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How to Clean Out a Messy Office

How do you clean out a messy office? Read on for some simple tips and tricks, so you don't have to worry about an office clean out!

Are you drowning under documents? Is your desk an avalanche of office equipment waiting to happen? Are you tired of searching around for a pen that works, only to realize there’s no open space to even write on?

Cleaning out a cluttered office space can be intimidating; the more you procrastinate, the more that pile grows. But, eventually, you’ll have to deal with it—maybe you’re moving your home workspace, you’ve been relocated to a new spot in the office, or there’s a C-level walkthrough tomorrow. So, stay on top of the mess with these ideas for starting fresh, knowing how to organize an office space, and developing a system that will keep you spotless for years to come.

Never fear the office cleanout again!

Why Should I Clean Out My Office?

If you’re not personally put off by mess, cleaning your desk may seem like a waste of time. Who wants to sort through old papers all afternoon? What’s the point?

Beyond aesthetics, there are quite a few benefits to keeping a clean workspace. Here are ’s a few reasons the task is worth taking on:

  • Studies show that, on average, disorganization within a commercial space costs people an hour a day in productivity.1
  • Cleaning and sanitizing surfaces might reduce your risk of sickness and infection.2
  • It can expose potential hazards, like mismanaged cords and excessive dust.3
  • It makes a better impression on visitors.3

While the task can seem overwhelming, it’s well worth the effort. Fortunately, we’ve got all the best advice about how to organize a messy office right here. Get clear, get clean, and get organized with these tips.

Step 1: Getting Clear

The first step to tackling an out-of-control workspace is to purge and remove office junk. Get rid of dead markers, old papers and sticky notes, coffee cups, and any other unwanted item that can go straight into the garbage. It might be useful to make three piles: 

  1. Trash or recycling
  2. To be filed away in drawers/cabinets
  3. To be kept on the desk

The goal of this step of office junk removal is to give you a clear picture of what you’re dealing with. Once each unwanted item is gone, what’s left? What are the essentials? What do you need easily accessible, and what needs to be saved long term?

Answering these questions will help you develop an organized layout for your workspace, but for now, set aside these items. It’s time to roll up your sleeves and put in some elbow grease.

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Step 2: Getting Clean

If your desk has been cluttered for ages, it could probably use a good deep clean before you start putting everything away. Follow these tips to clean every area of your workspace for a fresh start:

  • Dust – Now that your surfaces are clear, it’s the perfect time to dust. Wipe a microfiber cloth over everything, including monitors, shelves, filing cabinets, window sills, lamps, and telephones.4
  • Vacuum – Start with the floor and use different nozzles to get into all the nooks and crannies behind your desk or between cabinets.
  • Disinfect – It’s always a good idea to disinfect your workspace. Swipe down phones, computer mice, and anything regularly handled with disinfectant wipes. Pay special attention to communal items, which should be disinfected regularly—especially during flu season.
  • Clean your keyboard – Easily forgotten during a cleaning spree, your keyboard might be loaded up with crumbs and other detritus. Use compressed air (blowing through a straw can work in a pinch) to remove debris. Then, clean in between keys with a cotton swab dipped in isopropyl alcohol.5
  • Clean your chair – The method will depend on the style of chair you use, so be sure to follow the instructions on the upholstery tag. Most office chairs can be wiped down with either dish soap and water or isopropyl alcohol.

Step 3: Getting Organized

Your space is clean, the trash and recycling has been discarded, and now it’s time to put everything back. You could just throw everything back where it was, but if you’d rather not drown in a cascade of clutter every few weeks, you might want to develop an organizational system. 

This is where the magic happens— an effective organizational system can transform the look and feel of your workspace and make your life that much easier. 

Follow these five steps to design a workspace that would make even Marie Kondo proud.

#1 Take a Minimalist Approach

The flat top of your desk is your most important and most limited work area, so surface space is a high commodity. When deciding what to keep on your desk, minimalism is key:1

  • Only store daily used items on the desk surface.
  • Limit yourself to two or three trinkets and personal items.
  • Designate a space to always keep clear for signing documents and writing notes.

#2 Create an Optimized Layout

Now that your desk is left with the essentials, decide on a new layout that will work with you instead of against you. For the basics, you should: 

  • Keep anything you reach for regularly over on your dominant hand’s side.
  • Create desk zones for different tasks and keep relevant tools in that zone.
  • Categorize items by urgency, with the most urgent being the most visible.
  • Remember the golden rule of desk organization: The more often you need an item, the more reachable it should be.

#3 Build Up, Not Out

Need more desk space? Increase your available surface area by using the walls of your office furniture or cubicle to build up instead of out:6

  • Use stacking containers or trays. 
  • Keep schedules and notes on a whiteboard instead of a notepad. 
  • A pegboard with hooks can allow you to hang caddies.
  • If possible, install floating shelves.
  • Or, build down instead of up with an under-desk drawer or pedestal.

#4 Contain Your Clutter

For all those loose items and debris scattered about, find storage options that are logical and functional for everyday use. You can try:

  • Color-coded bins and filing cabinets or label them with a label maker.
  • Dividers inside drawers.
  • Storing papers and files in vertical holders to save space.
  • Setting up an inbox and outbox for documents. 
  • Bunching related cables together with mesh sleeves or trays. Magnetic cable organizers can keep cords out of sight.

#5 Don’t Neglect Electronics

While the clutter may be less obvious to passersby, your work computer can get clogged up with junk just as quickly. So, set aside some time to clear your computer too and:

  • Empty your email spam folder.
  • Label and archive older emails that you want to keep.
  • Delete junk files from your hard drive. 
  • If you don’t have one already, create a system for storing files in folders and subfolders. 
  • Like your physical desktop, limit desktop icons to just a few items you use regularly.

Keeping Clean

You did it—your workspace has been cleaned and organized. The new challenge is keeping it that way. You can prevent that blink-and-you’ll-miss-it buildup of mess by:

  • Planning ahead – While you develop your office organization system, keep in mind your ability to stick to it. Don’t try anything too complex if you know you’ll give up on it in a few months. Arrange your workspace in a way that will be conducive to upkeep, and your desk might stay cleaner for longer.
  • Getting a trash can – If you’re finding yourself frequently overrun with garbage, you might want to think about getting a small trash can to keep under your desk. This way, you can quickly discard your garbage without having to get up.
  • Scheduling weekly clean-ups – It’s also a good idea to get into the habit of doing a brief clean-up at the end of the work week. Replace any tools or papers you’ve been using, insert digital files into the correct folders, and give surfaces a quick wipe with disinfectant.
  • Doing it together – It might even be fun to get your coworkers in on it. If others are interested, you could clean together or hold each other accountable.

Like any habit, keeping clean gets easier the more you do it. Soon you might just have the neatest desk in the office—get ready to be the one relaxing during the next office clean out.

Create an Office Sanctuary with Juniper

A clean workplace is a happy workplace. And at Juniper, we’re kind of the expert in happy workplaces: with 100 years of industry experience, we’ve seen it all, and we know exactly what you need to keep your work area clean, calm, and productive. 

Our under-desk cabinets help you make the best use of your space by stashing away your items where they’re easily reached, but not creating clutter. Our hooks, whiteboards, dividers, and cable managers can transform your messy office into an organizational oasis. Our office organization furniture will make it much easier for you to figure out how to organize your desk or how to organize office supplies. Want to start fresh with a whole new desk? We’ve got you covered there, too. 

Don’t drown in drab, dirty desktops. From furniture to organizers to storage solutions, Juniper has everything you need to breathe new life into your workplace. With our factory direct pricing, lightning-fast shipping, and thousands of manufacturers, we take the stress out of office renovations. Whether it’s an office-wide redesign, a simple upgrade, or anything in between, Juniper has your back.


  1. CNN Business. Here’s how your desk should be organized.
  2. CDC. Cleaning and Disinfecting Your Facility.
  3. Indeed. 11 Benefits to Maintaining a Clean and Orderly Workplace.
  4. Molly Maid. Office Cleaning.
  5. Wired. How to Clean Your Computer Inside and Out.
  6. Good Housekeeping. 30 Easy Desk Organization Ideas to Maintain Your Minimalist Aesthetic.