The Best Ways to Organize Your Desk To Stay Focused

A white two-tiered desk organizer with gold accessories on it, on a white desk.

Life with a messy desk is just harder.

Whether you’re still working from home or have settled back into a shared office space, you probably encounter the same battle we all seem to have: keeping your desk organized and clear of clutter. It can be hard to do between hectic schedules and important deadlines. 

Piles of paper seem to settle at one edge of your desk while rogue pens, sticky notes, and other miscellaneous items take over the rest. This can put a real damper on your creativity, productivity, and overall workflow (although there is some research that reveals a little mess is healthy).

If you don’t have time to Marie Kondo your way to a pristine office space all the time, we get it. Life is busy and hectic, and sometimes that’s reflected in our workspaces. But a mess does not always spark joy and not having enough time to address it can add to the spiral of stress.

If you’re thinking there’s got to be a better way than tidying up every day after you’ve sent that last email, you’re right. There is! 

It comes down to having the right tools capable of keeping you on track. If you find yourself too focused on sorting through old mail, trying to find that message on a sticky note from last week or looking for a working pen, then you may want to try a new system. 

There’s no right or wrong way to organize a desk. It just has to work for you and your space so that you can reap all of the benefits. Even the smallest of offices can pack a big punch if you do it right, so don’t let a lack of space keep you from going all out.

These tools are some of our favorites because they utilize space and look pretty stylish. A win-win!

1. Get your paper in order with a filing system

It seems no matter how hard you try to go virtual, there will always be paper. Whether it’s mail you need to hold onto, paperwork that can’t be easily discarded or notes that you’ve taken by hand, you’ll want a good filing system that works for you. It beats a messy stack that eventually overtakes your workspace. 

For light filing, consider a hardy three-ring binder or document holder that will stand up to daily use and has enough room. They can easily be tucked out of the way and blend seamlessly into your desk space. 

For easy access items, a table tray helps you keep track of mail and pressing items. Think of this as your real life outbox. Anything that’s pressing goes here. Being visible will help keep it fresh on your mind.

For the paper-centric: Filing cabinets can be as minimal or as fancy and as stylish as you prefer, just make sure you measure your space so it’s sure to fit.

2. Find a place for those things with no clear place

A catch-all dish is a must for any desk space, especially if you’re always reaching for a paperclip, sticky note, headphones or other small office supplies. You can go minimal and repurpose a shallow dish or if you need a bit more room, try a stylish multi-level accessory tray. Neither option will take up too much space and they’ll keep loose items from causing too much clutter.

Just try to keep its contents to a minimum. A table top tray can easily become overwhelmed with lots of stuff. Audit regularly to avoid clutter.

3. Think vertical 

It’s time to think outside of the box. Organizing your desk sometimes means creating space around it, like adding a filing system, which we’ve already discussed. But don’t forget to think about other places you can increase storage, like adding a trendy wall hanging nearby that helps keep office supplies off your desk and in a handy place or a white board that will prevent you from being overrun with sticky notes.

Utilize your walls to make the most out of your desk. Chances are you have enough space and there are endless options with shelving. It just takes a little bit of vision.

4. Cords are small, but their visual mess is mighty

How often do you reach into your bag only to find a tangle of electronic cords and headphones? Or get your feet wrapped up in a charger while sitting at your desk? It’s frustrating and can make an office space feel even more unruly than it probably is. 

The solution? Twistable ribbon cords that keep all those wires manageable and out of the way so you can focus. And as a bonus, they make life much easier when you move or need to swap out electronics. No more time untangling or figuring what cord goes with which item. 

5. Make it decorative, even for pens

Nobody said a designated spot for supplies — pens, pencils, scissors and any other supplies you need to have easily accessible — had to be boring or ugly. A pen organizer can tie your whole desk together if you choose the right caddy. Something minimal but stylish is the way to go. You’ll probably frequent this organizer, so make it worth it. It can double as decor. 

Old candle jars, pretty glasses and upcycled containers can all be good pen holder options, too. Don’t be afraid to get creative to get the job done. Something simple can look great and serve an important purpose. 

6. Add uncomplicated, easy solutions

It’s easy to overthink desk organization, with all the papers we need to hold onto, electronics and desk trinkets that make office spaces a pleasant place to work. But sometimes it’s the easiest solutions that help the most. A desk organizer doesn’t have to be large, expensive or fancy to be effective. 

In fact, the simpler, the better. Look for something that can hold odds and ends, everything from loose change to earbuds, all while being discreet and fits the vibe of your space. Remember, the easier it is to implement storage, the more effective it will be.

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