How to Declutter Your Office

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Originally published September 23, 2019 and updated February 13, 2023.

The first step to organizing your home office is to declutter your office. That can be pretty scary for many of us. But it doesn’t have to be a daunting task, when you follow these 11 tips and use the free printable Declutter Your Office checklist.

As a professional organizer, I’ve helped clients declutter their office space and since I’ve moved more than 20 times myself, I’ve decluttered and organized my work areas and have figured out the best way to accomplish it.

neat and tidy white des, tall bookshelf and green potted plant.

How Do You Declutter an Office?

You can find more details and in-depth explanation for each step in the declutter your office process area below.

  1. Remove obvious and easy to access items that don’t belong in the office.
  2. Pull everything out – and that means everything.
  3. If the job will take too much time and you have limited space, you can tackle one area at a time, for example the top of the desk, one drawer at a time, the bookshelf and so on.
  4. Put all the items into categories as part of the declutter your office process.
  5. As you sort, immediately place trash, recycling and donation items into labeled boxes or bags.
  6. Within the categories, put like items with like items.
  7. Wipe down all furniture and surfaces. Clean behind and under furniture.
  8. Be ruthless as you determine which items to declutter.
  9. If the job is too large, you can place items into labeled boxes for you to sort through later. This is a last resort hack to declutter your office. And the key is that you will sort through it in the near future.
  10. Make every single item earn its spot in your newly organized office.
  11. Consider going digital as much as you can.

If you haven’t already, be sure to sign up for the Organized Home Challenge so you’ll have access to the support group, additional videos, and even giveaways.

Declutter Your Office

Let’s go through each step as though I’m there with you as your professional organizer working along side with you.

Make Space to Start Decluttering

Remove obvious trash or items that don’t belong in the office. Don’t waste time digging through piles or drawers yet. Your goal is to make more space for you to work and to give yourself and easy early decluttering win.

Pull Everything Out

You need to pull everything out so that you can determine what you have and how much of each item you have. You won’t realize that you have five staplers if you just leave them all where they are.

Plus, pulling everything out now as part of the home office decluttering process makes it easier to assess what you have and how to better organize it later.

It’s ideal if you can pull every single thing out and sort it all into piles and groups. However, this isn’t always possible given time and space limitations, so let me share two alternate solutions.

Address Smaller Areas of the Home Office One at a Time

You can choose to tackle one area at a time if, this is the better solution for your situation. However, you’ll have to be very careful to keep track of duplicate items that show up when you move onto other areas. You’ll need to group those duplicate items together so you can address them at one time.

You should only use this strategy if you are committed to work though your entire office decluttering and won’t give up after a few hours, having only created a bigger mess than you started with.

Declutter Your Office Hack

This hack should only be used as a last resort. But if you are overwhelmed, then this may help you.

Ideally, you’ll go through every single piece of paper and make a decision about whether to keep it and where it should be filed. However, if that’s just never going to happen because of your life situation, I suggest you remove the past six months of papers from the top of the stacks and any critical files or documents.

Put those in a bin marked current. You will sort through these papers as soon as you can. This will allow you to start fresh after you’ve completed the declutter your office process and stay on top of keeping paper organized from this point on.

Take the older paperwork and files and place them in a box(es). If you can easily identify the year or subject, identify those piles by binding them together with the identifying information.

If you can’t easily identify what the piles of papers are, then simply place them in a box. Do your best to keep them in the order that they’re already piled. You’ll keep them this way, because they’re most likely already in a rough chronological order with the oldest papers at the bottom of the piles.

Let’s be honest. If you had to find a specific piece of paper now, you’d have to dig through all those piles. So if you place these papers into a box and have to locate a specific single piece of paper, you can still dig through the papers – just in boxes rather than stacked in your office.

31 Days of 
10-Minute Decluttering 
Declutter 31 spaces in your home in one month.
Pop over to the private Simple Organization Tips and Ideas Facebook group so that you can interact with me and other motivated participants and view the videos that go along with the challenge.
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Be sure to mark the boxes with the date that you boxed them up. This will help you in the future know when you can declutter the entire box.

Sort Items into General Categories

Depending on what you have in your office and how much you have, you can sort items into general categories:

  • Trash
  • Recycled
  • Donate
  • Locate Somewhere Else
  • Office Supplies
  • Taxes
  • Important Personal Documents
  • Banking
  • Cords and Plugs
  • Electronics
  • Manuals
  • Etc.

If you have a lot to declutter in your office, then you should sort into broader categories:

  • Trash
  • Recycled
  • Donate
  • Locate Somewhere Else
  • Documents
  • Office Supplies
  • Technology

Depending on how large the declutter your office task is, you may be able to combine above step with the next one. Feel free to do the two steps separately or as a combined task in a way that makes sense for you depending on your personal situation.

Sort Categories into Groups of Items

It’s important to sort the larger categories into smaller groupings of like items. For example, office supplies will be broken into pens, sticky notes, index cards, paper, notebooks etc.

Sorting items into groups of like items allows you to see how many you have of each item. This helps you determine how many you need and want to keep. For example, do you really need to keep 5 staplers or 20 half-used spiral notebooks?

Clean Well

Take advantage of this opportunity to wipe surfaces down, vacuum or sweep behind furniture and do a deep cleaning. It’ll never be easier to clean these spaces as it is now.

Edit and Declutter Ruthelessly

Use the Declutter Your Office Checklist. You can get the 9-page resource when you sign up for our newsletter.

9 pages of the Declutter Your Office Checklist in purple and green

Make every single item earn the right to remain in your newly organized office. Don’t just hold onto items because you’re overwhelmed or tired. Pop over to the Facebook group for encouragement if you’re feeling overwhelmed.

This is a big job. There’s no way around it. But you can do it. No matter how big the declutter your office job is, you can get through it when you take it step by step. Keep your goal in mind – a neatly organized office that helps you manage your life and paperwork, not one that adds to your stress.

How to Declutter Your Office
Sign up for our newsletter and get this free 9-page decluttering printable.
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Common Office Decluttering Tasks

flexible storage options

Desk Drawer

  • Use drawer organizers to corral all the small items stored there
  • Keep only items you actually use and need in this prime storage space
  • Organize for easy access since items stored here are usually needed quickly

Filing Cabinet

  • Choose a file cabinet that will accommodate the amount of paper files you have
  • Place important files you use daily where you can easily reach them from your desk
    • Consider using wall space next to your desk as storage space for important papers and files you use frequently
  • Use labels to clearly identify contents of files

Top of Your Desk

  • Your desk is meant to be workspace so it needs to be clear
  • If you need to store items on your desk, use vertical storage products to keeps as much horizontal surface clear
    • Pencil cup to hold pens and pencil
    • Stacking paper and file organizer
    • Use wall space next to your desk when you can

Piles of Paper

  • Piles of paper and folders are the top cause of a messy desk
  • Do not just create piles of miscellaneous items
  • Store paper in files identified by categories so that you can quickly find them and know right away where to put them when you’re done

Digital Files

  • Digital clutter is as much of a problem as clutter in physical space
  • Label all digital items with names that identify the contents and purpose
  • File digital items in files that make sense to you, so you can easily locate what you need
  • Declutter digital items regularly

Office Organizing Habits

  • Place daily use items within reach of your chair
  • End of the Day – these habits take just minutes and are a great way to set up your next morning for success.
    • Straighten and clean your desk
    • Put important documents away in a simple filing system
  • Put Things Away
    • Put items back in the proper place when you’re done using them to prevent a cluttered office
    • Have a designated area for all items – when you assign them a home, you know where to find them and where to put them away. No more random piles or high stress levels.
      • Important items – you can always quickly find these critical items when they have a rightful place
        • File folders
        • Client files
        • Important papers
      • Troublesome items – items you need to want to keep, but always become clutter
        • Paper clips
        • Business cards

In the next two lessons we’ll address specifics about decluttering paperwork and products and tips for organizing your office.

Looking for more decluttering your office and organizing help?

How to Start Decluttering When You’re Overwhelmed – These 40+ tips will help you know how to start decluttering when you’re overwhelmed. Simple tips that work from a professional organizer.

papers scattered on desktop with pair of black glasses and computer keyboard

Computer Desktop and File Organization – Tips For a More Organized Office – Looking for less stress, more time and less chaos? These tips for a more organized office will help with your computer desktop and file organization.

set of hands working on laptop and a different hand pointing to the screen.

Organize Office Supplies at Home – 10+ tips to organize office supplies at home so that they’re functional and pretty. Make the most of a small space with careful planning and organizing.

collage of brightly colored office organizing bins with text overlay.

10 Recycled Office Organizers – Easy DIY office organizers from free items you probably already have.

collage of two images of office organizing boxes from repurposed boxes.

Find all my decluttering tips, printables and challenges in the table below. You can scroll though the table and look for ideas or search for specific ideas with the magnifying glass in the upper right-hand corner (on desktop). Click on the topic and then click through the specific article.

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  1. Ok, I really really want to love this page and use all your great printables but itis sooooo frustrating! I have signed up for your newsletter multiple times, it tells me I now have access to printables but everytime I click on the link it just takes me back to the “newletter sign up” page. help!!

  2. I was stuck in the middle of my project– one office exploded over my entire DR, LR, and kitchen!! Your hack is brilliant and I can continue to success tomorrow. MANY thanks for the word of encouragement!!

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