Do you feel overwhelmed and stressed when you work? Okay, most of us do. You’re not alone in that feeling! A lot of people find their work stressful, and some of that stress can come from our physical environment. In this article, I’ll be sharing tips on how to create a calm workspace — an office, desk, studio, or whatever your space entails.
Albert Einstein said, “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?”
Clever wordplay aside, I personally do my best work when my desk is clear of clutter and distractions. One wrong move, and a pile of papers can come crashing down, and then I’m taken out of the zone and have to deal with that mess. This isn’t to say that my office is perfectly organized — but I do maintain some strict desk boundaries, because I’ve found through trial and error what works best for me.
It’s my hope that these tips will help you as well as you figure out how to create a calming workspace that’s ideal for you.
Calm Workspace Phase 1 — Intention Setting
The rest of the phases in this post are customizable to your needs and desires for your calm workspace. But that means you need to understand those needs and desires before you begin. What do you need from your office? Do you share it with other people? How does it make you feel now, and how do you want it to feel instead?
Examples of your calm workspace needs might include wanting natural light, wanting to feel peaceful when you step into the room, or needing privacy during your most focused work hours so you can stay in your work zone. When I was designing my office, I knew I wanted a big art piece, plants, and bookshelves on the wall behind me so that I could have a really nice visual when I did my video trainings and calls with clients.
Once you’ve got your needs and desires sorted, next we take on the physical aspects of your space!
Calm Workspace Phase 2 — Decluttering and Organizing
If your workspace is physically cluttered and unfocused, it creates mental clutter too. Though many of us (especially ADHD creators!) tend to thrive in organized chaos, having systems in place and a home for the various items you use in your work can make it easier to begin, focus on, and transition between tasks.
For decluttering, there are countless methods and practices you can follow. The best one is the one that you’ll use! I love Dana K. White’s advice in her book, “Decluttering At the Speed of Life,” as well as the Konmari Method from Marie Kondo.
Here are some top tips to declutter your office:
1. Establish Containers: This is something I absolutely adore from Dana K. White. She has set boundaries for her items; for instance, a canvas bin for office supplies. Once that bin is full, you need to declutter and get rid of some of them. The container size is negotiable, but once you set it, you’re committed to maintain that container as the designated home for office supplies. (Or whatever you’re decluttering).
2. Designated Non-Negotiables: My desk stays very clear, but I do have other surfaces in the office that are decorated or end up holding onto stuff before I find a home for it. Designate non-negotiable spaces that you are willing to maintain as clutter-free areas in order to cultivate your calm workspace.
3. Sort by Category: Modify the Konmari method by only focusing on one room (your calm workspace!), but sort items by category if it makes sense for you. Start with books — what belongs in the workspace vs. somewhere else in the home? After books, maybe art supplies, then paperwork, then miscellaneous.
4. Keep Daily Use Items Handy: If there’s something you use every day in your workspace, keep it front-and-center, and give it a designated home that’s near your new calm workspace. For instance, I journal and read Tarot each morning at my desk, so everything I need for these tasks is on a cart next to my desk. My
5. Put a Trash Can Within Reach: You just need a trash can. Near you. Trust me.
One of the best ways to declutter and organize is to use a system. Create different “zones” in your workspace and make sure to put things away (for my ADHD friends, the mantra “Don’t put it down, put it away” has changed my entire life). For example, keep all craft supplies organized by type — painting, drawing, fiber, sewing, etc. Keep books sorted by topic, if that’s helpful (I have a TBR shelf, a shelf for notebooks, a shelf of nonfiction, and a shelf for fantasy). This will help you quickly and easily find what you’re looking for, and it’ll also help you stay organized as you continue developing your calm workspace.
Calm Workspace Phase 3 — Personality
This phase is where you get to add elements of your personality into your workspace! Hang some art, create a vision board, and decorate to your heart’s content. This is a great phase to bring in your favorite mug and use it as a pen holder, or revamp your desk with a new paint job that makes you feel awesome.
My office walls are covered in beautiful art and when I need a mental break, I can look up at the paintings, posters, prints, and collages around me to feel inspired and relaxed.
Calm Workspace Phase 4 — Ambiance
Even the prettiest office can have a weird vibe. Phase four of this process is the vibe phase, where you get to customize your ambiance and bring in some really calming elements into your work area. Some calm workspace ambiance might include houseplants, fountains, lamps instead of overhead lighting, and a soothing soundtrack to keep you chilled out while you work (I really like this cafe ambiance mix on YouTube).
Creating a calm workspace can be challenging and a big project to tackle head-on, but it’s definitely worth it when you feel at peace while you’re working. Follow these tips and you’ll be on your way to a more relaxed work environment!
Go forth and create!
Now that you have your calm workspace primed for your creative work, it’s time to get real about your deep-down dreams, goals, and thoughts. My free workbook for creatives is perfect for getting into the right headspace to create!