If Marie Kondo-ing your closet sounds too overwhelming, you might at least consider taking the organizational guru’s approach to your work desk. According to a new study published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, having a cluttered workspace is bad for your brain.
Researchers at Florida State University studied over 4,900 adults all across the U.S. to gain some insight into how their work environment affected them long-term. A major finding? People working somewhere dirty had a steeper cognitive decline than their tidier counterparts. (They also discovered that working at a job that isn’t challenging doesn’t help things, either.)
Real talk: It’s impossible to ignore the socio-economic factors packed into this finding. Many of the people cited as working somewhere untidy were subject to pesticides—something office workers don’t have to deal with on a regular basis. Still, there are dangers you could be exposing yourself to unknowingly. Keep reading for tips on making sure your workspace isn’t negatively impacting your brain—and well-being.
Here are three ways you can make your workspace better for your mind.
1. Wipe down your desk and computer with chemical-free cleaning products
The study found that people exposed to solvents on a regular basis were worse off, which means even if you are a total neat freak, you could still be putting yourself in danger. Luckily this is an easy fix—you just have to know what to clean with. Brands like Common Good, Method, Mrs. Meyer’s, and Grab Green are all safe to use (here’s a full list of brands you can feel good about using), or make your own all-natural cleaner. You can also try a gut-friendly probiotic spray for your work station, if you’d like a little more good bacteria in your life.
2. Store paper out in the open—not in a supply closet
Another brain damage culprit, according to the study? Mold. And paper is one of the most overlooked places it grows. Many workplaces store their computer paper, Post-Its, and other supplies in a dark closet where the temperature isn’t well controlled—which equals mold breeding ground. If your company isn’t paperless, suggest that paper be stored out in the open— somewhere more likely to be monitored for any humidity or moisture. And check your desk for any other sneaky places mold might be growing, like a water cup you reuse every day but rarely wash. (No judgment!)
3. Be wary of the office kitchen
Controlling the cleanliness of your desk area is one thing, but kitchens tend to be the wild west of the shared office world. This is another place chemical-heavy cleaning products may be used, or mold might be growing. (Unclear which is worse!) Go on, be that person at the office who brings her own dish soap and sponge. Or, just wash your lunch containers at home.
Looking for more ways to boost brain health? Eating these three foods will literally grow you new brain cells. After all, the gut-brain connection is real.