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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Productivity

Spring Clean Your Cubicle!

person in cubicle
Tom Warnock

With all the spring cleaning that awaits you at home (the moldy depths of your refrigerator and the miles of dusty baseboards), I’m sure you’re not jumping at the chance to clean your cubicle.

But since everything else in your life is getting a refresher for the new season, why should your work life miss out? Tidying up your workspace can help you focus better, work more efficiently, and bring a ray of new life to your daily routine. Or, at least make it smell nicer.

Don’t worry—you won’t have to get on your hands and knees with a scrub brush. But with these few simple steps, you can revitalize your cube in no time.

1. Get Rid of the Junk

Over the year, you’ve probably accumulated a lot of things in and around your cubicle that you don’t actually need. Prime example: I currently have five (yes, five!) coffee cups in the corner of my desk. Do I ever drink five cups of coffee at the same time? Tempting, but no. I really only need one—so four of those mugs are coming home with me.

And that’s only the beginning. Sort through your overflowing cup of pens and pencils, and throw out the writing utensils that are out of ink, out of lead, or too ridden with bite marks to use in public. The snacks you have stashed in your bottom drawer? Get rid of anything questionable (like those stale crackers and the tea bags that are way past their expiration dates)—and transfer everything else into an airtight plastic container.

2. Organize Your Drawers

When I was young, my least favorite chore was cleaning out my desk drawers. It probably didn’t help that I was a bit of a hoarder, so the task meant sorting through an overflowing compartment of papers, photos, trash, candy wrappers, toys, trinkets—things I (mistakenly) thought I’d use again one day. And if you’re anything like me, you’re probably familiar with the grown-up version of hoarder syndrome: a tendency to hang onto every paper and file that crosses your desk, under the guise that you’ll eventually need to reference it again.

If so, it’s time get organized. Start by throwing out or shredding anything that is clearly outdated or unnecessary—like the draft versions of the quarterly report from six quarters ago—or, if you can’t bear to part with certain old files, box them up and ask your boss if there’s a nearby storage area. With everything else, invest half an hour into devising a filing system: Clearly label file folders, hang them alphabetically in a drawer, and sort away.

3. Clear Your Workspace

A cluttered desktop isn’t only inefficient—it also serves as a constant, in-your-face to-do list. And when you’re trying to focus on the task at hand, the last thing you want to be thinking about is the next five items on your list.

So, clear away all your desktop clutter. Now that your drawers are prepped and organized, file away papers and tuck loose items into drawer organizers (the ones with lots of small compartments can help keep even the tiniest objects separated).

It’s helpful to leave the things you use most—like your laptop, stash of pens, and Post-it notes—out in the open, while the less-utilized items (your three-hole punch, tape, and pushpins) can stay neatly put away in a drawer until they’re needed.

4. Actually Clean

Sure, the floor underneath your desk may get vacuumed every night by the janitorial staff, but with an entire building to clean, they probably don’t dust the ins and outs of every workspace.

I know—doing the actual cleaning is what you’re dreading most, but once all your stuff is cleared away, it’ll be a breeze. You don’t need to scrub every nook and cranny with a toothbrush, of course—but the job won’t feel 100% complete unless you actually get rid of the dust.

So, shake out the cracker crumbs from your keyboard (or use a bottle of compressed air), dust your computer screen, and wipe down the surface of your desk. You don’t even need to worry about spray bottles and rags—just bring a dry Swiffer cloth from home, and give your workspace a quick once-over.

5. Spruce it Up

Spring cleaning isn’t only about clearing out the clutter. Sure, it’s great to have a tidy desk—but it’s also important to have a workspace that inspires you. So, add a few motivating posters to your cubicle wall, pick out some colorful new desk accessories, or adopt a desktop fern—whatever it takes to bring the springtime into your windowless cube.

When the clutter is cleared away, breathe in that fresh springtime air, and kick back and relax—er, get back to work.