If your desk is a mess, you’re not alone. With so many adults working from home and kids learning remotely, desk drawers are getting more of a workout than ever before. And with so many hands—big and small—taking things out and putting them back, it’s easy for drawer contents to get jumbled up. Luckily, with the right tools and organizing tips, restoring order should take less than an hour. Start with this 10-step plan.
1. Identify Your Satellite Offices
In many homes, office supplies are often strewn about in a variety of locations. Now is the time to decide if you want to centralize your supplies. For example, are there pens in practically every room? Are you never sure where to find a postage stamp? Using your desk drawers as the central place where supplies are stored can make your days go more smoothly.
2. Clear the Desks
Even—or especially—if you are dealing with serious mountains of files (and no judgment if you are), it’s time to clear off your desk surface as well as the interiors of the drawers. Take everything off and out and place it on the floor. While your drawers are empty, measure the depth, width and length for drawer dividers.
3. Stockpile Loose Papers
Paper organization is a beast in and of itself: In fact, it can be so challenging that there are whole books devoted to the subject. Plan to do this part of your office organization at a future date. For now, create neat stacks of loose papers you are saving and secure them with organizing clips. Place them to the side.
4. Sort Your Supplies
The old organizing mantra to sort like items with like items applies to desk organization. Get all the markers into one pile, the electrical chargers into another, and so on. This will help you see what you’ve got. For items you know you want to keep on your desktop (who doesn’t need a solid supply of pens and paper clips?), use clear, durable mini-size containers to store them together.
5. Ditch the Dead Weight
Getting rid of what you don’t need will help you more easily access what you do. Here are a few clutter culprits to look out for:
- Test all your pens and markers; throw out those that don’t work.
- Toss random screws, miscellaneous keys to nowhere, hair ties, and other odds and ends.
- Recycle mystery cords and chargers you haven’t used in over a year.
- Identify duplicates and choose a favorite. (You probably don’t need two calculators or two staplers.)
6. Remove Office Freebies
If your desk is jammed with free pens, thumb drives, and notepads that followed you home from work conferences, doctor’s offices, and events, it’s time to recycle, or put them in deep storage. Purchase a storage bin, place items inside, label it with its contents, then stash it on a high shelf or hall closet.
7. Determine Drawer or Desktop Content
What goes into your desk drawers versus what should be stored on top of it is a matter of personal preference, but if you use an item throughout the day, like a stapler or a highlighter, it’s best to place it within easy reach. Items that are delicate or you use less frequently should be stored in drawers. Clean any devices while you have them out of the drawer. Extra credit if you clean your computer, too.
8. Divide and Conquer
When you’re ready to put things back into the desk, drawer dividers are key and these adjustable dividers let you customize the compartment sizes. Use one drawer for functional items (say, scissors, scotch tape, and a calculator) and another drawer for more “creative” items (notepads, color markers, and the like). Separating items into their own compartments prevents them from rolling around and sliding to the back the minute you close the drawer.
9. Add Style
Bring some joy to your workspace with personal touches. Once the drawers are organized and divided and the desk surface is tidy, add a houseplant or fresh flowers (office greenery has been shown to improve creative problem solving). Personal photographs can also add an emotional boost to your day.
10. Tackle the Surroundings
Maybe you have a dedicated home office, but often, desks are housed in a room that serves other purposes. Take a few minutes to tidy your living room, den, or wherever your desk lives.