A Fresh Start: Spring Cleaning at Work

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One of the best parts of spring is the feeling of renewal it brings. This time of year, we shed the layers of winter, making it the perfect time to refresh all aspects of our lives, including a deep clean to our spaces. While many people dig into spring cleaning projects at home, fewer of us do this at the office. Yet sprucing up your workspace is a fantastic way to improve productivity, mood, and health.

Spring cleaning is divided into two separate steps: decluttering and cleaning. Studies show that clutter—whether it’s on a computer desktop or a physical one—can trigger stress hormones, reducing productivity and potentially negatively affecting our health. Cleaning and disinfecting commonly used objects, such as keyboards, phones, headsets, and desks and chairs, can also reduce the spread of viruses and grime. Fortunately, a few simple steps can help tidy your workspace and reward you with a fresh outlook.

If you work in an open office and don’t have a regular desk, you can still practice spring cleaning by decluttering and cleaning your computer and phone screens, files, and apps, as well as any physical items associated with work, such as water bottles, coffee cups, headsets, and commuting gear.

Clear Your Space

  1. Treat your office spring cleaning as you would any other essential office function, and intentionally block out time on your calendar.
  2. Don’t merely rearrange or tidy up your current work area. Take a few minutes to consider how you typically use your space. Organize according to how you work, not according to “where things go.” Sit at your desk and move your arms in a circle, parallel to the floor, from back to front. Put anything you use on a daily basis within that circumference. Organize concentrically after that. The rest can go in files or drawers.
    About those drawers: You probably have an office junk drawer, the work equivalent of that catch-all drawer at your house where you put dozens of rubber bands, mystery keys, takeout menus, and spare change. Go through it, then organize it by dividing items into loose sections. The key here is “loose.” You don’t want your process bogged down with details, so divide according to larger categories, instead of getting overly specific; think “small office supplies” rather than “rubber bands,” “thumbtacks,” “paper clips,” etc.
  3. When organizing correspondence and files: Make three separate piles—discard, file, and shred—and do all three at the end of the sorting process. Apply the same technique to your email inbox as well.

Clean Your Space
Now that you’ve decluttered, it’s time for a deep clean of your desk, chair, computer, mouse, phone, headset, and writing utensils. Don’t forget to give water bottles, mugs, and reusable straws a deep scrub and sanitizing. Schedule this process for a time that won’t disrupt client visits or other work activities in the wider office, and consult with coworkers to make sure they don’t have any chemical, environmental, or odor sensitivities to your cleaning products.

  1. Remove dust (especially on your keyboard) by giving everything a good once-over with canned air. For your keyboard, it’s a good idea to start by disconnecting any cables, then turn it upside down and give it a thorough shake-out to release any trapped crumbs or particles. Then give it a good once-over with compressed air. Compressed air can remove dust from other areas of your desk, too.
  2. Dip a cotton swab in some isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) and swab around the keys of your keyboard. Isopropyl alcohol dries quickly, but you should still be careful to apply only a small amount to your swab, since you don’t want moisture getting into the delicate hardware beneath your keyboard.  
  3. To clean and disinfect your smartphone, you can create a cleaning solution mixing the same isopropyl alcohol with some water (about a 50/50 ratio) in a small bottle. Spray the cleaning solution onto a micro-fiber cloth, then use the cloth to wipe down your screen. Again you want to avoid moisture on the phone itself, so never apply alcohol (or water!) directly onto your phone screen. This same method can be used to wipe down a landline/desk phone and handset.
  4. Other, non-electronic surfaces such as your desktop and shelves can get a good cleaning with mild soap and water. I try to avoid ‘sanitizing’ bleach wipes and other chemical sprays, since they’re often toxic.
  5. Dry all surfaces thoroughly with a clean cloth before use.
  6. If you have access to a vacuum, take a few moments to vacuum the area around your desk and chair.

A final thought: Once you’ve finished decluttering and cleaning, liven up your space with a new plant or flowers. Something fresh and colorful will help motivate you to keep your space clean and neat, so maybe next year’s spring cleaning will be a quick and simple task.

Jonanna Widner lives in Portland, OR, where she writes about sports, music, travel, and fitness.
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