What’s better? A clean desk or a cluttered desk? That’s a great question! The debate on which is best has been going on for years, and to be honest, scientists are still stumped. However, having a clean, well-organized workspace does reap some pretty awesome benefits.

Clear a space on your desk to take notes, and let’s learn about the many psychological benefits of having a clean and organized desk.

Is it Better to Have a Clean or Messy Desk?

Workspace cleanliness boils down to a couple factors: the type of job you have and your personality. It’s not necessarily better to have a clean desk over a messy one, though there are some advantages to being more organized.

Take a look at the statistics!

Messy Desk vs Organized Desk
A clean workspace increases productivity and helps prevent illness.

Overall, a disorganized desk will lead to misplaced documents, lost information, and clutter. Keeping your desk clean will allow you to find what you need, when you need it, without adding stress to the mix!

Stats About Desk Cleanliness

  • An office keyboard can have up to 7,500 bacteria.
  • People waste 4.3 hours per week on average just looking for paper.
  • 57% of people admit they feel judged for the cleanliness of their workspace.
  • Employees who have a clean desk are able to work 7.5 minutes longer without feeling distracted.
  • Cold and flu viruses linger for up to 24 hours. Those with clean desks are less likely to get sick.
  • A clean desk increases productivity and persistence by 84%.

Do you want to see both clean and messy desks? Take a look at famous examples!

Craig Newmark - Founder of Craigslist

Craig Newmark – Founder of Craigslist

E.B. White - Children's author of Stuart Little and Charlotte's Web

E.B. White – Children’s author of Stuart Little and Charlotte’s Web

Mark Zuckerberg - Founder of Facebook

Mark Zuckerberg – Founder of Facebook

Steve Jobs - Founder of Apple

Steve Jobs – Founder of Apple

Mark Twain - Author of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn

Mark Twain – Author of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn

Over the years, creative geniuses like Albert Einstein have also been notoriously known for their messy offices. There are many innovative people who have been successful, regardless of their desk being clean or messy. With that in mind, it's okay to have a messy desk if "organized chaos" works for you!

Why is it Important to Have a Clean Desk?

Climbing to the brain

Everyone has different working styles, including how clean they keep their desk. Some companies enforce “clean desk” policies because it's more professional and saves time looking for misplaced invoices, meeting notes, or office supplies like pens and sticky notes. However, with the move to remote work, the organization of your desk is largely your choice.

Aside from workplace benefits, studies show a well-organized desk also has some psychological perks. These include:

  • More likely to make healthier food choices
  • Improve mental stability
  • Increase productivity
  • More likely to sleep better
  • Improve focus
  • Reduce stress

If you’re a stickler for all things tidy, a messy desk will only stress you out. Being too stressed can decrease your productivity, make falling asleep harder, and increase your chance of grabbing that tub of ice cream. Turn things around by cleaning your desk!

Is Having a Messy Desk Bad?

is it bad to have a messy desk

The University of Minnesota found that employees with disorderly workspaces were actually more innovative and creative with their ideas than those who had tidy offices. It ultimately boils down to your personal comfort level and what works best for you. If you have a messy desk only because you're lazy, it might be time to roll up your sleeves and clean it up a bit!

How to Keep Your Desk Organized

Now that you’ve decided on having a clean work environment, how do you tackle the mess? After all, it might seem like a lot to handle in one afternoon. Follow these simple tips to organize your desk or workspace!

Start Using a Junk Tray

junk tray graphic

Throughout the day, you’re bound to have a lot of papers or files land on your desk. When that happens, place them all in one tray, and go through them whenever you have time.

Take Out the Trash

trash can graphic

Do you need a project outline from 8 years ago? Probably not. When going through your pile of papers, recycle what you don’t need and file the things you do.

Color Code Papers & Folders

folders graphic

You’ll find documents faster when they’re in a designated spot. For example, invoices could go in a red folder, while applications can go in a blue folder.

Label Your Storage

storage drawers graphic

Do you have hundreds of customers? Maybe you’re a teacher with 7 different classes. By labeling your storage, you’ll know where invoices or homework assignments are right away.

Disinfect Your Keyboard, Phone, Mouse, and Desk

disinfect desk graphic

A study funded by The Clorox Company found that keyboards and office desks have more germs than most toilet seats. You can stay healthy by wiping down your workspace daily. This includes not just your keyboard, but also cleaning your mouse pad, mouse, phone, and the desk itself.

Keep Only the Essentials Out

organized desk graphic

You don’t need old coffee cups or yesterday’s half-eaten lunch on your desk. Save room for the necessities like a pen, notebook, and calendar.

Create a Designated Spot for Supplies

desk organizer graphic

Scissors, pens, pencils, staplers, highlighters, paper clips, etc. all deserve their own spot. Whether it’s a pencil holder, desk organizer, or paper tray, make sure everything has a place.

Clean Your Desk Daily

calendar graphic

At the end of every work day, take 5 to 7 minutes to tidy up. You’ll be amazed at how long your desk can stay organized just by staying on top of things.

Some days are hectic, and you might not have time to tidy up. But once you’ve taken the time to clean your desk, it’s important to try to keep it that way.

Examples of Clean Vs. Messy Desk

Your desk can say a lot about who you are or what kind of job you have. Here at Quality Logo Products®, our desks range from tidy and inviting to a promotional products workshop!

Which of these desks looks the most like yours?

Clean Desk

clean desk
This workspace is clean, neat, and organized.

This clean desks has all the essentials out with very little clutter. The employee works primarily on the computer and occasionally needs to jot things down in a notebook. Off to the side are sticky notes and extra pens for whenever they're needed.

Messy Desk

Sam's desk
The creative juices are flowing, so this desk is a bit more messy.

If you work in a creative field like writing, art, or design, you might have a lot of projects going on at one time. For that reason, you may work from a more messy workspace like this employee here. As a photographer, they have a lot of random props they need to use on any given shoot.

Final Thoughts

Your desk can say a lot about you as a person, your job, and your overall work style. It could be clean because you're a minimalist who works mostly on the computer, or it could be messy and look cluttered since you're writing the next bestselling novel or looking through many photos for a fall fashion show.

Whatever the case, your desk's messiness or cleanliness is a matter of preference. If you notice that you're slacking, it might be time to tidy up. If an organized mess works, then keep on doing you! There's really no "right" choice!


Fowler, P. (2017, September 29). 7 Health Benefits of Getting Organized. Retrieved from https://www.shape.com/lifestyle/mind-and-body/how-cleaning-and-organizing-can-improve-your-physical-and-mental-health

How a Clean-Desk Policy Drives Productivity and Creativity. (2016, September 08). Retrieved from https://www.cleverism.com/clean-desk-policy-drives-productivity-creativity/

The Benefits of a Clean Desk Policy. (2018, August 24). Retrieved from https://www.shrednations.com/2018/08/benefits-clean-desk-policy/

The Surprising Health & Psychological Benefits of a Clean, Uncluttered Desk. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.sixwise.com/newsletters/05/11/02/the-surprising-health--amp-psychological-benefits-of-a-clean-uncluttered-desk.htm

Tidy Desk or Messy Desk? Each Has Its Benefits. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.psychologicalscience.org/news/releases/tidy-desk-or-messy-desk-each-has-its-benefits.html

Fowler, P. (2015, January 29). How Cleaning and Organizing Can Improve Your Physical and Mental Health. Retrieved from, https://www.shape.com/lifestyle/mind-and-body/how-cleaning-and-organizing-can-improve-your-physical-and-mental-health

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