Office clutter can hurt your productivity, cause unnecessary stress, and even cost you your job. Check out our strategies for attacking your clutter and doing your best at your desk.

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Does your penchant for office clutter make your work station look like a transfer station?

Old newspapers and magazine rise in intimidating piles. Notebooks and memos flow like ancient rivers from mountains of legal-sized envelopes and unopened interoffice mail. Assorted shoes in various states of disrepair are stashed beneath the desk. Dirty coffee cups and parts of yesterday’s — or was it Friday’s? — lunch are stashed among the detritus.

According to a survey of 1,000 office workers by Inc.com, “office clutter such as bestrewn papers, food containers, and even spare shoes can lead to many unprofessional situations, with a large number of respondents reporting lost time (47 percent), meeting tardiness (16 percent), and missed deadlines (14 percent) as a result of their behavior.”

In today’s hotly competitive work environment, don’t let office clutter hinder your success. Here are five tips to eradicate office clutter.

1.) Get real about what you really need. Office clutter can be the byproduct of a sentimentality and security. You don’t want that cool foam finger from the company picnic landing in the trash. Maybe, just maybe, you’ll need those meeting notes from 2009.

“Be honest with yourself, your needs, and what you’re truly likely to use,” recommends Josh Zerkel of The Neat Company.  “If you can’t think of an actual event or situation that is likely to happen in the near future where you could use an item, it’s time to let it go. If you haven’t ever needed the card stock you’ve been holding on to, you probably aren’t going to be using it anytime soon…Your electronic detritus can also be pared down — look for mystery cables and connectors, dead hard drives, business card scanners that just didn’t work, and out-of-date devices to give the old heave-ho, too.”

2.) Know your place. “Most people spend at least 30 minutes to an hour a day looking for things,” Laura Stack, president of time-management consulting firm The Productivity Pro, told Forbes Magazine. Stack recommends organizing paperwork into To Read, To Do, and To File baskets and scheduling time to address each category and minimize office clutter.

The same technique can be applied to emails, which have a tendency to multiply like digital rabbits.

3.) Strip down to the bare essentials. If you empty your office, you may realize how nice it is to embrace minimalism — and you’ll be more reluctant to junk the place back up.

“When I did my office makeover, I emptied my entire office right down to the tile floor,” noted Jason Fitzpatrick of Lifehacker. “It makes it so much easier to control the flow of what goes back into your office space when the room is completely bare from the start.”

4.) Realize that nostalgia has it’s place…but it’s not your desk. OK, we get it — throwing out that foam finger would be kind of sad. Or tossing that sweet thank-you card from your favorite client. Or the ticket stub from the great show you and your co-workers saw. To you, that’s not office clutter — those are pieces of a life.

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“Everyone should start a memento box or photo album when they first start their company and collect those little gems — pictures of the first office party, thank you letters from their first few clients,” Jane Yoos, a professional organizer, told Staples.com. Just keep in mind that your office isn’t your college dorm room — it’s your place of business.

5.) Let the professionals help with office clutter. Maybe you legitimately have a small work space. Maybe your company’s growth has outpaced your ability to keep up with the clutter. Uncle Bob’s Self-Storage can, for example, help out with office, retail, and warehouse space in several states. Document storage, inventory control, professional account management assistance, and other helpful options are available, as well.

Image from Flickr / Cote.

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