We are all familiar with the fact that it only takes a few seconds to form an opinion about whether you like someone or not. The same goes for the space you occupy. Whether it is a business area or a personal space, whatever is around you sends a message about your abilities and who you are.
Clutter is known to draw your eye, senses and thoughts away from the task at hand. While you may believe in saving things for later, there is a limit to what you should keep in your work area. It is likely that a messy workspace will not only impair your creative thought process, but make you seem less competent as well. Would you feel comfortable entrusting a person who looks like they are drowning behind their desk with your business affairs?
This is for those of you who refuse to believe in the “mumbo jumbo” about people judging you based on the way you look. If you are adamant about disproving these stereotypes, at least think about the “time is money” ratio. An efficient workspace means less time wasted. Productivity will be higher in an office where you can easily find what you need instead of wasting the workday rummaging through files and boxes.
Depending on the frequency of people and type of activity at your place of work, it is unlikely that it will ever be spotless. However, you spend a big portion of the day at your desk or office. Think about what you could be exposing yourself to by touching grimy surfaces and breathing in dust all day. Just like you take a shower each morning, you could also get in the habit of wiping down your work area on a regular basis. Sometimes it is as easy as straightening your desk up a bit before you leave for the day. No one likes to see or do business in a place that is sloppy.
Your office space is not the right setting to display your collectables and memorabilia (unless that is what you do). If you do not have space at home for valuables that you cannot part with, put them in storage. Remember, removing the clutter does not mean that you have to be impersonal, generic or bland. A few personal touches are still allowed. Just make sure that there is a purpose to your choices. A picture of your family, some personalized office supplies, a plant or a quirky mousepad should be just the right dose of originality, without making you seem peculiar. This will help people take you seriously.
Sometimes this just means putting things back where they belong in order to keep it neat and efficient, other times you will need to decide on what to throw away or pack up. A good filing system is key. Use labels to clearly mark where things are. This will also help others find their way in your absence. Some things such as old files, personal items that no longer have a purpose or don’t get used, and old equipment (especially duplicates) just have to be packed up and put away in self storage units. Your company image is equally important as your personal appearance, make sure it is neat and organized.
Regardless of whether we like people judging our abilities based on the way something looks, it is a reality that has been proven time and again. Sometimes, what you put out for everyone to see is equally important as what you can do. Do not let your clutter overshadow your brilliance.