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How Minimalism Made Me Happier + More Productive At Work

Photo by Lumina
August 17, 2017

When it comes to workspace style, there seem to be two types of people: those who prefer a neat and orderly desktop, and those who love working among the chaos. Chances are you fall somewhere on the spectrum while perhaps intending to be tidy but running out of time, space, and energy to follow through. Whether you’re a freelancer with a home setup or plugging away in an open office, you likely spend the majority of your waking hours at your workspace.

Photo: Leandro Crespi

Your workspace (and even your digital workspace) can affect your mindset, which has the unique ability to make or break how happy you are at work. Of course, there will always be something we can’t control, but most professionals have some influence over their workspaces. Here’s a minimalist guide to designing your workspace to help increase happiness and productivity:

1. Clear all clutter from your workspace.

Have a box or a wastebasket nearby and get rid of all your junk: trash, empty water or coffee cups, dead flowers, tchotchkes, irrelevant papers, boxes, cleaning supplies, etc. Purge it all while being sure to dispose of it appropriately. Get rid of duplicates, charge dead batteries, recycle old technology, and clear away anything you don’t use or appreciate regularly.

2. Clean your physical space.

Once the clutter is gone, clean off your desk entirely, setting aside any items you haven’t thrown away (yet). Wipe it down from top to bottom using a lint-free cloth to clean your computer monitors and nontoxic cleaners to wipe down your keyboards, your mouse, and anything that will remain on your desk as a permanent fixture. If you want an extra boost, try saging your space, burning palo santo, lighting a candle, or spritzing it with rosewater. Good vibes only!

3. Add back only your most useful (and most used) objects.

Photo: Leandro Crespi

Take another look at what you set aside and ask yourself whether it can be pared down even further. Separate the things you use the most and add these back to your desk. It may be a computer and keyboard, books, a mouse, a file folder, a stapler, or a trusty notebook. Place these items first and within the prime real estate of arm’s reach.

4. Add a few things that bring you joy and remind you why you work so hard.

Next, reassess your pile and place the items that remind you of your accomplishments and why you work so hard. These could include pictures of loved ones, awards, or other forms of recognition, art from kids, a favorite quote that inspires you—anything goes as long as it’s intentional.

5. Create an organizational system that accommodates your essentials.

This might be the most laborious step, but it’s worth it. Create an organization system that works for you and your style. This might mean getting rid of your paperwork and going digital with Google documents or keeping an old-fashioned file cabinet with color-coded labels. It doesn’t matter what the system is, as long as it truly goes hand-in-hand with your work style. This is paramount, otherwise you’re just creating more work for yourself. Here is some inspiration from super-productive go-getters.

6. Decorate with a small low-light plant or two.

Photo: Lauren Naefe

It’s been scientifically shown that plants make you happier and healthier. Plus, they filter the air and cheer up the space by bringing a bit of the outside in. You’ll want to be sure to get a plant that works with the light in your space, so choose wisely.

7. Swap out ordinary functional items for ones that make you smile.

Instead of opting for the ballpoint pens that the office stocks, bring the ones you love to write with. Swap your boring black staplers with a colored or clear one, upgrade your desk supplies, and download a desktop that inspires you. Upgrade your yellow legal pad with a notebook that makes you smile. Swap your coffee mug for a beautiful ceramic piece. It’s the little, daily things that make a difference.

8. Tidy up every Friday to keep the flow going.

Maintain your newfound tidiness by revisiting this process—with a more low-key approach, of course—every week. File papers, throw out trash, and reorganize what’s come across your desk in a way that helps you keep track of what needs to be done. Add to your décor (and subtract from it) as the seasons change, and whether it’s every month or every other month, continue cleaning and purging to keep it fresh.

Happy organizing!

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