A Spring Cleaning Primer For Your Desk

Organization guru Tova Weinstock (known as Tidy Tova) shares her tips.

Tova Weinstock #WomenWhoWork Tova Weinstock, known to her devoted clients as Tidy Tova, is the kind of person you want in your corner during a massive closet cleanout or apartment move—a laid-back, fun friend who just happens to know her way around a Container Store. “I’ve always loved to clean and organize,” says Tova. “I would go to my friends’ houses and organize their closets.” After graduating with degrees in psychology and art, she bounced around between fashion jobs and decided to go back to school. She was simultaneously moving out of her dad’s house and starting prerequisite fashion courses at FIT. “I needed a way to make money,” Tova recalls. “I said, ‘I don’t care what anyone says. I’m going to be a cleaning lady.”

Her clients were tech founders—people who had sold their companies and become really successful entrepreneurs. Once Tova decided to make the switch to professional organizing, an entirely different service at an equally different price-point, she had to email her existing client-base to let them know. “It was a scary day. I learned that, if your heart is pulling you to do something on your own , follow it. Don't think so hard about what you're giving up or the struggles that are going to come your way,” says Tova. “When you have your own business, each feat is enormous and every accomplishment is incredibly rewarding because it came from you and your hard work alone. Starting a business is like riding a roller coaster...but I've personally always loved roller coasters.”

When Tova takes on a new client, she walks through their space; they discuss how the client interacts with their surroundings and uses their belongings. She starts with a purge of neglected, useless, unloved things, and then creates a system that’s unique to the individual. “It’s not like you call me in and, overnight, you’re organized,” she says. “You have to keep it up. I compare it to a nutritionist—she can give you guidelines and set up a system for you, but she’s not going to feed you every day. Rather than do everything for my clients, I’m actually working with them to modify their behavior.” The benefits of getting organized are vast—Tova says her clients feel lighter and clear-headed. They spend less time searching for their belongings and are, therefore, less aggravated. They’re more productive, they’re not bogged down by excessive stuff, they’re goal-oriented and they’re able to focus better. Sign us up. "Starting a business is like riding a roller coaster...but I've personally always loved roller coasters." — Tova Weinstock #WomenWhoWork Tova shared her guide to organizing your desk—whether it’s in a home workspace, corner office or cubicle—for better focus, productivity and creativity.

1. Keep projects out of sight

Multi-tasking is proven to make you less productive. If you’re surrounded by materials for projects A, B and C, you can’t give project A your full attention. File away any project you’re not currently working on. By physically removing other projects from your site, you can zero in on one task at a time. Label folders for specific projects—that way, when you’re working on project A, you don’t have to spend time gathering the items you need.

2. Set up a system for papers

Use a wire basket or magazine holder to store active papers—only the ones that you’ll need to refer to soon. Have two other filing areas (a filing cabinet, drawer or basket depending on how much space you have)—one for papers that are somewhat current and another for items that you’re done with, but can’t get rid of. Be diligent about moving papers out of your “active” basket and into one of these other spaces. Throw out or recycle papers whenever you can.

3. Limit visual clutter

It can really overwhelm you and just slow you down. Have one or two photos of family and friends and keep only a very select number of tchotchkes in sight. Your desk is there for you to focus and work—treat it as such. Keep visual inspiration contained, so that you have to intentionally look at it when you need it, rather than letting it overtake your focus all day. Get a manageably-sized bulletin board and fill only that space with inspiration.

4. Organize your drawers

Dividers are key for corralling pens, paper clips and other odds and ends. Keep office supplies to a minimum. You don’t need 100 pens or different types of paper clips in your drawer—if you run out, you can always go to the supply closet and get more.

5. Have an outbox

The space under your desk can become a dumping ground. People put things they need to take home under there and, the more they put it off, it becomes a zoo. Put a bag under your desk, put outgoing items inside and take it home every day. If you put it off, that bag will sit under your desk for six months.

6. Write down attainable goals

Goal-setting goes hand in hand with physical and mental organization. Lay out your goals in a visual way. Organize your to-do list by breaking lofty goals into actionable steps. For example, break “grow social media presence” into goals like “follow 20 people” or “comment on 20 Instagram photos.” Seeing doable steps written out helps you organize your time and stay clear-headed.

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