There are some of us who are always tidy, and then there are the rest of us.

We have a bedroom that is cluttered with scattered clothes, books, papers, remnants of recent activities, and months of neglect.

We have a desk that’s piled with everything we have to do, and more.

How do we get it all clean, and just as importantly, keep it all there?

There are three main steps:

  1. Declutter.
  2. Form the tidy habit.
  3. Regularly revisit decluttering.

Let’s take a look at each of these steps.


Let’s start with your desk … here’s a good way to declutter:

  1. Clear everything off the top of your desk. Put it on the floor.
  2. Pick one thing off the top, and make a decision: trash/recycle, forward to someone else, add to a todo list (and put in a Todo folder), add to a calendar (and put in a Later folder), or “keep and put on my desk neatly because I love and use it.”
  3. Repeat until you’re done with the pile.
  4. Scan papers if possible.
  5. Repeat this process for each drawer, and the floor around your desk.

You can do this process in several batches if you don’t have time for it all at once. I like to put papers that I want to keep in a “scan” pile and scan them all in. I use a Fujitsu ScanSnap for scanning documents, it takes seconds.

OK, moving on to your messy bedroom … the process is largely the same, but I recommend working in sections: take one are of your floor or closet, or the top of your dresser or one of your drawers, and focus on decluttering that area. You can do one or two areas a day and be done in a week or so.

Here’s the process:

  1. Clear everything off of that area (section of the floor, shelf, drawer, etc.) and put it in a pile.
  2. Pick one thing off the top of the pile, and make a decision: keep because you love & use it, get rid of it (trash, recycle, donate), or put in a “maybe” box that you look at in 6 months, if you’re on the fence. Put these in different piles.
  3. Put the things you’re keeping neatly away. Put the “get rid of” in the trash or recycling, or in box to donate.
  4. Try to keep your floor clear of everything but furniture. Same for the tops of dressers, unless you have something nice as decoration.

Repeat this process for every area in your room.

Because it’s not a straightforward, “do once and I’m done” process. You go in batches, you might do an area again. Get it down to the bare minimum with a couple passes.

Form the Tidy Habit

The first step will all go to waste if you don’t form the habit of putting things away.

Simply put, it’s a matter of:

  1. Catching yourself when you’re done with something and about to leave it on the floor or your bed or somewhere it doesn’t belong.
  2. Putting it where it belongs before moving on.

It’s that simple, though it’s hard to remember. If you forget, make it a habit of 1) cleaning your desk before you leave for the day, and 2) cleaning your room before you go to bed. You can set reminders for these two things. But putting things away right away is the best method.

It takes a little while to form this habit, so be forgiving, but with some awareness and persistence, you can do this.

Regularly Revisit Decluttering

Set a reminder every 6 months, and go through the decluttering process once again, for your desk and your room. In fact, you can pick one room in your home every month and do a quick decluttering pass.

You’ll start to notice areas that accumulate clutter. That’s good information — what habit can you create to stop this from happening? You won’t be able to end all clutter accumulation, but you can reduce it through this learning and improvement process over the years.

With this process of decluttering, forming the tidy habit, and revisiting it regularly, you’ll have an awesomely clean desk and bedroom. And you’ll love it, I promise!