If your desk is a mess — at home or in the office — there’s never been a better time to make it over. Decluttering is on-trend — just look at the blockbuster success of Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. And an OfficeMax survey has revealed what many of us have long suspected: a messy workspace affects our productivity and how we feel about ourselves. Even if our desk is comfortably situated in the privacy of our home, it can affect our creativity, motivation and even general happiness. And if we work alongside others, we are more likely to be judged negatively by our messy desks. In other words, your cluttered office space could be costing you a promotion!


But transforming your workspace isn’t just about grabbing a garbage bag and filling it up with loose papers and junk mail. To make it truly productive, you have to make it beautiful too. “A beautiful workspace helps to increase productivity in an elevated way,” explains Melissa Picheny of New York City’s declutter + design, an organizing, redesign and staging company. This definitely proved to be the case for Tiffany Grant-Riley, a U.K.-based freelance interior stylist and blogger. Grant-Riley’s home office started off as a cheerfully cluttered nook.

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She transformed it into a stunning workspace with elegant furnishing and simple but meaningful touches.

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“It’s light, cozy, homely but feels like the most grown-up, professional workspace I’ve ever had,” enthuses Grant-Riley about her newly revamped office. She told us, “It’s still absolutely my favorite room in the house, so most of the time, work doesn’t feel like work.”

Grant-Riley did some decluttering for sure, but she didn’t stop there. “It wasn’t enough just to have a clear out,” she explained to us. The transformation took place during a period of career and life changes for Grant-Riley. “I was in a real state of flux, so the makeover was as much about rediscovering new tastes and a style I felt comfortable with as it was redecorating. Now I feel as though it’s one and the same, and I belong here.”

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Before the makeover, Grant-Riley’s walls were covered with clippings and photographs, a detail that many creative personalities may think is essential for inspiration. But, “a workspace doesn’t have to be messy in order to provide the stimulation a creative person needs to have surrounding them,” says Picheny. “It is absolutely possible to have ideas, swatches and other inspiration gathered in such a way to keep things orderly.”

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Grant-Riley first painted the walls of her office space white. “[White] gives a sense of space, and given that I work with color a lot for work, it’s great to be able to get rid of some of the noise and relax in here,” she says. “I keep the walls blank but for my shelving and pegboard above my desk, so that I can mood board or story board ideas for upcoming shoots,” she explains.

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Once Grant-Riley had her furniture in place (she put in Ikea shelves and turned a hand-me-down desk from her sister into a gorgeous DIY statement piece), she added decorative pieces “to make it feel like home,” she says. “My go-to is plants… and the large rattan rug feels great underfoot.”

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Another way to add personal touches? “Bring in your personality with wall art — I change mine up on my shelves from time to time and also use my pegboard for little mementos and reminders,” advises Grant-Riley. The result? “Useful and beautiful,” she says.

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Indeed, “Bringing in special decorative elements to your everyday view will lift your spirits and allow you to enjoy spending more time” at your desk, says Picheny. Just choose carefully: Don’t confuse meaningful objects with purposeless trinkets. The snow globe you got from your SO on Valentine’s Day? Perfect. The plastic bobble-head from your local discount store? Not so much.

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Once you’ve achieved the your ideal workspace, let the productivity begin to flow! Just don’t forget to keep up the good work — the good workspace, that is. “In the work environment it’s easy to get inundated by paperwork, lose track of things and forget to make your space a priority,” warns Picheny. “If you feel this happening to you, start setting time aside (an hour once a week) to go through your desk, file your paperwork and breathe some fresh air into your space.”

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Tell us about your workspace. Is it your favorite place to be? Or is your messy desk a cluttered creativity killer?

(Photos via Tiffany Grant-Riley)