Taking the time out to declutter is a long term and short term beneficial move! If your desk is an absolute horror it is hopefully fairly obvious that by hanging work to get it sorted once and for all would most likely be the better decision.
Your work following a good declutter will be faster, more streamlined and focussed. The time to get started is yesterday! Failing that, do it today!
The concern about where to start should not get in the way of simply starting, but an efficient structure to get the job done will be endlessly useful.
Things you will need:
a) Four medium to large boxes or cartons or enough floor space to house four piles of paperwork, stationary and odds and ends.
b) A timer or a clock.
c) A concertina file with labeled compartments.
d) a paper shredder
So lets think of things in terms of four distinct piles or boxes.
1. Things that you want or need and must keep.
2. Things that you need to work on in the immediate future ie right after the clear up is finished – or even will need to continue with during it.
3. Things you do not want or need and want to ditch.
4. Things you can not decide about.
Next start on the left or on the right side of your desk and go through the pile for the next fifteen minutes deciding with sufficient speed (to keep it fun and interesting), which item or paperwork goes where.
Then set your alarm for fifteen minutes and start sorting. Do not drift across the desk aimlessly because you only have fifteen minutes to make a noticeable and satisfying dent in the mess and chaos so keep it streamlined and focussed.
You will find that everything now has a potential home so there is no need to over-think where things will go. Scan paperwork quickly and either put it into one of the four boxes or file it in the concertina file straight away.
When the alarm goes, take a break. Check out how much you achieved. Repeat and rinse!