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Have you ever noticed the sense of lightness and clarity that comes with being in a tidy space? Or, conversely, how difficult it is to concentrate on a task when your workspace is dirty and cluttered?

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Well, according to a new study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, that feeling isn’t just in your imagination. Having a cluttered workspace is actually bad for your brain — but perhaps not for the reason that you think.

In order to determine how work environment affects people over the long-term, researchers at Florida State University studied over 4,900 adults across the United States. And what they discovered might shock you (particularly if you identify more with the “filth wizard” camp than the neat freak).

Their results showed that people working somewhere dirty suffered a steeper cognitive decline than those who worked somewhere clean. So while you might prefer to let the mess pile up and the dirty dishes linger, the effects this procrastination has on your own physical well-being might make being a little more diligent worthwhile.

It’s important to note, however, that the study focused primarily on workers who were regularly exposed to pesticides, which is one hazard that obviously doesn’t affect office workers. There nevertheless remain hidden dangers indoors which you can protect yourself from, and at the very least, you’ll be doing the polite thing and making your space more tolerable for everyone working in the office.Here are 3 simple ways to clean up your workspace and protect your brain.

1. Wipe down your desk and computer with chemical-free cleaning products

But no harsh chemical cleaners here, please, as people exposed to chemical solvents actually fared worse than their dirtier counterparts. Often in our quest to completely sterilize our environment, we do more damage than good, not only unwittingly exposing ourselves to dangerous chemicals, but also removing good bacteria from our environment. This ultimately makes us more susceptible to the germs we do come into contact with.

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Fortunately, there are plenty of all-natural cleaning products available which can sanitize your workspace without putting your health at risk. Brands like Common GoodMethodMrs. Meyer’s, and Grab Green are excellent choices, or you can take the economical route and make your own.

2. Store paper out in the open—not in a supply closet

Another common office danger, according to the study, is mold, with paper being one of the most overlooked places it grows. Most offices store their various paper supplies in either a dark closet or drawers, neither of which are temperature controlled, paving the way for mold to breed at will. Don’t be afraid to be “that person” in the office and suggest that paper products be stored out in the open.

Another place mold might be growing? That coffee cup you reuse each day but rarely never wash. Do yourself and your coworkers a favour, and suds up!

3. Be wary of the office kitchen

You might be the cleanest person in your office, with the least offensive workspace, but you still have to use the shared kitchen at some point or another, with all the hazards that entails (think food-splattered microwaves, unwashed fridge drawers, and that weird stain that’s been pooling around the sink for weeks now).

Unless your office is particularly eco-friendly (which hopefully by now, it is!), the kitchen is one place you’re sure to be exposed to harmful cleaning agents. And depending on how diligently this space is cleaned, mold may also be growing. Option 1 is to bring your own dish soap and cloth. Option 2 and the easier course of action is to simply wash your lunch containers at home.

In either case, it’s best to avoid the microwave at all costs (which you should be doing anyway).


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