Ideas for spring-cleaning the office desk, so you will work better

Your office desk should hold only essentials such as a computer, a telephone and paperwork that requires immediate attention (left). Shelves along walls (right) provide storage that helps to reduce the clutter (above) in this study. Keep personal kni
Your office desk should hold only essentials such as a computer, a telephone and paperwork that requires immediate attention (left). Shelves along walls (right) provide storage that helps to reduce the clutter (above) in this study. Keep personal knick-knacks such as photographs and motivational quotes to just one mood board (above) and rotate them throughout the year. Label plugs (left) so that it is easy for you to identify your electronics and remove the ones that are not in use.PHOTOS: KIKKI.K, CHEW SENG KIM, GEORGINA WONG, EDITS INC
Your office desk should hold only essentials such as a computer, a telephone and paperwork that requires immediate attention (left). Shelves along walls (right) provide storage that helps to reduce the clutter (above) in this study. Keep personal kni
Your office desk should hold only essentials such as a computer, a telephone and paperwork that requires immediate attention (left). Shelves along walls (right) provide storage that helps to reduce the clutter (above) in this study. Keep personal knick-knacks such as photographs and motivational quotes to just one mood board (above) and rotate them throughout the year. Label plugs (left) so that it is easy for you to identify your electronics and remove the ones that are not in use.PHOTOS: KIKKI.K, CHEW SENG KIM, GEORGINA WONG, EDITS INC
Your office desk should hold only essentials such as a computer, a telephone and paperwork that requires immediate attention (left). Shelves along walls (right) provide storage that helps to reduce the clutter (above) in this study. Keep personal kni
Your office desk should hold only essentials such as a computer, a telephone and paperwork that requires immediate attention (left). Shelves along walls (right) provide storage that helps to reduce the clutter (above) in this study. Keep personal knick-knacks such as photographs and motivational quotes to just one mood board (above) and rotate them throughout the year. Label plugs (left) so that it is easy for you to identify your electronics and remove the ones that are not in use.PHOTOS: KIKKI.K, CHEW SENG KIM, GEORGINA WONG, EDITS INC
Your office desk should hold only essentials such as a computer, a telephone and paperwork that requires immediate attention (left). Shelves along walls (right) provide storage that helps to reduce the clutter (above) in this study. Keep personal kni
Your office desk should hold only essentials such as a computer, a telephone and paperwork that requires immediate attention (left). Shelves along walls (right) provide storage that helps to reduce the clutter (above) in this study. Keep personal knick-knacks such as photographs and motivational quotes to just one mood board (above) and rotate them throughout the year. Label plugs (left) so that it is easy for you to identify your electronics and remove the ones that are not in use.PHOTOS: KIKKI.K, CHEW SENG KIM, GEORGINA WONG, EDITS INC
Your office desk should hold only essentials such as a computer, a telephone and paperwork that requires immediate attention (left). Shelves along walls (right) provide storage that helps to reduce the clutter (above) in this study. Keep personal kni
Your office desk should hold only essentials such as a computer, a telephone and paperwork that requires immediate attention (left). Shelves along walls (right) provide storage that helps to reduce the clutter (above) in this study. Keep personal knick-knacks such as photographs and motivational quotes to just one mood board (above) and rotate them throughout the year. Label plugs (left) so that it is easy for you to identify your electronics and remove the ones that are not in use.PHOTOS: KIKKI.K, CHEW SENG KIM, GEORGINA WONG, EDITS INC

With Chinese New Year around the corner, it is spring-cleaning season once more.

But while most people clean and scrub their homes with much zeal, many seem to turn a blind eye to the clutter piling up at their workspaces.

This, says professional organiser Haw-San Au-Yong, who is in her 30s, stems from psychological reasons.

"People have different comfort levels towards their homes and workspaces.

As we don't feel a personal affinity with our offices, we are more likely to let clutter accumulate on our desks in a way that wouldn't be acceptable for our homes," she says.

But considering that most people spend at least a third of their day at work, it makes sense to get their office spaces in order too.

The guiding principle for decluttering a workspace is simple: Flat surfaces such as desk tops are meant for working, not for storage.

"You have a very small amount of space to work with, so you should organise for efficiency, not aesthetics," says Ms Au-Yong, who runs professional organisation consultancy Edits Inc.

That means keeping prime real estate, which is your desk top, for only the essentials - your computer, telephone, basic stationery and paperwork that requires immediate attention.

Everything else should be archived and stored in shelving, boxes or drawers.

The "less is more" principle also extends to personal knick-knacks that occupy the rest of your cubicle.

"Keep your photographs and motivational quotes to one magnetic or cork mood board and rotate them as your inspirations change over the year," suggests Ms Au-Yong, who has been in the business for three years.

To make your job easier, she advises making it a habit to purge your workspace of unnecessary items at least once a year before you attempt to reorganise it. This means getting rid of stationery and paperwork such as receipts, invoices and tax forms that you do not need, even if you have space for them.

"Less clutter means you will be more motivated to keep things organised in the long run," she says.

Once that is done, you can zoom in on your trouble spots. For most people, it is messy paperwork.

Ms Georgina Wong, chief executive of Asian Professional Organisers who is in her late 40s, says tackling this requires people to break the habit of making piles.

Her four-year-old company specialises in organisation and space management for clients who range from flat dwellers to corporate offices.

"With a pile, it's impossible to see what is at the bottom and you're likely to lose important bills or documents in the clutter," she explains.

Accountant June Ong, 32, knows this well. She almost lost two important invoices from her client last year amid the stacks of paper and files she had on her desk.

"I had built up so many piles that I couldn't remember where I'd put the invoices. It took me more than five hours of frantic searching before I finally found them," she recalls.

Ms Au-Yong, who has been called in to whip messy offices into shape, is no stranger to such scenarios. For example, she has seen uncashed cheques or overdue credit card bills and fines stuck in between piles of paper, racking up hundreds of dollars in late fees.

To prevent this, Ms Wong suggests sorting papers and storing documents vertically, in ring binders or vertical magazine organisers, making it easy to see everything at a glance.

"You should make use of all the vertical space you have, including the walls or the sides of your desk, to store papers using hanging binders or wall racks. It's a good way to maximise storage without resorting to piling things up," she says.

Another common work-desk trouble spot? Overflowing stationery holders and tangled wire cables.

For this, Ms Au-Yong recommends compartmentalising everything, right down to separating pens from pencils.

"Pare down your stationery and electronics to a minimum and make sure they have a specific box to call home. That way, you can tackle each box individually if it overflows instead of having to deal with a whole drawer of jumbled-up stationery or wires."

Mr Stephen Wright, 34, general manager of home decor stores Crate & Barrel and CB2 Singapore, also recommends labelling plugs. "This makes it easy to identify your electronics and remove the ones that are not used," he says.

A cable management system, such as cable trunks or spools that attach to the bottom of desks, is also an excellent way to keep long cables out of the way.

Mr Low Joo Tatt, 54, workplace sales leader at furniture chain Ikea Singapore, says: "This makes it easier to clean the area and also reduces dust and static electricity from building up. This, in turn, reduces the risk of fire."

Keeping your desk spick and span creates a virtuous circle as the easier it is to maintain neatness, the more likely you are to stick to it.

For Ms Nathalie Ricaud, 46, who owns two-year-old professional organisation consultancy Get Organised & Beyond, cutting down the number of steps it takes to get something done helps to keep the routine going.

For example, by opting for transparent storage boxes and removing the lids, you can see where things are kept and access them right away, she says.

Similarly, Ms Au-Yong discourages stacking storage boxes or having two layers of storage in shelving.

"If you need to remove one layer to get to another, chances are you won't put things back where they belong. Where possible, try and keep everything to just one step," she says.

The good news is, it does not take much to maintain a tidy workspace.

Ms Wong says: "The simple act of spending a few minutes at the end of each day putting things back where they belong means you will start each day on a fresh note.

"Five minutes is all it takes to improve your mood and your efficiency at work - this really should be everyone's career resolution for the new year."

avarma@sph.com.sg


ST 20150124 AVCLUTA 8EWBT 1005310m

Get organised

Store your papers vertically in the steel recesses of this sleek  filing cabinet. With wheels, it is easy to move around if you need to reconfigure your workspace.

What: Milton Filing Cabinet

Price: $349

Where: Crate & Barrel, Ion Orchard, 2 Orchard Turn, 04-21/22, tel: 6634-4222


ST 20150124 AVCLUTA 8APHO 1005293m

Keep assorted stationery in one handy kit with this Kate Spade organiser set.

What: Whistle While You Work Tackle Box

Price: $69.90

Where: www.monoyono.com


ST 20150124 AVCLUTA 83UFT 1005291m

Sleek acrylic desk accessories are a stylish way to organise your stationery and other items while keeping everything in plain  sight.

What: Format Stacking Boxes, set of three

Price: $55

Where: CB2 Singapore, Peranakan Place Complex, 178A Orchard Road, tel: 6732-5333


ST 20150124 AVCLUTA 8 1005288m

Slot your bills and letters into this classy paper holder with a metallic rose gold finish.

What: Balance Letter Holder

Price: $19.95

Where: CB2 Singapore, Peranakan Place Complex, 178A Orchard Road, tel: 6732-5333


ST 20150124 AVCLUTA 8C52R 1005292m

A great mix of form and function, this adhesive note set keeps all your Post-it notes in one place while adding funky pops of colour to your work space.

What: Why Not Adhesive Note Set

Price: $9.90

Where: Kikki.K, Ion Orchard, 2 Orchard Turn, B2-53, tel: 6509-3107


ST 20150124 AVCLUTA 1005289m

Banish messy, tangled coils of  wires under the table with this cable trunking system.

What: Signum Cable Trunking

Price: $9.90

Where: Ikea Singapore, 317 Alexandra Road, tel: 6786-6868