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Less Stress: Declutter Your Desk

deskI have written about having a clear desk before in passing, but here is a little bit about why to do it as well as how to do it. This is a real picture of my half of the office at work.

Imagine coming to work each morning and having a nice, calm, clear workspace. Do you think it would help jump start your work day? I know for me, I am able to get to work, sit down in my (clearly uncomfortable) chair, and relax.

We’ve all read the sign atop a messy desk: A Clean Desk Is The Sign of a Diseased Mind. That is an excuse given by people who don’t want to bother with coming up with a system for taking control of their environment. I notice that those people who have cluttered desks often end up being the ones who are late to submit their grades or who don’t respond to ARD input forms or whatever.

So how is it done? When I moved to this school in June, the desk was a mess. There were a great deal of files that were outdated. There were more than 20 pens, many of which were out of ink. There were knick knacks that needed to be thrown away. There was trash in the drawers. It was an overall mess.

  1. Clear the surface of the desk
    The psychological benefit from that alone is worth its weight in gold. It gives you the feeling of accomplishment.
  2. That is an excuse given by people who don’t want to bother with coming up with a system for taking control of their environment

  3. Dump the contents of one drawer
    Put everything inside one of the drawers onto the surface. The goal is to clear the surface again as quickly as possible. I usually start with the center drawer, which is where I store my pens and other quick access stuff. I try to avoid having more than two black pens, two red pens, and two pencils in the drawer at a time. So if I have more pens than that, it is my chance to test them all and find out which ones are good and which ones should be discarded. If you love hoarding pens or pencils, find a coffee mug somewhere and put the duds into that and put it somewhere away from your desk. The goal is to have as clear of a work environment as possible!
  4. Go on to the next drawer
    Repeat the process until you run out of time, you run out of energy, or you run out of clutter. If you run out of time, put everything back in a non-empty drawer, and resume when time or motivation allows. If nothing else, just the mere fact of being greeted by a clear desk every morning will lower your work stress dramatically.

That’s it? That’s it! That is the entire process of clearing your desk. This is a week of decluttering, and we’ll look at some great things later one this week. Of course, depending on your goals, some people find clutter beneficial. I guess it all depends on what you want to accomplish.

Teaching is a pretty stressful job, so manage your stress before it spins out of control. Find medical advice on how to handle stress the healthy way. By lowering stress levels, you can reduce your chances of getting other disorders, such as high blood pressure.

As I said before, I have written on this subject a few times before, but it is so vital! I have had other teachers make comments about how little work they think I do simply because my desk is clear. Whatever they think, I do like knowing that I have been able to take control of something that most teachers struggle with!

Joel Wagner
Joel Wagner (<strong><a href="">@sywtt</a></strong>) began teaching band in 2002. Though he had a lot of information, his classes were out of control. He found himself tired, frustrated, disrespected by students, lonely, and on the brink of quitting. He had had enough. He resigned from his school district right before spring break of his second year and made it his personal mission to learn to be a great teacher. <strong><a href="">So You Want To Teach?</a></strong> is the ongoing story of that quest for educational excellence.

4 thoughts on “Less Stress: Declutter Your Desk

  1. It is such a great feeling to have a clean desk! If I couldn’t do it every day, I at least made sure this was done before I left on Fridays!

  2. Yes!! I couldn’t agree more! And I think the same goes for de-cluttering a classroom. I changed rooms this last year and took the opportunity to clean house. I feel so much more effective and capable with a clutter free environment and I have to think that it helps the kiddos too. Everything is our classroom is purposeful. And a lot of the placement is decided upon by us collaboratively so it is useful to everyone.

    I am all about de-cluttering. Now, if I could only get my husband on-board.

  3. Pat, I agree with you. I love coming home from a vacation to a clean house. Similarly, I love coming back to school to a clean working environment.

    Mimi, as I mentioned in my Zen Habits interview, the clean desk is a springboard for loads of other organizational opportunities. No clue how to help get your husband on board, but I am sure he appreciates you cleaning up after him!

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