How to Keep your Desk Tidy

How to Keep Your Desk Tidy

How to Keep Your Desk Tidy

I’m a messy desk person. I’ve always been a messy desk person. Even when I was in high school and my desk was my bed it was still messy. Sometimes even when I went to sleep at night.

I used to justify it because I’m an artist. All creative thinkers have messy desks, don’t they? Didn’t Albert Einstein have a messy desk? I’ll join his camp any day.

But I do have to admit, I get soooo much more work done when my desk is tidy. I can think clearer. I don’t have twelve things vying for my attention. And at the end of the day, I don’t feel like I’ve left something undone.

So in honor of Organize Your Home Office day on Tuesday, March 14th, I want to share with you my favourite tips for how to keep your desk tidy:

1. I use an “inbox” for loose papers that need to be dealt with. Well, really I use two. And technically they’re not boxes, they’re drawers. I have an Alex drawer unit from Ikea that I love because it’s made up of 5 smaller drawers instead of just two or three larger ones.

– I use the very top drawer for papers that I’m currently working with, or anything that I’ll need in the next month or so.

– And the second drawer is the one that collects all our receipts that need to be entered for income tax purposes.

2. I have a recycle bin in my studio. For some reason this took me a long time to come around to. What used to happen was that when I was done with a piece of paper it would land in a “special” pile on my desk that was waiting to be taken downstairs to be recycled. But that pile would really only disappear every week or two on recycling day. So there was always a stack of what essentially was garbage on my desk. But now that I have a recycle bin within arms reach, it instantly clears off an 8 1/2 x 11 inch section of breathing room.

Large Abstract Wall Art - Coyote in the Woods

3. External hard drives, modems, and routers took up a huge hunk of desk real estate for years. Years. I take archiving my files and backing up my work very seriously, and because of it I have a series of seven mismatched hard drives, plus a modem and router. They aren’t pretty to look at, but they’re in active use on a regular basis. So last year I got a Lennart drawer unit, also from Ikea, to tuck away my tech. I like it because it’s small and fits under my desk while still leaving lots of leg room, plus it’s steel mesh so there’s tons of air flow.

4. Along those same lines I’m finding there’s still several cords snaking across my desk. There’s my MacBook Pro power cord, the cord for my external monitor, the charging cord for my iPod, and the cords for my memory card reader, Wacom tablet, and full size keyboard. Slowly but surely these are disappearing too. Last month when I needed a new mouse I switched to Apple’s wireless Magic Mouse and it’s definitely made a big difference on the right side of my laptop. So as I replace things I’ll be keeping wireless options in mind.

5. I just say no to desk organizers. I have a pen cup that’s an old canning jar but other than that I’ve never found storage systems that sit on my desk to be effective. For me they just seem to keep the clutter right in front of me. Plus I am a master at letting them overflow and piling unrelated things on top of them. So I just keep them off my desk altogether.

I am by no means perfect at keeping my desk tidy, but when I’ve got some real work to do and I just can’t seem to gain any traction, clearing off my work surface is the first thing I do to get in the zone. Do you struggle to keep your desk tidy? What are your favourite tips? And my biggest question, where are you keeping all your tech?

4 thoughts on “How to Keep your Desk Tidy

  1. Sylvia says:

    Love the idea of using that drawer unit for storage of hard drives/routers. I’m about to disassemble my standing desk and need a place to stash that stuff without trying to attach shelves to my plaster walls. This might just do the trick! Thanks 🙂

    • Jennifer says:

      Getting my external hard drives off my desk was huge. HUGE! It’s made such a big difference. You know I’d LOVE to hear what you end up doing! So be sure to check back in. Why are you disassembling your standing desk?

      • Sylvia says:

        Funny story: I made the standing desk because of lower back pain which made sitting deeply uncomfortable. Now that’s healed, my knee is acting up, which makes standing for long periods uncomfortable!

        Either way, I’ll need off-desk storage, even when I finally upgrade to a sit-stand desk.

      • Jennifer says:

        That’s too bad. I have two different places in the studio where I can use my laptop depending on the task. I’ve cleared off a shelf where I can stand for doing things like email and blog posts, and my desk where I can sit if I need my external monitor, power, or access to the archive. So far it’s working really well, but when I fall out of the habit of standing I fall long and hard…

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