Tina Lewis Rowe

Insights, Information & Inspiration

Fresh Woods and Pastures New: Start With Your Work Space

One of my favorite lines of poetry is by John Milton: “Tomorrow, to fresh woods and pastures new.”  The poet wasn’t writing about work, but those words certainly apply to the longing we sometimes have for a fresh start. If you can’t start fresh, you can at least freshen things up in your work space and in your mind and spirit as well.  January is a good time for that. (February through December can be, as well.) Here are the basics:

1. Do the most obvious cleaning and tidying first, so those who visit your work area will notice and you will get a positive feeling right away. Completely clear the top of your desk or work top and wash and sanitize it. Wash or dust everything, even if the items don’t appear to be dirty.  You will probably be surprised at how much dust and dirt you remove.

2. Decide what needs to be on your desktop before you put anything back. Consider the items that you think of as necessary to have in front of you or at least close at hand. Apply the test of asking how often you use the item and when you used the item last.

If you don’t use an item but you want it for the cool factor (the red Swingline stapler that shows you like the cult movie, Office Space, for example), maybe it is time to move on from there. Maybe not, but at least think about it. By the way, that Milton isn’t related to John Milton, the poet.

3. After you have the essential items in place, consider the other things you have in and around your work space.  What about freshening up the photos, cards, notes and other things that you may not even notice anymore? Replace them with new items or rearrange them to add some freshness. Or, take them home and don’t put anything in their place and see how open your work area feels.

4. Your next project can be to sort through desk drawers, bookshelves, the items you have under your desk, things on the cubicle walls and stuff and things in general. Down the line you can work on paper files, books or old forms and items that are no longer needed. You may not get to those things for a while, but at least the area where you do your work will look more fresh and appealing. If not to you, to those who come into your work space.

The bottom line: You will probably have few opportunities to move to completely fresh woods and new pastures in your life and career. You may have thought you were doing that, only to find that the grass was not as green as it looked from the other side of the pasture fence.  Try a simple thing like making a fresh and clean work area. After that, focus on creating a fresh you. You can probably also use that at home!

January 7th, 2014 Posted by | Life and Work, Personal and Professional Development | 7 comments


  1. OK, I cleaned my desk top, just for you. I have to admit, it looks a lot better, so thanks for the reminder. Kim (not really Martha Stewart, as you could tell if you saw my kitchen.)

    Comment by Martha Stewart, Jr. | January 8, 2014

  2. Our cubicles can get pretty grungy, but since we have to share them with other shifts, we have to keep them basically clean. The biggest conflict is about what “has” to be on the work surface. I think it’s time for you to write about keeping the kitchen and lunch room clean, because we have new employees and we’re having some of the same problems as before. I’m going to get with the team leader about it. Sigh.

    Comment by Mike | January 8, 2014

  3. Mission Accomplished. Now my boss wants to know if I’m getting ready to quit. 🙂 B.R.

    Comment by Mr. Clean | January 8, 2014

  4. My boss says something about my messy desk every time she sees me, but she almost never says anything about how much work I’ve gotten done! I understand about not having a work area be really dirty or smelly, but does it really hurt her or anyone else for me to be comfortable and able to relax, if my work is good?

    Comment by Not Martha | January 8, 2014

  5. Tina says: Hello to “Not Martha” and others. I received several emails expressing the thought by readers that they work as well or better in less-than-tidy work areas. That may be–and it could be that some people can be comfortable in a dirty or very cluttered home. But, all of us should clean and organize both our homes and our work areas now and then. So, this wasn’t meant as an indictment of anyone’s work style, honestly!

    Now, get your chores done! (I’m smiling–you smile too!)

    Comment by T.L.R. | January 9, 2014

  6. Hello Tina, I’ve enjoyed reading your website and have found a lot of things I can use in my work. About cleaning desks, I wanted to tell you about having my photo taken for a magazine article. The messy appearance of my desk and the shelves and wall behind me didn’t present me the way I wanted to be seen by others. Now I try to keep it in a way that represents me better.

    I’ll come back to visit your site often

    Comment by R.F. | January 11, 2014

  7. Good thoughts.

    Comment by Bob | January 11, 2014

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