Do you need help creating an organized desk in your home office or other workspace?
Are you looking for a no-frills and practical way to be more productive at home or work?
A desk is a relatively small, yet very important area.
It’s where you spend most of your time working and studying.
And it’s not surprising that keeping a desk organized can be a challenging task.
So, just how do you go about keeping things neat and tidy?
In this post, I offer eight tips to help you create an organized desk in your workspace, once and for all.
These tips are chock full of practical solutions that you put to use right away.
When you do, you’ll find you have a more organized desk sitting in front of you!
Ready to begin? Let’s move onto the tips!
Why Does an Organized Desk Matter?
You may be thinking, “I want an organized desk. But is there really any benefit spending time tidying up my workspace?”
The answer? Yes, there’s great benefit in taking the time to tidy up your workspace!
Think about it for a moment: you spend a lot of time at your desk on a daily basis.
So why wouldn’t you want to have an organized desk that allows you to do your work both easily and efficiently?
Here are a few key reasons as to why organizing your desk is a wise move:
You can find what you need, when you need it.
How many times have you gone searching for a misplaced file folder, a pair of scissors, or an important document on your desk? Wouldn’t it be great to be able to find what you need, exactly when you need it?
You can reduce distractions.
A pile of postal mail, a stack of magazines, a box of crafting materials…the contents on your desk shouldn’t distract or hinder you from working. You should be able to focus on your work and get things done.
You’ll have a workspace that not only looks good, but makes you look good too.
Who wouldn’t love to have an organized desk that is clean, tidy, and professional-looking? Who knows, a well-organized desktop might tip the scales in your favor at work or at school…
So, have I convinced you yet? I thought so! It’s time to roll up your sleeves and get to work.
Here are the eight essential tips for a more organized desk.
A work desk can collect a lot of clutter over the course of many weeks and months.
This is especially true if you’re constantly working on new projects and assignments. Things just tend to build up over time.
Freshen up the top of your desk with these smart tips:
Take 20 minutes to declutter.
Remove or declutter any items that are in your way; this can be anything from reams of printer paper, stacks of last year’s product mockups, trash, expired coupons, bits of scrap paper, or ribbon from last month’s crafting project.
Curate personal mementos.
Do you have framed photographs, decorations, or office toys at your desk? It’s perfectly fine to have these items, but they shouldn’t overwhelm you or interfere with your work. Use your best judgment to pare down or edit your collections to free up some space.
Properly store non-essential items.
Find permanent storage solutions for those items that don’t need to be near you as you work. Store surplus office supplies in the supply closet, place files in a filing cabinet and put all those used coffee mugs in the kitchen dishwasher.
Do a secondary scan.
Are there any other items that don’t belong on the top of your desk? The fastest way to figure this out is to make a list of items you use on a regular basis. Everything else can be relocated to another area of your home or office, donated or disposed of.
Remove non-essential items on a regular basis.
Keep things tidy by decluttering your desk at regular intervals. It doesn’t matter whether you declutter on a weekly or biweekly schedule, so long as you do so!
Designate specific work areas
You might not realize it, but your desk serves as multipurpose workstation.
Even if you spend a lot of time on the computer, you probably use your desk to process postal mail, jot down notes, or collate materials, among other things.
Here are some pointers on how to create specific work areas at your desk:
Create a list of desk tasks.
What types of tasks do you perform at your desk? Do you spend time typing, reading reports, filing papers, writing checks, sketching illustrations, collating presentation materials, or reviewing blueprints? Make a quick list of common daily or weekly tasks.
Map out areas on your desk according to tasks.
Make a quick sketch of the top of your desk and divide it into nine sections, kind of like a tic-tac-toe board. Write in where you’ll perform various tasks. For example, in what sections will you use your computer, sort through mail, or review a large printout?
Adjust the location of computers, phones and lamps, as needed.
Now that you’ve got your desk mapped out, it’s time to do some rearranging. Depending on your current setup, you may need to move or adjust the location of your computer or phone so that it matches work areas.
Make it easy to identify work area start and end points.
Designate areas of your desk by using a colorful blotter, a decorative shelf liner, or by placing office supplies at varying intervals on your desk.
Store office supplies
Having office supplies at your desk shouldn’t be an exercise in constantly searching for what you need.
Everything should be within an arm’s reach, and properly stored too!
Here are some tips on how to get a better handle on your supplies:
Identify must-have office supplies.
What office supplies do you need for work? Space is limited on the top of any desk, so items should be used everyday, or nearly everyday. Infrequently used supplies should be placed in a nearby desk drawer, on shelves, or stored in another area of the office.
Round up office supplies.
Gather up all the items you need. Here’s a quick office supply list to get you started: pencils, pens, erasers, scissors, tape, stapler, staples, staple remover, pushpins, binder clips, envelopes, letterhead, stamps, ruler, hole puncher, letter opener, calculator, etc.
Be smart about storage.
Keep supplies contained in a single area of your desk, such as the far left or right corner. Use either a desk caddy or several uniformly sized and stackable metal, plastic or wooden containers to make the most of your space.
Clear out a desk drawer or two.
Take a few minutes to clean out a desk drawer. Make sure you can close the drawer completely without any problems. Use flat, shallow containers or trays to store supplies so things don’t roll around.
Make use of vertical space.
See if there’s any overhead shelving or cabinets you can use for storage. Be sure to take stock of walls and other areas near your desk. Hang supplies in wall pouches, set up floating shelves or store small items in magnetic containers on metal filing cabinets.
We may be living in the digital age, but paper files are still used in many offices.
Files need to be properly contained, not only so things look tidy, but so you can find what you need in the blink of an eye.
Here are some tips to help you organize the files on your desk:
Store files in an organizer.
Don’t have a file organizer? Now’s the time to get one! Not only does an organizer keep things tidy, but it also limits the amount of files you can have sitting on top of your desk at any time. Choose a horizontal or vertical organizer made of your favorite material, be it plastic, wood, or metal.
Keep active files on top of your desk.
Go through the files on your desk. Which are active and which are inactive? Current files should stay at your desk, while inactive files should be placed in archived storage. Work in a shared space? You may want to reconsider keeping highly sensitive documents on top of your desk. Lock these documents in a secure filing cabinet or drawer instead.
Create a storage system.
It doesn’t matter how you organize your files, so long as the system makes sense to you. Alphabetize, group similar file types together (i.e. client files with client files), or assign areas of your organizer for specific files. You may want to label the different sections of your organizer to help you remember which files go where.
Make it easy to dispose of old and unneeded files.
Place a recycling bin, basket or box near your desk for easy disposal of non-confidential files. Install a shredder nearby to take care of confidential and/or personal files.
Assemble a reference binder
An easy and practical way to organize the top of your desk is to create a reference binder.
Not only will you have a handy ready-reference, but you’ll also remove unsightly bits of scrap paper and notes from your desk in the process.
Learn how to assemble your own reference binder by following the below tips:
Choose a reference item.
Are you always looking for client codes or constantly reaching for project flow charts? Take a look at the items already sitting on your desk for inspiration.
Gather materials for your binder.
Pull off sticky notes from your computer, remove items from the bulletin board, or print out reference information as needed. Gather a large three-ring binder (choose whatever size you need), plastic binder sleeves, binder index tabs and dividers.
Make a plan.
Take a few minutes to sketch out how you’ll layout information inside of the binder. For example, you may decide to alphabetize items, store items by category or usage.
Place everything inside of the binder. Drop in reference materials into the plastic binder sleeves and assemble tabs and dividers as necessary.
Find a home for your binder.
Create a home for the binder on top of your desk, on a nearby shelf, or in a drawer or cabinet. You’ll be able to easily find it when you need it.
Create a charging station
How many different electronic devices do you own?
From laptops, to tablets, to cellphones, digital cameras and more, these devices all need to be charged on a regular basis.
These tips will help you craft your own charging station:
Tally up your devices.
Make a list of all the devices you own. Don’t forget to include devices used on an infrequent basis, such as digital cameras, or recorders.
Gather up charging cords.
Check your desk drawers and cabinets for device chargers. While you’re at it, now’s a good time to label the chargers or cords with tape or plastic tabs.
Create a charging station.
You can either purchase a pre-made charging station made out of wood, plastic or metal, or you can make your own using a sturdy container such a shoe box, or a long, open rectangular plastic container.
Devise storage for charging cords.
Don’t have space for a multi-device charging station? Mount charging cords to the side of a desk, filing cabinet, or in a cloth pocket hanger on the wall. You could also keep charging cords contained in a box, clear plastic bag or other container and simply take them out when you need them.
Use an inbox and outbox
Mail inboxes and outboxes often get a bad rap for being permanent storage facilities of files and other office materials.
These boxes can be quite useful when it comes to paperwork sitting on your desk.
Here are some tips to help you make the most out of your inbox and outbox:
Clean out your inbox and outbox.
Clean out these boxes fully and sort the contents into two piles: “Incoming” and “Outgoing.” Incoming materials include items to review, sign or process; outgoing materials may be outgoing postal/interoffice mail or other materials. Don’t have an inbox/outbox? Now’s the perfect time to get one!
Properly arrange boxes.
Make sure your inbox/outbox is in a convenient place for both you and your coworkers to reach. In most cases, this should be near the edge of your desk, as you want to make it easy for items to be dropped off…and picked up.
Place incoming items in the inbox.
As simple as this may seem, this step can save you from having a bunch of papers overrun your desk. If you see a piece of paper on your desk, know that it has to go in one of three places, your inbox, outbox or in the garbage can/recycling bin.
Process your inbox daily.
Regularly review materials and make a clear decision for each item. Does the item need to be filed, entered into a database, mailed, responded to, paid, copied, reviewed/proofread, edited, or completed? Over time, you’ll begin to see patterns in your paperwork and will immediately know how items should be processed.
Tidy up regularly
Conducting routine maintenance is key to keeping your desk neat and tidy.
Never again spend hours cleaning or decluttering your desk!
All it takes is a few minutes to keep disorder at bay and tidy up things.
Use the below checklist to help you keep things in top shape:
- Check and process inbox items; place items in outbox as needed
- Return office supplies to storage location(s) when you’re finished with them
- Place active files back in file organizer
- Declutter your desk
- Review files on top of your desk and move old or inactive files to archives
- Wipe down surface of desk with antibacterial wipes
- Declutter your desk
- Make sure your work areas are helping, and not hindering you as you work.
- Revise these spaces as needed
Organized Desk Bonus Resources
- The Ultimate Office Supply Checklist
- How to Keep Track of Office Supplies
- How to Organize a Notebook for Work
- How to Organize a Notebook or Journal
- How to Organize a Binder
- How to Create a Digital Resource Folder
- How to Organize Miscellaneous Items
How about you? What do you find to be the most difficult or challenging part in keeping your desk neat and tidy? Which of these tips are you going to implement over the next few days and weeks? Join the conversation and leave a comment below!