1. Focus first on the area that gives you the most pain. Toss, recycle, or donate items you no longer need. For each item, think hard about why you have it. Family photos that inspire you? Keep. Gifts gathering dust? Folders from projects completed years ago? Out they go.
2. Divide the rest of your space into zones, and clear one zone at a time. Once you’ve started on a zone, don’t tackle another until the items from the first are bagged up and out of your office.
3. Plan to spend no more than three hours at a time decluttering. Making all those decisions is exhausting, and most people lose focus at the three-hour mark.
4. Once you’ve cleared space, choose organizing tools that will limit what you keep. Baker is a fan of stair-step file holders for the desktop and magazine holders for reading material. When they fill up, that’s your cue to let some items go.
5. Schedule a regular time for maintenance. This is easy to overlook, Baker says, but essential for keeping clutter at bay. Straightening up for a few minutes at the end of each day or 15 minutes on Friday will keep your newly organized office—and you—feeling serene and efficient.