8 Steps to Decluttering Your Desk

Jon Fesmire |

Creative people tend to have cluttered work spaces. This may be a reflection of how the creative mind works: finding and creating associations between disparate ideas, which can lead to better ideas and solutions.

Still, if you’re highly creative, that doesn’t mean a cluttered desk is good for your work. You have enough going on in your mind without distractions around you, and having a well-organized desk can streamline your work and remove distractions. This helps to improve concentration and can allow you to get more done. Follow these steps to get your desk and immediate workspace in order.

Clear Your Desk Completely

Before you organize your desk, make sure you have a fresh palate, so to speak. Take everything off the top of your desk and put it either on a nearby table, or, if you must, on the floor. Then, remove everything from the drawers and put them with the rest of your items. Look at your desk. You may not have thought about how much space you have there in a long time. Organized well, it should be plenty.

Clean Your Desk

This is the ideal time to clean your desk. Use a good, all-purpose cleaner and some paper towels, and wipe down the top, the sides, and the insides of the drawers. Dry it thoroughly. Now, you’re ready to do some sorting.

Sort Through Your Stuff

It’s time to go through everything you removed from your desk. Start by dividing it into two sections. In one, put things you are going to keep. In the other, put things to throw out. The “things to throw out” section will probably consist of old mail that you don’t need to file, old notes, pens that have run out, and anything else that qualifies as garbage or recycling.

Next, sort the pile of items to keep. Some of these will go in or on your desk, while others will go elsewhere. If you have a filing cabinet, old paperwork and mail that you need to keep awhile, such as taxes, can go in there. If you have books you’ve finished reading, or that you were using for research but don’t currently need, put those back in your bookcase or your company’s library. If your desk is at your place of business, bring some of your personal belongings home. You can also put older decorations elsewhere to make room for fresh ones.

Basically, if items aren’t related to what you’re doing currently, they can be put away elsewhere. Put them where they belong, then come back to what you have left.

Plan Your Desk Setup

Imagine what your ideal desk would look like. You might even want to sketch a few quick images of the top of your desk and how you might organize it. You don’t have to stick to any particular idea, but this will help to get you thinking creatively. You may come up with some ideas you wouldn’t have thought of otherwise.

Organize The Surface

Put the things you use most often on top of your desk, always keeping in mind how you can make it more functional. Put the things you use frequently close to hand. To keep it interesting, try to arrange things differently than before. This will force you to really think about why you are putting things in certain places.

The computer should go in the center of the desk (or at least in the center of the seating area). If you’re right handed, paper and pens or pencils should go to the right, as well as paperwork you’re currently using, like reference books and your current notebook. A tall cup works well for keeping your pens and pencils close to hand. If you’re left handed, this should all go on the left. Put a few pictures and decorations on the other side.

Organize the Drawers

If you have a top drawer and one or more bottom drawers, put things that you need during the course of the week in the lower drawers, and things you need daily in the top drawer.

These may be things like your stapler, pens, and paper clips. If you have notebooks you’ll need in the near future, but not immediately, they can go in lower drawers. However, if you have a printer, we recommend putting the paper clips, staples, and stapler next to it instead of in your desk. You’re more likely to use them when finished printing, anyway, and this will clear desk space.

With your top drawer mostly empty, in the evening, you can put the books and notepad you’re currently using away in the top drawer. Above, we recommended using a filing cabinet for paperwork that you need to keep but that you don’t need in the normal course of your day. If you don’t have a filing cabinet and you don’t have a lot of this paperwork, it can go in your bottom drawer.

Organize the Periphery

You may still have some items left over after organizing your desk itself. So, think about the space around your desk.

If you have an inbox and outbox for physical mail, consider getting one for the wall near your desk, whether that’s an actual wall or a cubicle wall. If in a cubicle, it should be near the entrance so your coworkers can drop off or pick up mail. This will free up quite a bit of room on your desk.

If you have additional pictures you want displayed, put them on the wall behind or near your desk. You may also want to put up a couple of mounted shelves to display favorite figurines. Perhaps you have a doll or some Funko Pops you like. Mounted shelves are perfect for displaying them.

Don’t forget to put a trash basket near your desk and empty it as needed. You can keep a package of garbage can liners in your bottom drawer.

Refresh Your Supplies

You’ll not only figure out what you don’t need, but what you do need. Are you low on notepads? Is there a certain type of pen you prefer using and you have only a couple left? Did you realize you’re almost out of staples?

This is a good time to restock the supplies you’re low on. If you work in an office, go to the supply cabinet and get what you need. If you work from home, make a trip to the office supply store, or grab what you need from the grocery store’s office isle next time you go shopping for food.

That’s it! With these eight steps, you’ll be able to declutter your desk. Just remember to keep it organized. Throw out any garbage, replace your pens and pads, and keep your mail sorted. Enjoy your workspace!