Organization can lead you to higher efficiency. A tidy desk or office not only shows that you and employees care about the environment around you, but that it’s a distraction free zone to encourage innovation and mental clarity. Basically, a productive workspace is the first step to focusing on what you need to achieve.
Expert organizer and TikTok sensation Leah Mari, whose Marie Kondo-esque videos have sparked joy to over 215,000 followers, is a firm believer in tidying up your workspace to achieve peak creativity, productivity, and profitability. We chatted with Leah for some organization tips to enhance your workspace to be more conducive to the demands of your work, whether you’re at home or in a Manhattan skyscraper.
Leah Mari’s organization tips for a productive workspace
Teachable: What are the first things you can do to declutter an at-home workspace?
Leah Mari: The top of your desk is a huge contributor to making your workspace feel cluttered, so keep it to a minimum. A little decor, your computer, and what you’re currently working on—placed with intention and stacked neatly when you’re taking a break from it—makes a huge difference.
When clients used to visit an ad agency I worked at, one of our owners would ask us to clean up our desk tops for client tours. I think everyone liked how this felt and that they felt it was okay to allocate a little time to zenning up their space. They [also] didn’t stop at decluttering—they would sanitize and get into their drawers too. The “OK” to put a little time into their space rolled over into doing it regularly and it was so good for us.
T: What are items to keep within arm’s reach versus things you can organize and hide?
LM: Within arm’s reach, I’d recommend whatever you’re working on. If you have multiple projects, only have what you’re working on [currently] on your desk. When you’re switching gears, you can switch whatever you don’t need with whatever you do need. You could also just keep this in a notebook. I’d also recommend leaving your to-do list out for reference throughout the day.
Tools like staplers that you use, but not frequently, can be organized and put away. I’d also add items from meetings or anything you’re not regularly using that you may need to reference later.
T: Do you have any general tips on how to keep a desk decluttered? How about for the long-term?
LM: First, don’t hoard. If you naturally get a lot of swag from your job like an extra notebook you don’t need or something that doesn’t match your aesthetic, it’s okay to politely decline. Otherwise, it becomes clutter in your workspace.
Second, go through your work-related items in small sections to see what you need and don’t need. There’s no need, even in your first go-around, to get your desk [completely] organized by taking everything out. That causes anxiety, wastes time, and doesn’t create a habit. Instead, spend five minutes between calls or after a long task or email to declutter and decompress. It’s kind of a mindless activity that gives you a break and is still beneficial for work.
I’d also implement my one-a-week method. Every week, your goal will be to get rid of one thing by recycling, selling, or donating or organize one small space and then maintain it into the next week before tackling another.
Third, remember that even your junk drawer can be neat. Place things with intention versus throwing them in. If something in your junk drawer comes in a box, keep it to use the top and bottom as a divider to separate your junk in sections. Or if you’re ready to elevate the space, you can get proper dividers like these.
Lastly, don’t overdo it on organization products. If you’re having a hard time keeping a space or specific things organized, take it to a Google search. But remember to reel yourself in when you’re shopping—there are only so many products that you can have until your organized dreams become a cluttered desk of products. Some things that might be helpful include a riser for your computer screen(s) with an area for storage underneath, a pretty cup, empty candle jar or rotating organizer for pens and the like, drawer dividers for your junk drawer, file folders, and a stackable letter tray.
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T: How do you integrate personalized knick-knacks to keep it from looking sterile?
LM: I like when personalized knick-knacks go with your personal aesthetic. Adding in some pieces that are pretty and functional are helpful, like a calendar that you never have to replace or a pretty paper tray. Whatever you do, though, don’t overdo it. You can use Pinterest for inspiration, but think about how much surface space you have versus how much you need to get your work done.
My desk doubles as a kitchen island right now, so I need even more surface area. Currently, it has a vase of a woman’s body with faux flowers in it to use more vertical space, coasters, my computer, and a to-do list that I put in the island’s drawers at night.
T: Are there items you can purchase and add to an at-home workspace that may inspire creativity, productivity, or innovation?
LM: At the end of the day, I personally feel it’s about not over-purchasing to stay creative, productive, and innovative. We tag the words “decluttered” and “organized” onto our homes and work spaces and it sounds super uptight, but what it’s really about is creating a free, open, and zen space where you’re not confined. You can make it whatever you want and the possibilities for your space and work are endless.
Sure, there are items that can fit aesthetically in your space and help all of the above, but this may be different for everyone. Be open to suggestions, but know that suggestions don’t necessarily yield a guarantee. If you [already] work well with a calendar or specific agenda book, for example, go with that, but make sure you aren’t also buying more and more agenda books that you’re told will do better. They’ll begin to accumulate.
Allow yourself to also grow personally and professionally. When we were in college, a lot of us had dry erase boards for our to-do lists and calendars. This has maybe evolved to Post-It notes or a notebook or a digital file and it’s okay to now let go of that dry erase board. If you’ve switched careers, you may need different supplies to cater to the type of work you do. Let go of what won’t serve you.
Whatever you do, tap into what you perceive is helping you when you’re feeling most creative, productive, or innovative [in that moment], whether it’s a physical product or not.
Want more of Leah Mari’s organization tips for your at-home or in-office workspace? Follow her on TikTok to get your organizational fix.