Desk Organization Tips

A few months ago we put out a request for tips on keeping a desk organized. Here are the tips that were submitted.

Simplify instead of organize. Have as few things as possible, and you don’t need to organize.
LeoZen Habits

Try to keep the desk clean, leaving only the essentials on its top. The rest goes into the drawer, boxes, the archive, or the bin. Your computer, the phone, and the paper you are currently work on is enough.
Eric Böhnisch-VolkmannDEVONtechnologies LLC

Buy the smallest desk you can possibly find – then you’re forced to be organized!
Joe Bennett – Tweddle Group

Clean desk is key.

Have the following folders available on one of those accordion style organizers. As you get things put them in each of the folders, for example, the folders can be:

  • Things to do – Urgent
  • Update in Computer
  • Future Project or Future Review
  • Separate folder for each project that you are working on
  • Read


Use a phone log to document phone calls and messages in one place. This eliminates scrap paper and sticky notes that can clutter your desk, helps you remember information and stay focused while on the phone.
Lisa DeVeauCompletely Organized, Inc.

Keep everything in its own place so you don’t have to look for anything, it is immediately to hand.
Chris Ramsey

I make sure I organize & clean my desk every evening as I’m done, gives me a nice fresh start every morning.
Ann BramptonAnn Brampton

Keep a notepad beside your phone. Have an tray for stuff that you have yet to deal with. Remove all else except what you’re working on right now.
Masariko Yokosuka

An exercise in minimalism: Remove everything from your desk…Everything! Retrieve items you need as you need them for one week. Anything not retrieved w/in the week need not be on or in your desk.
Rachel Z. CornellProNagger, Because I Know You Can!

Remove all items from your desk. Uncluttered clean desk, keeps the focus on the work, rather than the stuff.
Steve BellSteveBellNow

  1. Clear everything off your desk. As you need items, put them back. You’ll be amazed at all of the stuff that you don’t actually use frequently.
  2. If you need to remember something write it down and all in one place. Avoid using Post-it notes as they can quite easily take over your entire workstation.
  3. Keep all supplies in one place. If you don’t know how much you have of something, chances are you will buy more than you need.
  4. For frequently used files use vertical file sorters. Using trays and inboxes allow piles to easily form.

Allison PerkinsReclaim

At the end of the work day clear off your desk. Have one
or two great frames with photos of your family –but that is all…this is an office… Have one plant either in the corner of the office or on your desk. One “”very cool”” item or “”very kooky”” item that can make you laugh when you need one. Nothing offensive, please.
Leslie JacobsLes Is More

Develop a plan for how you plan on getting organized, and then break the plan down into manageable chunks. Going paperless, with a product like the NeatDesk, can be great for many people. It can save time, space, and effort – and make you more productive overall!
Joshua ZerkelCustom Living Solutions

Think of your desk and chair as command central. Things you use daily or often should be within arms reach from your chair. The less often you use it, the further away it should be.
Melinda MassieOrganizing with a Side of Fabulous

  • If you don’t LOVE it, USE it or NEED it…it’s got to GO!
  • Only have projects that you are CURRENTLY working on on your desk
  • Organize your desk for how YOU work, not because that’s how a co-worker has theirs or that’s how it’s always been done

DeAnna RadajBante Design LLC

My friends and colleagues say I’m the most organized person they know, but for me, it isn’t something I do consciously anymore. I keep my desk organized by having a place for everything, and making sure I put things back when they’re done. Office supplies go in one drawer, files in another one, and lesser-used items in a third. Nothing sits on top of my desk except my computer: things on top of the desk end up breeding clutter. Once you get in the habit of always putting things where they belong, it’s easy to stay organized!
Michael Kaiser-NymanImpact Dialing

1. Move to a paperless office platform – Scan and store important documents on a server, thus allowing you to remove basic paper clutter from your desk.

2. Shy away from using a basic ‘inbox’ tray, as items can easily pile up while important dates fly by.

3. Our last bit of advice? Purchase 1 picture frame and fill it. The easiest way to stay organized is to stay motivated, and the best form of motivation is to remember what’s important. A daily glimpse of your friends, family, pet, etc. will bring an instant smile to your face.

Lacey StensonreThink Consulting, Inc.

Try regularly rearrange all the things found at ur desk so that you can refresh the memory of the things where you first put them.
Max Lee

Keep paperwork contained by project. Keep tasks contained in the same way, as one project, to be worked on daily. Keep only one project out at a time and put it away before starting another whenever possible. Put your projects to bed every night.

The beginning and end of day routines matters! The night before, clean off your desk – tidy the folders, bins, or projects. Put away anything you’re finished with. Make a short list (1-3 items) of the MOST important things to do the following day. Lay out the materials you’ll need. First thing the next morning, do the ONE most important thing.
Angela Mattson – Your Organized Guide

Design your workspace using desktop file sorters or baskets to organize your daily “to do” list, tasks, “action” files and even your piles. Avoid picking up, putting down, picking up. Create a paper flow system for incoming documents.
Susie Hayman – In Your Business

Whenever possible delegate things that are not the best use of your talents to others with applicable strengths.

  • Have ONE inbox
  • Use a napkin holder on top of your desk to hold documents and files
  • Keep two hanging file drawers: One for archived/reference material. The other for “active” files
  • Use a muffin tray inside the drawers to organize small items and office supplies

Amy VolkSimplified Living. LLC

Arrange your office based on your own needs and individual style of working. Your office should reflect you, your personality and how you work. Position your furniture and equipment so that they work for you.
Susie HaymanIn Your Business

Your desktop can mirror the desktop on your computer. In other words, current files and projects laterally organized on the desktop. Reference files and projects in drawers or archived.
Fran Piekarski –

Assign a home for what’s on your desk. This includes things you don’t know what to do with or need to review later, and office supplies. If you don’t use it on a regular basis, get it off your desk – a file cabinet, a shelf, a bookcase or the trashcan.
Susie HaymanIn Your Business

Keep it simple! The only items you should have on your desk are those that you need daily, the rest should have designated homes. A cluttered desk will cause you stress. Your desk should be a place where you can be productive.
Michelle Monroe MortonMichelle Morton

Choose furniture and supplies that fit in workspaces. Don’t crowd desks with large items if your desk is too small for them. Plan ahead by researching the dimensions of your work space and supplies

Having an organized desk is a fundamental skill that exhibits good focus. Without it, success is hard to achieve.
Acharya Sri Khadi

Mount all cables and wires to the underside of your desk. Fix a pegboard to the underside and suspend your gadgets with wires. See more at this link.

I have an enormous pin board above my desk (more than two meters long). Instead of putting vouchers,receipts, letters, and everything else on my desk, I pin it to my pin board. This is excellent for me as I’m very visual, and it’s so much more fun doing paperwork when it means “one less pin”.

Every day, take 15-30 minutes before you’re scheduled to leave work to put away anything that should not be laying about on your desk, like pens, files, Post-It notes, paper clips, personal items, etc.
Deb Lee – D. Allison Lee LLC

Minimize storage. More storage attracts more junk. Keep only what cannot be replaced. Be ruthless.

Keep only supplies that you use daily on your desk-top or in your top drawer. If you don’t use tape or need hundreds of different sized paperclips then put them back in the supply cabinet.
Holly BohnSee Jane Work

I sold my desk and use my dining table. When I am finished I put what I need into my portable inbox, including my laptop and pen. Everything else gets filed, trashed; my inbox goes onto a shelf in the nearby buffet and I close the door on it. A big change in my life! Goodbye desk anxiety.
Barbara K.

I truly believe that less is more, containment is key, and labeling certainly can’t hurt! When I work with clients, I recommend they keep their active desktop area reserved for the project they are currently working on. It can be as messy as they want while they are working, but as soon as they are finished or reach a stopping point, the piles get cleaned up, contained in a file folder, bin, or project sleeve, and it gets put in a holding area
Angela MattsonYour Organized Guide

Divide and conquer the types of paper that can comingle and make a mess on your desk. Keep your mail separate (in a basket) from documents (in a paper tray or sorter) and use file folders for projects (in a tiered file holder).
Deb Lee – D. Allison Lee LLC

Straighten desk at the end of the day and especially at the end of the week so that you can start each morning with a clear desk.

Desktop organizers and/or trays will help you organize papers that come across your desk.
Janet M

A laptop with a second monitor, and all my IMs(use a company standard IM, GTalk, with Outlook, OneNote sharing(is on the second monitor) and use the first screen to do most of the work.

Things which take longer, or to be sent to someone to be done and follow-up – typically go into tasks on a writing pad.
Ravi V

Don’t follow the rules. Every job is different and the tools you need to get the job done will also be different. Sure there are some things that most everyone will use, paper and pen for example, but other than that it’s job specific.
Holly Bohn – See Jane Work

Limit your memorabilia to one or two items. Put everything else on the wall or shelves.
Mark Shead

Keep your office essentials close to your desk, like your garbage bin, file cabinet, and shredder. If you have to get up to reach them, you’re more likely to keep the trash, files, and paper all piled on your desk.
Deb LeeD. Allison Lee LLC


  1. says

    Hello!!! Where did you get that picture of my desk?!?! Oh Wait, that is not my desk, but who would have known! Kidding, but what an amazing collection of tips for workspace clutter. For me, partitioned trays and a wall board have been working well. Really loved the idea of a portable workspace that you can set up on your dining table and then pack up once done.

  2. says

    I got this one from a Merlin Mann/David Allen conversation about five years back: keep some durable folders around, and any time you get interrupted, shuffle everything you’re working on into one of them and throw it on top of your inbox. It “clears the deck” (literally and psychically) for what’s next, and prevents the weirdness that can creep in when you haves materials and tools for multiple projects mingling in one space.

  3. says

    When I get to work in the morning, my in – tray is usually 1foot to 2 feet high in paper work.
    I give myself a time limit of 1/2 to 3/4 of an hour to speed read thru all the paper work and get it sorted into the appropriate 1 – 31 day slots…
    Then I spend the next two hours sorting alphabetically.
    Set time limits on your self to get thru the work.
    Don’t get distracted by other people talking and wasting their time…
    All faxes are sorted by date, with the most urgent on top, to be dealt with immediately, and then further into the weeks and months ahead.
    Emails and other correspondence, put a time limit on your self to see just how quickly you can do it…..
    And when your finished for the day, know that you have given a good days work!!!
    Cheers Judy C.

  4. Geneva Pace says

    Hello Janet, I watched ur segment,’Organizing Drawers ‘on Mind TV.The tool you didn’t know is called ALLEN WRENCHES ‘.HEXAGONAL WRENCHES, used in conjunction with screws or bolts with recessed hexagonal heads.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *