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Clean Your Desk to Feel Better

I keep a clean desk. I mean, a crazy clean desk. I wouldn't go so far as to say that it's worryingly clean; I don't have white cotton gloves on hand to check for microscopic traces of terrible dust. That's one bridge too far for me.

Sean Anderson
Sean Anderson

I keep a clean desk. I mean, a crazy clean desk. I wouldn't go so far as to say that it's worryingly clean; I don't have white cotton gloves on hand to check for microscopic traces of terrible dust. That's one bridge too far for me.

But I do keep things clean and I LOVE IT!

Not only does it help me keep my life and work organized, it's a joy to look at. I don't know if Clean Desks Monthly exists, but if it does, then I want to make some submissions to them.

This isn't all to toot my own clean desk horn. I understand how annoying it can be to listen to someone ramble on about their own accomplishments. Nah, forget that nonsense.

I'm writing this to tell you to do one thing: clean your desk!

A little personal history (and a cat!)

Those who know me now may find it hard to believe that I was ever a messy or disorganized person, but it's true. I'm confessing it to you now. My greatest shame: I used to be a bit of a slob.

I had books, papers, clothes, and all manner of junk littering my bedroom floors. My bookcases had no sense of organization to them. There was can after empty can of soda left forgotten on many surfaces.

It was a problem. You can see it in the picture below.

A black and white cat lying on a blue and white blanket in a bedroom
Also pictured is my dearly missed cat, Molly. She was a big ol' fluff ball of joy.

You'll notice the messy shelves, unmade bed, and clothes just thrown around. What's bad is that this looks like things had been recently cleaned. I probably felt so proud about finally having a place I could walk around in again. Poor young Sean.

I've heard from a lot of people who have expressed that they feel like they're fighting a losing battle. How can they possibly make their space look spotless when there's so much junk that floats into our lives every single day? Documents we need to hold onto. Clothes that haven't been washed yet. And just forget about it if you've got kids.

Those are all understandable issues. There are loads of distractions in life and it can feel like it's just not worth fighting against The Mess.

But friend, please hear me when I tell you, if I can do it, then so can you. I need capital letters for this one: I BELIEVE IN YOU! YOU HAVE WHAT IT TAKES TO CLEAN YOUR DESK!

Why just my desk? Why not everything?

When you've got several mountains of things cluttering up your home, it can feel like you're, well, trying to climb an actual mountain. You feel that unmistakeable weight of overwhelm start pulling on your shoulders. Your brain starts wondering how much time and energy it'll take to do everything. Your spirit just gets drained from your body.

Maybe you think, "What's the point of fighting this? There's too much to do and it's just going to get bad again." In those moments where we become our own worst enemies, it's important to have someone who can be around to smack those nonsense words out of your head.

No, I'm not actually going to smack you. I'm going to be louder than that voice in your head and shout, "KNOCK IT OFF! YOU CAN ACTUALLY DO THIS!" Let’s tackle this mess issue together. We’re stronger as a team.

I'm suggesting that we start with your desk for two reasons.

  1. It's a relatively small and confined space.
  2. It's a place where you spend a good chunk of time every day.

Let's talk about that first item for a bit. Here’s my desk:

A clean desk with an iPad Pro, iMac, and water bottle sitting on it

I love this desk. Not just because of how it fits into the corner like a glove or how pretty it looks in the right light. The main reason I love this desk is because it's the place where I get to work on important Dandy Cat Design tasks.

You'll notice that it's a picture of just what's on the desk. There aren't any stacks of papers taking up the floor space. There aren't file cabinets filled with genuinely unnecessary junk off to a side. The wall behind it isn't plastered with enough Post-it notes to have kept that company in business for another year or two.

My workspace is confined to the edges of that L-shaped desk.

This not only helps me stay focused on my work, but it also makes things a whole lot easier to clean. Occasionally I will have some papers or packages sitting on my desk for a little while, but those are easy enough to file or toss away because there's just not that much space I have to clean.

Cleaning just your desk is a much smaller mountain to climb than trying to clean everything. A desk is a smaller space. It's more manageable. Focusing on just this one area is a great way to help fend off those overwhelming feelings you may get.

Who knows, starting with your desk may just give you the motivation you need to tackle other areas, like fighting crime or something.

Feel better

Depending on what you do for work, you may find yourself spending a great amount of time at your desk. If you're anything like me, then you're spending your entire workday at your desk, Monday through Friday (and sometimes during the weekend).

When you spend so much time in one place, you're bound to develop a connection with it. Much like how you're bound to start taking on the traits of the people you spend a lot of time with, your workspace will influence how you feel.

Your desk is not just a reflection of the person you are. It's also an entity that will change how you feel about your work and your life. It's a two-way street.

How do you feel when you look at a messy desk? Are you thinking that trying to nudge over a stack of paper and flick away a handful of pens is the key to incredible productivity? Or do you look at that messy desk and sigh a little bit, wondering how it got to be so bad?

All that sighing is enough to sap out a lot of the enthusiasm you may have for your work. Those work hours will be much harder to get through when you're spending time grumbling about a mess. You're sabotaging yourself before your day even gets going!

I'd be lying to you if I said that cleaning your desk and maintaining that order is something you can just do on autopilot. My own desk could easily become a cluttered, stifling mess if I didn't take the time every day to make sure all is in order. Cleaning your desk is an active project that will take time and work.

What I can tell you is that a clean desk is a joyful thing. I love looking at my desk now. Not just because it looks nice, but because it makes me feel good to know that my hard work is paying off.

I feel happier and more productive when I work at my clean desk. You'll feel better when you put in the time and effort to clean your own desk.

It's your space. If you decide what gets to happen with it, then decide to make it a place you feel proud to sit at every day. Cleaning your desk will make you feel better.


When I was younger and called that messy bedroom my own, I didn't realize just how it could affect my mood. I'm sure part of that was due to me being much younger than I am now. Young Sean could have done more to take better care of his mental and emotional health.

Current day Sean knows that he feels better when he feels proud of his space. I see my clean desk as an accomplishment that I can achieve every single day. I feel a little burst of happiness whenever I glance over at it.

I'm certain you can do that for yourself, too. Remember, your desk is yours and it is what you make of it. Keeping it neat and tidy takes an investment of time and effort, without a doubt. However, it can pay out in very pleasing ways.

I believe this completely: a clean desk = a happier mind.

Tidy up, cats.

On Pinterest? Be sure to pin these images.

Productivity

Sean Anderson

Lover of productivity tips, Apple devices, and vegan ice cream. Mostly, I'm busy petting cats 🐱 and dogs 🐶


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