Counterintuitive Ways to Organize Your Workspace

It doesn't always have to be uncluttered and orderly

semi-messy desk

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When it comes to workspace organization, everyone claims to be an expert. From the Marie Kondo tips to the DIY home office hacks, learning to make a desk or workspace your own is a challenge. It is unquestionably rewarding, though, as you spend a good chunk of your life in that place.

But, there’s something to be said for not following all the trends. (Yeah, I said it.)

Maybe you’re exhausted from trying to find the ‘perfect’ workspace hack, or maybe you’re just plain sick and tired of trying to keep up with the latest and greatest organization crazes.

Regardless of how you feel, here are four counterintuitive ways to organize your workspace that might actually help you find your groove.

1. Stop Changing Your Space Based on Everyone Else’s Opinions

Sure, there’s something to be said for listening to others who may have workspace organization all figured out. And there’s certainly value in adopting the perspectives of others (especially if those suggestions are working well).

But, just because someone says something worked for them doesn’t mean it has to work for you. And it doesn’t mean that it will work for you, either, by the way.

Instead of continually shifting your space to measure up to those around you, figure out what really resonates with you. Maybe you don’t actually like having everything color-coded. Or perhaps you feel overwhelmed when all of your papers, projects, and assignments have separate bins. That’s OK.

Listen to yourself, to your preferences, and to your needs—and plan from there.

2. Embrace the Mess (If It Feels Right)

Here is another one of the counterintuitive ways to organize your workspace: don’t.

I mean it. You don’t actually need to have your workspace organized (especially by the world’s standards) in order for it to be productive or valuable to you. In fact, some people thrive in the mess because it actually drives them to reach for their goals, meet their deadlines, and push through obstacles in order to have breakthroughs—both creatively and professionally.

If you feel like the mess inspires you, don’t change it (within reason, of course). That mess can be a catalyst for change, it can be the motivation you need to keep going, and it can be what defines you positively. And that’s perfectly OK.

3. Create Your Own Organized Chaos

When it comes to organizing your workspace, there is no foolproof method. Sometimes one of the most valuable things you can do for yourself is create your own sense of order (even if it doesn’t quite make sense to others).

This is, of course, different than mess. Although mess can be good (to an extent), organized chaos is more about figuring out your patterns and tendencies and leaning into them.

For example, if you love making piles of work for different projects (even if it gets a little cluttered) then give yourself the space to do that. It may not look pretty to someone who stumbles across your desk, but maybe it helps you to keep different areas of your work (and play) in order. And there’s no reason to be ashamed about that.

4. Everything Doesn't Need to Be Perfect

One of the most liberating and truthful pieces of advice you’ll ever read about organization is that it’s not about perfection.

Read that again: organization is not about perfection.

Regardless of how cluttered or clean your workspace is, you need to stop thinking about and trying to have everything all figured out. Part of the excitement of organizing is realizing that the ways you are less-than-ideal are actually ways that you grow.

The mismatch of sticky notes, the busy bulletin board, the whiteboard with the never-ending to-do list, these are things that are uniquely yours. It’s about time you started celebrating them rather than feeling shame.