Buried in crap? Aren’t we all. Here’s some tips for organization you can apply to your workspace right now.

First off, pull out the trash can, grab a stack of the miscellaneous paper that has accumulated all over the place, and start tossing. You’ll probably end up with a couple of piles of things you can’t throw away yet, but you’ll be able to ditch a bunch, and in the end you’ll have sorted stacks, which is a whole lot better than Mt. Paper.

Now that the top layer of paper has been removed and sorted, you can see the desk beneath it. Is it clean? If you found yourself feeling scattered because of your current projects, stacking paper may be all you really need to do. For most of us, it got that bad because we lack some fundamental organizational skills to begin with. You already have a couple of sorted stacks, and you’ll at least need an “in box” area, because we know more work is coming and you don’t want to just toss it on top and start the mess over again. What else do you need? Think about the things you do every day, the tools you need handy, and the little things that make your job better, like your morning coffee or afternoon snack. Create a designated space for every individual thing you’ve decided you actually need. Get rid of the rest.

When I started, I brought in all of my own office supplies, including this adorable dog tape dispenser where the tape is his tongue. But then I discovered that I have absolutely no need for tape. It’s no longer on my desk.

Your workspace has to be uniquely yours, suited to your work, and comfortable as a space. We all function better when we have some kind of structure, and while Mt. Paper causes our tummy to sour, an open desk with neat stacks brings peace and creates an atmosphere conducive to your best work. Your work will improve, your work environment will improve, and depending on how big a mess you were to begin with, your office relationships may actually improve as well.

The tricky part? Keeping it that way.