5 Ways to Organize Your Desk for Success

“A clean desk is the sign of a sick mind.”

“A messy desk is a sign of genius.”

If you believe what you’ve heard, you might think your clean desk is hampering your creativity. But you don’t have to buy into the messy desk hype.

As an executive assistant or a key administrator in your company, your desk has to stay tidy. After all, it is often the first thing visitors see before they visit the CEO’s office and may influence people as they form their initial impressions of your company.

So, let’s assume your desk is already clean. There’s always room for improvement. You could take your desk’s organization to the next level and boost your productivity.

It’s time to apply Marie Kondo’s decluttering principles to your desk, file those piles of papers that don’t bring you joy, and make sure every item on your desk has a reason, a meaning, and a proper place by following these five tips.

1. Clear the Clutter

If your desk is already neat by most people’s standards, this could present a challenge. But we bet there are at least a few items you don’t use every day filling valuable real estate.

First, take a big plastic bin and put everything on your desk into the bin. It sounds scary but trust us here. During the day, take out items you need as you need them. Anything still in the bin when you’re ready to clock out can be placed elsewhere tomorrow.

2. Get Creative With Storage Solutions

Once you’ve emptied the bin, we bet you’re left with some files, maybe some reference books, perhaps a cute desk calendar and any trinkets, knick-knacks, or photos you keep on your desk to add a touch of personality to your space. Set aside those non-work-related items for the time being.

First, think about what items you can convert to digital versions. Physical post-it notes, to-do lists, phone numbers, and your calendar can all make their home on your virtual desktop, instead of your physical one. Best of all, these digital versions can sync to your smartphone so you never have to worry about leaving important information at the office.

Next, consider spaces to shelve books or place paperwork you use occasionally but not every day. Can you add a shelf above your desk or a bookcase in the corner? Do you have a filing cabinet you’re not using? Or desk drawers to stow your stapler, scissors, and other items you use sometimes?

You may need to do some shopping to create the right storage solutions. As a workplace leader, your model may be replicable for other employees — creating a more organized, more productive office — so it should be easy to justify a few purchases.

3. Choose Tchotchkes With Care

Knick-knacks on your desk, from family photos to a favorite coffee mug, are there specifically to make you happy. They serve no other purpose. Is it time to refresh your collection?

As you remove every non-essential item from the storage bin, hold it and decide if it reflects who you are today and if it makes you happy. Often, these items sit for so long, collecting dust, that their true meaning is lost. By examining each item, you may decide to update a few of your favorite things.

4. Make Space for Cleaning Items

What does deserve a space on your desk? Cleaning wipes, screen cleaner, a microfiber cloth, and compressed air. The average desktop has 400 times more bacteria than the average toilet seat, according to a study done by University of Arizona. Clean your desk every night before you leave, or every morning before you start work, to help stop the spread of germs.

5. Organize What’s Left

Once you’ve streamlined your desk to hold just the essentials, organize what’s left. Many people prefer to keep incoming items on the left and outgoing items on the right. Reserve an empty space slightly bigger than 8.5 by 11 inches or larger for signing paperwork.

Ignore the creative types who mock your clean desk. Only you know how much it can boost your productivity. You might even consider hanging a sign above your workspace that declares, “Cleanliness is my superpower.”

Get more office organization tips in the Office Heroes League newsletter, so you can be the organizing superhero Marie Kondo would approve of.


Bree Livingston
About author

After graduating from business school, Bree Livingston quickly discovered her love of office management while working as an Office Manager/HR Coordinator for a mobile app development company. She enjoys working in a fast-paced environment where she's always learning and loves to help new team members to get started at the company. When she's not working or writing blog posts, she loves singing and playing with her cat, Georgia.
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