwork, complete it and then file it away. 
  2. Can you get rid of anything? If after a while there are items that you haven’t taken out of the box, re-evaluate whether you need them. 
  3. Prioritise. Organise your desk and drawers by importance. Put whatever you use the most in the drawer nearest to you and what you use the least in the drawer furthest away. If you don’t use it often, can it be put away in a separate cupboard? 
  4. Tidy those leads and cables. Ensure that all loose cables are tied up and out of sight. If you can, run them along the back of your desk and away from the floor, so that they’re not causing a trip hazard. 
  5. Create some order. Give everything on your desk its own place and make sure it goes back in the correct place at the end of your working day. This doesn’t need to take long, five or 10 minutes at the end of your day will do. 
  6. Chip away at it regularly. Your desk will get messy during the working day; check in with it at regular intervals and, wherever possible, tidy up as you go along. 

So there you have it – six tips to get you decluttering your desk, and hopefully feeling more clear-headed, in no time.

Looking after your mental health

If you’re finding it hard to concentrate at work, it could be that you’re feeling stressed, under pressure or overworked. Bupa has more information about looking after your mental health, as well as information about workplace mental health for managers and employers, which could help.


If you’re worried about your mental health, our direct access service aims to provide you with the advice, support and treatment you need as quickly as possible. If you’re covered by your health insurance, you’ll be able to get mental health advice and support usually without the need for a GP referral. Learn more today.

Jane Bozier
Registered Nurse and Mindfulness Expert at Bupa UK

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