While I am a strong proponent of neat-and-tidy office spaces (thank you paperless office!) I'm also... a hypocrite. My desk is still cluttered with catalogues, post-its and scribbled notes, business cards, family photos, and other trinkets. I even downgraded to a smaller desk to prevent clutter, but that hasn't helped - my organized chaos shall prevail!
So, why is this disconnect okay? The truth is it's all about psychology.
As Tim Harford explains in his ground-breaking book Messy, a cluttered desk may actually make you more productive; but the trick is to ensure that the type of clutter you keep does not inhibit your day-to-day activities. For this reason, continue to store all your important documents and materials neatly in the Cloud, where you can access them quickly and easily. If your "clutter" consists instead of knick-knacks, personal photos, and handwritten notes, your desk space might feel more like "yours" - and this touch of personalization creates an environment in which you perform your best.
In Messy, Harford talks about the most successful and innovative companies that have tried to design unique office spaces. From eerily sterile workplaces, to what can only be described as adult playgrounds, the spectrum has been explored in depth - but nothing has worked as well as letting employees design their own workspaces. This is mainly because pre-set designs take away the one thing that makes workers 30% more productive: personalization.
So if you enjoy having art, magnets, troll dolls and koosh balls (remember those?), then by all means, bring them to work. After all, as Einstein infamously said:
"If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind,
of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?"