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How Much Is Clutter Costing You?

Thursday, March 17, 2011
Your workspace is more than just a place. It’s a symbol of your mental health.

Imagine you walk into another professional’s messy office. You may think she seems overworked, stressed and even a little out of control. You probably feel distracted (because there’s so much to look at) and uncomfortable (because all that stuff is oppressive).

Back in your own office, clutter works in the same way. You just don’t notice because you’ve grown accustomed to the mess. You work around it physically and mentally. Meanwhile, the mess is sending you a subliminal message that you’re the one who’s overworked, stressed and out of control.

Health Costs

Clutter is one of the leading causes of stress in the workplace.

In a survey of office workers in the U.S. and Europe funded by the Esselte Corporation, 43 percent of Americans admitted that they felt overwhelmed by their own disorganization.

Stress can cause a whole spectrum of health problems, including heart disease, sleep deprivation, obesity and clinical depression.

Stressed-out bodies produce high levels of cortisol (the stress hormone) and adrenaline. When your body makes too much of these substances, its regular processes go haywire. Your blood pressure rises, your immune system weakens, and your mental acuity plummets.

A messy office can actually cause you bodily harm. Piles of stuff invite dust to accumulate, which is especially hard on people with allergies and asthma.

Other Costs

Office clutter can also cost you time, money and your good reputation. Consider these sobering statistics:
  • The National Association of Professional Organizers estimates that Americans waste almost an hour each day looking for misplaced items.
  • The Delphi Group, a team of strategic advisors in Boston, says that 15 percent of all business paperwork gets lost.
  • And consultants for Gartner, Inc., an information technology research company in Connecticut, calculated that every lost piece of paper costs businesses $120.
A disorganized office can cause all kinds of mishaps, including lost business cards, misplaced files, blown deadlines and forgotten appointments. If these problems become chronic, your professional reputation is at risk.

That goes double if you invite clients into your unpleasant workspace. Even if your work is stellar, the chaos might shake clients’ confidence in your ability to get the job done.

Such problems are only going to up the stress factor in your life—a vicious, tiring and expensive cycle that diminishes your health . . . and your morale.

The Good News
Clutter is completely within your control.

Anyone can have a tidy office. If you think that you don’t have time to get organized, consider how much more efficient—and healthy—you’ll become once you have a space that works with you instead of against you.

For More Information
The NASE offers tips and resources to help you tame that unhealthy clutter. Learn more with the NASE's report “How To Combat Unhealthy Office Clutter.”

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