Is workplace clutter meddling with your sleep?

I remember the days when the office health and safety officer would walk the office floor and let people know if their clutter, usually papers, were considered a trip hazard or worse. As part of the conversation, they would also be given a timeframe by when it needed to tidied up, either by shredding it, putting it away or storing it offsite.


Not everyone welcomed the feedback. Some quickly admitted to clutter blindness and agreed to sort it out quickly. Others took it as an affront and dragged their heels. Some even needed someone else to do it for them! Shocking you might say, however it’s not surprising given the research.


If you’ve been working from home for a prolonged period, you may have ignored the need to declutter until you return to work. Or perhaps you have gone back to the office and not decluttered what you left behind, before you started working from your office. If this sounds like you then you may want to reconsider your lack of decluttering. 


5 Researched impacts of clutter


1. Sleep issues

Did you know that people who have a tendency for hoarding or collecting and rarely throwing things out are also more likely to experience difficulties falling asleep, staying asleep and feel tired during the day? If you suffer from insomnia you may want to critically evaluate your surroundings.


2. Decision making and executive function

Studies have found that people who neglect decluttering typically have problems with decision making and executive function.


3. Lack of energy  

Studies show people who are surrounded by too much stuff describe themselves as drained and overwhelmed. They may also have difficulty completing tasks because of their disorganized environment.


4. Higher stress levels

People who struggle with decluttering or putting things away have higher level of cortisol and other stress hormones.


5. Mental health

Research shows that when your home and workspaces are disordered, you’re likely to feel more anxious and depressed.


So, take a look around your workspace and if you see piles of papers, lots of items not put away or an overflowing bin, then it’s time to make some changes. Decluttering your workspace could be a positive move for your mental health, productivity and internal personal brand!


The benefits of a de-cluttered workspace


There are good reasons to be concerned about clutter. An untidy environment aggravates allergies and increases the risk of fire and accidents. See what tidying up can do for your body and mind.


1. Eliminate distractions. It’s difficult to concentrate when your brain is busy looking at irrelevant objects. A clear view will help you to focus on your immediate task.

2. Save time. How much time do you spend looking for documents, scraps of paper, or post-it notes that have fallen off your monitor? When you have a system to look after key pieces of information and documents, you’ll know where to find each item.

3. Boost your creativity. Clutter increases stress, which inhibits your creativity. On the other hand, open spaces encourage innovative ideas and artistic flair.

4. Really relax. Overloading your senses with physical and mental stimuli disturbs your sleep and rest. You may also feel guilty and a little embarrassed about how you project yourself compared to others at work.



Becoming more organized will eliminate a major source of tension.


How to create your clutter-free workspace


Physical workspace de-clutter tips

1. A clutter-free office starts with the desire to get rid of the clutter. Every morning make it a goal to put away (or toss) ten things that are not in the right place.  You can use this strategy anywhere – at work, in the car, or at home – and you'll notice a huge difference on a day-to-day basis. If you're rather motivated, try removing 20 or more pieces of clutter. Think of how many pieces of clutter you could eliminate if you spent half an hour on the problem!


2. You also need to come up with a filing system for papers. Paper is often the worst clutter culprit, and if you come up with a way to deal with all of the paperwork, you'll find your office to be much easier to work in. This is often as simple as having “in”, “out”, and “to be filed” boxes.  Getting the paperwork off the desk will change the whole look and feel of your space.


3. Empty your garbage bin at least once a day. This probably gets done for you if you have a cleaning service at work, but if not, make sure you do it regularly. You also need to make sure that you have an adequate-sized wastebasket. If you don’t, you will find rubbish all over the place. Not only would this be distracting, but you'll have an even bigger job on your hands than if you had just emptied the bin regularly to start with!


Computer de-clutter tips

Make sure that your computer is clutter-free, too!
It’s easy to store everything on your computer, but it still counts as clutter, even though it's virtual.

  • Use an electronic filing system to store your electronic files or of you have an organization-wide file management system, use it rather than storing files in emails.
  • Remove any unused icons from your desktop, empty your recycle bin, and make sure you check for viruses and spyware to ensure your computer is running smoothly.


Having virtual clutter on your computer will slow you down and distract you just as much as having real clutter in your office.


Mental de-clutter tips

As knowledge workers it can be hard to get out of your head and into the moment however it is the number 1 strategy for decluttering your mind.

1. Disconnect for a while. Put aside an hour or two each day to turn off your phone and stop checking social media. For higher quality sleep, stay away from the TV and computers for at least an hour before bedtime.

2. Set specific goals. Planning your activities and creating priorities shows you where to channel your energies. You can block out time and enjoy making progress without worrying about what else you’re supposed to be doing.

3. Filter information. Do you feel bombarded by email alerts, advertisements and news stories? Try becoming more selective about what media you consume and when. Limit the number of web sites you visit on a regular basis.

Transform your outer and inner experiences. A tidy office decreases anxiety and enables you to devote your energy to the things you love. De-cluttering will leave you feeling more content and productive.


A clutter-free workspace really is a more productive one. Depending on your situation, you may need to implement one or all of these strategies so you can maintain a clutter-free space, day in and day out to do your best work.  It may take some time and effort to get rid of the clutter and to keep it that way, but the work will be well worth it because you'll sleep better, feel better, find things faster, and get a whole lot more done in less time.


If you would like support to declutter parts of your life, book in a confidential call with me and we can explore how you can start to declutter in a healthy way that supports your goals and day to day experiences.  


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