I once had a discussion at work about putting things away. I was arguing that we should always be putting away the stacks of paperwork that were routinely left out on desks, especially paperwork that was used on a daily basis. Others agreed that most paperwork should be put away after being used but that paperwork used every day should be left out. I think that such stacks of paperwork quickly become unwieldy and begin to overtake desks like blackberry vines planted over a septic take. This overtaking would not be such a problem except it looks horrible and proves nearly impossible to find anything, especially when the keeper of the papers is off for the day.
I saw that my arguments for order could not compete with arguments of laziness and it struck me: "Why is Martha Stewart so famous?" I thought out loud. The room went silent, no one could answer (this was years before she was hauled off to jail for insider trading). "Martha Stewart is so famous because her house is immaculate."
The room remained silent, I had found a mascot for my argument. I hadn't actually prepared this defense but the words "Martha Stewart" came out of my mouth before I had any idea of how I could connect her and our paperwork dilemma. I started running with the defense, making it up as I went along, all the while hoping it would lead somewhere good.
"Martha Stewart is so famous because she is always immaculate. Every day, every project, every craft, is always put away meticulously: all the beads are sorted and stored in separate containers, the pens and markers are sorted by color and spectra, the paintbrush are carefully cleaned; every thing to its place, every thing stored in its proper way. This attention to detail means that Martha is always presentable and people want to listen to her because her very habit of cleanliness makes her seem more trustworthy and reasonable. That is how a Customer Service department should be. When people come to talk to us, they should be able to trust that we will care for their information as carefully as we care for our workspace. They should be able to trust that if we cannot find records, it is because it never happened not because we might have misplaced the records somewhere. They should be able to trust that we are meticulous professionals. People, customers and the whole rest of the company, should respect us for our skilled record keeping and thorough attention to detail. They should not have cause to be distracted by enormous stacks of paper on our desks or for the constant interruption of someone needing some particular piece of paper that should have been filed away but was not."
I ended my soapbox speech and there was stunned silence. My suggestion of always putting stuff away was adopted and to this day, the offices maintain a generally organized appearance (though I think that has more to do with a few cases of missing paperwork and less to do with my appeal, but I will take what I can get). Though I do not know for sure why Martha Stewart is so famous, I do believe that clean and presentable work spaces are critical to maintaining a trustworthy and professional environment. Get as dirty and messing as you want on a given project, spread it out across the whole office if you need to, just make sure that at the end of the day everything, every thing, is put away as it should be.