How to Get Rid of your Office Clutter


Personal Productivity for Lawyers

This quick-start guide to Getting Things Done and Inbox Zero also includes two shortcuts for those who want the benefits of GTD without having to learn the system.

Clear Out

The first step in de-cluttering is to determine what you have by clearing everything out. Begin with one small area at a time, such as the top of your desk or one drawer.

Quick Sort and Purge

Next  is a ‘one touch’ sort. Quickly sort each item into these piles:

  • Toss
  • File (in office)
  • File (elsewhere)
  • To do (actual client or administrative work to be done or delegated
  • To read
  • Misc. in office (mementos, books, office supplies, that stay in your office)
  • Misc. out of office (anything other than filing that belongs elsewhere)

Before you put anything back, ask yourself these questions:

  • When was the last time I used or referred to this?
  • Is this information I can easily find elsewhere (like the internet)?
  • Does it fit my current practice and my goals for my firm?
  • Do  I need to access it frequently?

Your office should only contain active work, supplies and files that you need on a regular basis, and mementos that are meaningful.


Once you have gotten rid of what does not belong, create a home for everything that is left. Organize your office by considering frequency of use and how often you need to access each item. The more you need it, the more accessible it should be. Store like items together. Ensure that high traffic areas are free from congestion.

As you organize, you will find more items that can be removed from your office (such as items that can be archived, or work to be delegated). Get those things out of your office as soon as possible.

Beware of “I need to see it” syndrome

Too many lawyers keep piles of clutter because they think they need a physical reminder of what needs to be done or they will forget about it. But after a short period of time, you no longer ‘see’ that reminder; you just see the pile. Instead of keeping the entire file or constantly piling, create reminders for tasks to be accomplished and schedule work flow.


Schedule time on your calendar to accomplish individual tasks. Instead of holding onto an event flyer, enter it on your calendar with details like date, time and location. Then schedule a deadline on your calendar to decide whether you want to go to the event.


To keep your environment clutter free, you need to maintain it regularly. I recommend a quick 15 minute pick up at the end of the week, but you should schedule time for a more thorough de-cluttering every few months.


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  • Allison,

    Great suggestions! An easy way to “keep the most active records easily accessible” is to file client files in date or client number order. Usually the older numbers are more likely to become inactive and purging is easier. If the record number becomes active again a colored date code can be used to keep track of how long it has been since the record has been used.
    This process helps me to feel more comfortable about taking records to archive storage.

  • Emma Tameside

    In my line of business, clutter can become a real nightmare. Thankfully my colleagues have been around a lot longer than me, and helped me get rid of most of the clutter via a >self storage service. I still have a pile of stuff to organize, but it’s articles like this that truly helps with that.

    I especially like the questions to ask yourself before putting anything back, not surprisingly, I would imagine there’s a lot in my office space that I haven’t used in quite a while. I guess I know what I’m doing tomorrow heh. Thanks for the advice, much appreciated!