From graduate school, to postdoc, to corporate America, from tiny cubicles, to shared office, to my own office, I have always managed to make my office clean, tidy and beautiful.
When I was a graduate student, my cubical was so tiny, and the wall was so tall, I felt suffocated the first time I sat down at my desk. I bought a poster and placed it in front of the desk. So when I sat down, instead of facing a grey metal wall, I looked at a trail in a forest. It felt open, outdoor, fresh and infinite possibilities - I kept it there in front of the desk for the whole four year of my Ph.D. study and research.
I am pretty lucky - I have a reasonably sized office with a window. The furniture in my office is quite standard - a big U shaped desk (for a big workstation, a lap top and space for desk work), a big bookshelf and a file cabinet/bookshelf combo. I also have an additional steel file cabinet.
My office is well known for its tidiness and cleanness in the technical center. I remember several years ago, an old engineer, who had not worked with me on any project yet, came to visit me at my office just to have a look. He marvelled at how I could make it so tidy, clean and visually pleasing.
Keep things tidy is my habit. No clutter for me - I put the books on shelf, I file engineering drawings, technical notes daily. I don't have "post it" all over the places - I keep a work diary in big notebook, I write down almost all work related notes there, I also maintain an excel spread sheet to keep record of time spent on each project, the status of all projects along with brief notes. I throw scratch papers to a recycle bin at the end of each day - sometimes a little bit too fast:).
Since I almost stay in my office all day long. I try to make it as beautiful and lively as possible - I brought an unused artificial green plant from home and placed it on the top of the big book shelf in my first month at work. Two years ago, Lily gave me a flower for my office as a father's day present. Due to plenty of sunshine and more or less constant temperature, the flower just blooms again and again nonstop with only once a week watering. I have always had a blooming flower in the office ever since.
In addition to degree diploma, training certificates, awards, family pictures are an important part of my office decorations. I regularly change the pictures in my office, from winter holiday portraits, to great pictures from a trip. The pictures of the kids, of Lily and of the whole family make the office homey. They are also frequently topics for casual conversations. My colleagues know me more, and I know them more - from family, vacation trip to hobbies.
I also brought a couple of lightly damaged framed posters from home. One is a smaller poster of King Fisher in a canyon, another is a big frame of Grand Teton. They really help to brighten the office and apparently are envies of some colleagues. During my last office move, the frames were not hang up for a few days. A colleague jokingly told me that someone might "steal" the Grand Teton frame from my office.
A major deficiency of my office is the fan noise from my high performance work station. To suppress the noise, and also because of my habit, I play classical music from online stations first thing when I get to work.
The homey, visually comforting, acoustically pleasing office helps me to take a day's work with ease.