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10 Reasons Why your Work Desk is Always Messy

Let’s be honest, we are swamped these days, and we also get lazy pretty quickly. So, it isn’t abnormal to have a cluttered and messy work desk.

Sometimes, you are just too lazy to clean it all, whereas other times, you accumulate more work than you can finish at once.

Some of the reasons your work desk is messy include less storage space, not putting things away after use, size and position of the desk, hoarding unwanted items, etc. The most common reason is the lack of a well-set habit of cleaning your desk.

Extremely cluttered desk (Source: Unsplash)
Extremely cluttered work desk (Source: Unsplash)

You see, I am also one of those many people who struggle to maintain discipline about these things.

When you finally finish that piece of work, you would want to chill, maybe eat some snacks, but your mind won’t linger around “I should clean my desk.”

Although, I would say that researching through articles and youtube videos have made me feel more motivated to keep my work desk tidy these days.

10 Reasons Why your Work Desk is Always Messy

In this article, I have collected enough reasons and ideas for why you might be struggling with this. So, stay tuned!

1. Small-sized Work Desk

A small work desk tends to get cluttered more easily and quickly. The less space you have, the worse it gets to manage that area. 

If you work on two monitors and additional papers and documents, you might need a right-sized desk.

Otherwise, you will try to fit things into every nook and cranny of your desk.  It will allow things to get lost in small spaces and increase the amount of time wasted finding these items.

Small desks are suitable if you have minimal items (Source: Unsplash)
Small desks are suitable if you have minimal items (Source: Unsplash)

A bigger desk is not always the solution. Some may fill up the bigger space with more unnecessary things.

It depends upon the person, but generally having a good amount of space reduces clutter and motivates you to keep things that way.

Generally, a 30-inch tall desk with (a 60-inch X 30-inch) base suits an average office worker the most.

Some of the best Home Office Desk are in the table below;

Work DeskDimensionImage
CubiCubi Computer Home Office Desk23.6"D x 55"W x 29.5"H
Sturdy Stable for Use
Cubi Cubi Computer Desk
Bestier Computer Desk47"D x 25"W x 47"H
Multifunctional Desk
Desk with 4 Tier Shelves
Bestier Computer Desk
Cubiker Computer Desk23.8"D x 55"W x 28"H
Equipped with adjustable foot pads
Cubiker Computer Desk

Read more on: What is the Right Size Desk for your Home Office?

2. Unorganized Storage

Desks, especially work desks, can get messy if you do not have an organized filing and storage plan.

It will increase the chances of having many more things than necessary on your desk.

If you don’t have a cabinet dedicated to work-related items or even just drawers for tools, these things will slowly accumulate on your desk. 

Moreover, if you don’t have appropriate pen and cable holders, your desk won’t take long to turn into a messy pile of documents, equipment, and trash.

Use of wall for extra storage
Use of wall for extra storage (Source: Unsplash)

There are numerous ways of increasing storage. You can build shelves into the walls in front of your desks, get a small cabinet near your desk, or even choose a sturdy desk with drawers.

Additionally, you can create a filing system for the documents you’ve been meaning to sort through.

A simple filing system can essentially give your messy desk a grand makeover.

Learn more about filing system: How to Organize Home Office Filing System?

3. Lack of Discipline

As I mentioned before, it is pretty tempting to take a break after work rather than clean your desk. However, you need that discipline for better and more productive days.

It is okay to leave your desk messy sometimes, but you have to clean it one way or another. Procrastination will get you nowhere. 

Discipline is fundamental when it comes to sanitation and organization. The more you delay cleaning your desk, the messier it will get.

With reference to a self-discipline book by Martin Meadows, people feel better after taking a shower, putting on make-up, or any other grooming habit.

Similarly, in the case of a messy desk, a person feels disoriented and lacks the self-discipline to keep it tidy.

Furthermore, it creates more problems resolving this pile of stuff later on. So please do it now!

4. Hoarding Things

Are you one of those people who like to keep every document, every notepad, every pen or pencil they have used?

Well, this can be an indication as to why your desk has turned into a tangled mess.

It will keep piling up when you don’t throw away the trash. It is better to throw away that used-up sticky note rather than be lazy about it. 

Sometimes you hoard random things knowing that you will never use or look at them ever again.

Hoarding of things that are not needed (Source: Unsplash)
Hoarding leads to messy desks (Source: Unsplash)

You might keep things just in case you need them in the future, but there are ways for this to be managed as well.

Only keep the things you are 100% sure that might come in handy. Get rid of those old pens and paper.

This may include old newspapers, sticky notes, scraps of paper, packaging, and plastic. The list goes on.

It depends on what you need while you are working. If you will never use that colorful pen while you work, toss it out, donate it or give it to someone who needs it. 

5. Keeping Unnecessary Items on your Desk

Work desks must be exclusively reserved for work items. While you may want to put up framed motivational quotes, a lovely scented candle, or some decor on your desk, overdoing it will decrease space.

It is better to keep these things on another desk. These items will only take up space. Similarly, one wrong move and frames can fall, breaking glass everywhere.

Moreover, things like fake plants will only collect dust if you don’t clean them regularly.

Personal-care items like nail cutters, tweezers, makeup, and deodorant should also be placed in their designated places and not on your work desk.

Excessive decor decreases space on desk (Source: Unsplash)
Excessive decor decreases space on the desk (Source: Unsplash)

6. Tangled Cables and Wires

If you constantly work on a computer, you must be well-aware of the hassle caused by wires. Every desktop component is connected via cables, and these can get tangled over time.

Wires spread haphazardly on the desk or dangling from the underside of the desk is a complete eyesore.

They often accumulate dust, become twisted, and are difficult to disconnect if necessary. You may also accidentally trip on them, and yank plugs out, a disastrous mix.

Tangled cables on desk (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
Tangled cables on a desk (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

However, the solutions for this are pretty simple. Burying the wires in a cable box disguises the clutter and makes it much easier to keep cords untangled.

Similarly, velcro cord organizers, zip ties, power strips, or even some good-old painter’s tape can help cable management.

You can buy these products on Amazon.

7. You do not Put Things Away

After you use items like staplers, pens, tape, hole punchers, etc., you should return them to their designated drawers and cabinets.

If you do not develop this habit, you will keep things on your desk. Then, gradually the pile will grow, which is a recipe for disaster.

Small things like stapler pins take less space on your desk, but that should not allow you to be lazy.

These things getting cluttered on your desk will increase your chances of losing them or even accidentally stepping on them.

Obviously, this doesn’t mean that you throw things into your drawers haphazardly. Keep things in order; use various jars and dividers to achieve this.

Even if you feel like you might need the stapler again in a few days, put it away. You will decrease the risks of losing tools.

Plus, you will remember exactly where you kept them and don’t need to scurry around during an emergency.

Put things away in managed system (Source: Pigsels)
Put things away in a managed system (Source: Pigsels)

8. Position of your Desk

You might find that your desk is getting messier when the desk is positioned away from your work cabinets and drawers.

If your desk and storage are far away from each other, you are likely to get lazy when putting things away. 

Moreover, if your desk faces the wall and there is no gap between the wall and your desk, it becomes easy to lean things onto the walls. 

Read more to find out, how Much Space to Leave Between the Desk and the Wall.

When you don’t see things start to fall from tiny gaps, you will keep adding more stuff onto your work desks.

On the other hand, keeping desks near windows reminds you to keep the area clean since you need to open the window.

And, you will not want things to fly around with the wind from the window.

9. Having Duplicate Items

On your work desk, you should limit items. Use not more than two of the same colored pens, pencils, etc.

Similarly, if a single pair of scissors is enough, remove the extra pair away. Having duplicate items/ having multiple of the same item takes excess space.

You do not need five different notebooks or ten pens on your desk. The extra stuff should be stored away for future use. 

Minimal things creates a tidy workspace (Source: Unsplash)
Minimal things create a tidy workspace (Source: Unsplash)

10. Lack of Motivation

Motivation can make or break your performance. It is important not to depend upon motivation when it comes to cleaning.

When your desk gets filled with random things, you start to get demotivated to clean as it takes more time and energy.

On days when you clean your desk, you should keep in mind that it should stay in the same state.

You should not let things pile up and clean it all at once when you get the motivation. 

Sometimes, you might be in a rush and need those essential files.

Now, you will start to throw things here and there to do so, creating an absolute mess of your entire room!

If you need the motivation to clean, watch some calming videos of people decluttering. You can also video chat or call your loved ones as you clean.

Studies show that planning ahead increased significantly improved focus on goals, and performance.

So, a little planning ahead may help you get some motivation to commit to it.

Here’s an excellent video that teaches you everything about keeping your workplace organized.

How does a Messy Desk Affect your Work Productivity?

Now, let’s learn about the effects of a messy desk on your overall productivity and performance aspect.

1. Induces Stress

Research shows that cluttered spaces adversely affect our cognitive behaviors, stress, and anxiety levels. This stress can even affect sleep quality.

Misplaced files, information, and documents increase stress. Stress is a factor that reduces concentration and creative problem-solving skills.

Princeton University Neuroscience Institute conducted research to show that our brains like stimuli that are in order. So, visual reminders of disorganization drain our cognitive resources and reduce our ability to focus.

They also found that when participants cleared the clutter from their work environment, they were better able to focus and process information with more ease and decreased stress levels.

2. Increased Procrastination

A survey reveals that people spend up to two hours a week searching for documents. Wasting valuable time searching for things is a direct indication of procrastination.

Similarly, another study on the effects of clutter found that individuals with cluttered spaces were more likely to procrastinate. They felt overwhelmed due to all the mess.

Other research has shown that people with disarranged working areas are more involved in snacking on junk and watching TV.

Procasting Things
Procrastinating Things (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

When the brain works in an overstimulated environment, it becomes easy to stay lazy. The brain dislikes complex tasks and disarranged surroundings.

Hence, it can lead to poor eating, sleeping, and thinking habits.

3. Easily Distracted

It is easy to be distracted while working on a messy desk. Considering the fact that all types of things, from nail cutters to old documents, are piled upon it.

Firstly, you will be distracted by the mess. Secondly, as you do a difficult task, you will try to do everything else except that difficult task.

When the surrounding is clean, you will remain focused. But, all the items around you increase the chances that you end up wholly distracted and dumbfounded.

You make more mistakes, and the extra tension makes you demotivated and lazy. Similarly, a well-organized desk filled with mostly decor items can also be a distraction.

You may want to try out that new candle on the table, flip the calendar, dust out the frame, and so on.

4. Difficult to Prioritize Work

Researchers in the U.S. examined the co-relation between stress and workplace clutter. They found that these factors cause workers to delay making decisions and prioritizing work.

While working from a messy desk, you may find other files that need to be taken care of as you complete a task. This leads to a rabbit hole of confusion. You are unable to prioritize what is truly important.

Everything is scattered around, so you won’t be able to plan out what needs to be done on time.

Moreover, even if you make to-do lists, finding a different file can ruin your entire plan.

You may forget about important deadlines, waste time, and won’t be able to set a plan for the day.

A survey gives us in-depth information about how messy desks affect employees. It concludes that one in five workers admit that their untidy workplace resulted in losing an item of financial value.

Cluttered writer's table (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
Cluttered writer’s table (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Is Messy Desk a Sign of Intelligence?

There is always this vision of intelligent people. Smart, put together, neat, down to earth are some etiquettes associated with geniuses.

However, this might not be the case as many world-renowned geniuses like Albert Einstein and Steve Jobs have admitted that messy surroundings made them more creative. 

A quote from Einstein states “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?”

So, we can say that creativity loves a bit of chaos. Messy desks aren’t necessarily a bad thing.

According to one research, having a cluttered desk encourages us to be more creative. The findings show that tidy, orderly settings encourage us to comply with expectations and play it safe.

Meanwhile, chaotic situations encourage us to deviate from the usual and take a fresh look at things. While a spotless desk may indicate a lack of imagination, a cluttered one may help you loosen up. 

Creative Mind
Creative Mind (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

A study performed by the University of Minnesota discovered that while participants in the messy room generated the same number of ideas as their clean-room counterparts, their ideas were far more interesting and creative.

Furthermore, the research revealed that those with a cluttered desk are more ready to take risks, while those with a tidy desk are more likely to stick to tight norms.

For example, participants from the well-kept room donated more to charity and chose an apple to snack on instead of a candy bar.

The following video is about the same study.

Hence, messy surroundings do induce creativity and can be linked to intelligence. However, this should not let you become lazy and fill your desk with all kinds of trash.

To Wrap It Up!

Hence, a messy desk can have numerous impacts on your mental health and productivity. Also, every wrong move in organizing your workspace leads to more trash and confusion.

As mentioned above, messy desks can lead to creativity. However, messy desks can make you look unmanaged and clumsy in front of your employers and colleagues for a professional setup.

A cluttered desk may also be a significant source of distraction. It has the potential to divert your attention and time.

Don’t be discouraged if you can’t maintain your desk spotless all of the time. 

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