A new survey reveals that a quarter of Britons have had complaints about their untidy desks. Are you one of the offenders or the victims?
Six pens without lids; three lids without a pen; some balled gold foil from last week’s mini Easter eggs; a pot of Kleenex balsam soothing nose & lip balm (owner unknown); three notebooks; three gloves – but, hey, two of them match! One child’s domino piece, probably accidentally brought to work in a pocket. Two abandoned refillable water bottles … The reason for this inventory of the surface of my desk and all its clutter is that a survey of 2,000 people has found that one in four Britons has received complaints from colleagues about their untidy desks.
On with the job: one Guardian-branded mug whose teabag has been burnt by time on to the porcelain and turned vivid orange; a stapler; a sticker that no longer sticks; a scattering of poppyseeds that abandoned their bagel too soon; a packet of healthy popping corn, owner also unknown. Hang on a minute: the lip balm, the popping corn … Perhaps passersby are to blame for this hideous mess; maybe they are using my desk as a dumping ground?
The research was carried out by the stationers Staples, which presumably is an interested party, having a section of its website, with an impressive number of subcategories, devoted to something called “Organisation”. One in 10 workers in Britain, according to the sample, has been formally cautioned for messiness. There is no place for gender in this argument: men and women are equally liable to offend, and their untidiness can impact on the stress and productivity levels of those around them. In some offices – such as Tatler – even intrays are banned because “receptacles encourage hoarding”, says Tatler editor Kate Reardon. So now for the big question. Does my neighbour find my messy desk troubling? “I like a tidy desk,” she says diplomatically. Looking at the two desks side by side – they are continuous – it is hard to see where one ends and the other begins. Under a pile of (my) newspapers and magazines lies the dividing line (and another three pens), and it suggests that my desk is really much smaller than I had previously thought. Embarrassing. The offending newspapers and magazines are promptly removed to a brilliant new and uncluttered surface, the floor, where they look like the first settlers on a vast new continent.
How do tidy desk people keep their desks tidy, and does the messiness of other colleagues offend you, or make you less productive? In the spirit of self-improvement, all comments and advice gratefully received.
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