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Here’s How To Declutter Your Desk and Reorganize Your Life

How’s your desk looking right now? If I asked you to find your office contract or that invoice from back in January of 2012, could you? If the answer is no, then don’t worry, you’re in the right place and we’re here to get you back on the path to a clutter-free world. You probably already know that a clean desk = a productive desk so let’s get started and well on your way to a more productive day.


Declutter Your Desk - Purge

1. Purge

First things first. Since your desk is probably in pretty rough shape if you’re clicking on this article, we’re going to recommend you start with a thorough, and maybe even painful, purge.

Take a second to look at your desk (we are assuming you are reading this article while at work, we’re right aren’t we?) and assess what you use most, and what has been there since the dawn of time. Are you spotting anything out of place yet? Maybe a Christmas themed coffee cup when it’s the middle of July? Or a birthday card from a colleague when your big day was 4 months ago? Yeah, it’s time to get rid of all that.

Start with a small area at a time. Determine what needs to stay and what is destined to end up in the shredder or trash can out back. Remember, this is a purge that means almost everything’s gotta go, whether it be into a file folder, back to your own home or off to a better place, it’s all going somewhere (this includes dead plants, excessive family photos and your knick-knacks galore).

Declutter Your Desk - Zone

2. Zone

Next up is to create workable “zones” on your newly blank space. Starting from scratch, think about what you really need in a day – what do you actually use?

For most people, your desk will be split up into two major zones: Computer Zone, and Non-Computer Zone. Pretty straight-forward so far, right? Now in Zone 1 (your computer zone) you’ll have just that, your desktop computer. If you’re like us and work on two screens throughout the day, your desktop and laptop can fall into this zone, as well as your keyboard, mouse and mousepad (most of ours also double as To-Do lists – we’re extra productive like that.. or cheap).

In Zone 2, you’ll have just about everything else. A place for paperwork, pens, calculators, staplers, coffee mugs, you know, all the necessities. This can either be on your computer desk, or in another area of the office. The goal is to not have to rearrange your entire life to address and envelope.

Declutter Your Desk - Proximity

3. Proximity

Going right along with zoning is making sure everything you need in a day is within arms reach. If you’re someone who likes to plug in and keep your eyes on the prize all day, make sure your headphones are close by. Do a lot of paper signing? Pens are essential for that. Use a lot of electronics? Make sure you know where your chargers are and which one is for which device.

Another great thing to have handy is a full water bottle and a couple of snacks to keep you hydrated and nourished throughout the day. This also keeps you from getting distracted by chatty co-workers on those long trips to the kitchen for more treats.

Declutter Your Desk - Folders

4. Create Folders

Folders are probably some of the most essential equipment in any office space, whether you’re mostly digital or not. Things like insurance papers, contracts, confidential documents and receipts will always need to find their way to appropriate homes before they get lost or accidentally thrown away. Invoices are another good idea to have an a hardcopy format, since we all know how finicky computers can be.

Most office desks come with a large bottom drawer made for organizing files (not for storing treats). Picking up a pack of hanging organizers (we like these colourful ones) and sorting your paperwork into specific sections will have your desk clutter free in no time, plus you’ll actually be able to find things when you go looking for them.

Declutter Your Desk - Drawers

5. Utilize Drawers

If you’re like me, your desk drawers are generally empty except for a couple ping-pong balls and extra lego pieces, but you can actually get a lot of use out of these small spaces!

Since we don’t use a lot of paper around the office, I don’t need a stash of paperclips, thumbtacks, pens or staples so my drawers are mainly left empty (except for some Halloween themed postage stamps that I only ever used one of). But, for those of you who do need these things, a drawer organizer is going to be your best friend! There are a lot of creative an unique ways to make the most of a drawer like this artful use of Altoids tins, or these handy little dollar store baskets.

Since the main goal of this post is to get things off your desk and stored away, drawers are going to be a handy place to keep the things you need – but not necessarily all the time.

Declutter Your Desk - Catch-It

6. Make a “Catch-It” Space

One of the most interesting ideas we came across when researching this article was creating a “catch-it” space. According to Inc.com, every office needs a place to catch incoming jun before it has time to accumulate on your desk (and we agree).

Inc.com tells us there are three different types of junk overflow: 1) Documents, 2) Stuff and 3) Trash and therefore you need three key areas in your Catch-It space, 1) a Paper Tray, 2) a Coat Rack, shelf or hooks and 3) a garbage can. If you have these three items set up right as you walk into your office space, you will be less likely to ditch everything on your desk and create unnecessary clutter.

Now you’ll only have to remember to clean your catch-it space! But hey, at least it isn’t your desk.

Declutter Your Desk - White space

7. Keep White Space

As much as you may believe the majority of your work is online (like I do) there still comes times when you have physical paper in your hands and have to have some desk space. Keeping a specific area of your desk clean and clear will ensure you don’t have to shuffle around everything you’ve been working on, just to fill out a change of address form, or whatever it is people do on paper these days.

It also keeps handy place for you to eat your lunch, plan your day in your notebook or read a magazine on your lunch break. Whatever you use it for, white space is an important part of your new desk layout.

Declutter Your Desk - Accessorize

8. Accessorize 

You’re probably a bit confused right now since our whole post has been about removing items from your desk and now we’re telling you to add them. Hear us out.

Adding a few strategically placed accessories to your desk can actually help better organize keep your desk in its new clutter-free state. One item that immediately pops to mind is a cute and functional pen holder. Just think of how many minutes you’ve spent looking for a pen each day! You’ll also want to keep a notepad for jotting down ideas or to-do’s, a paper tray or two for holding in-use documents and maybe a plant or family photo to brighten things up!

Just remember to keep your accessories minimal and functional, you definitely want your desk to be your own but you want to be able to work too.

Declutter Your Desk - Prioritize

9. Prioritize

Keeping the most important things you have to do for the day close by is essential to having a productive day. Personally, all I need is my laptop, desktop and headphones to get my day off and running but I do like to have a notepad close by to jot down things that get thrown my way throughout the day. I then put these things into a list by how important they are and tick them off as I go about my day (it’s a great feeling!).

If you’re wondering how to decide what is most important, use Stephen Covey’s way of prioritizing: 1) Is it Important and Urgent? 2) Is it Urgent but not Important? 3) Is it Important but not Urgent? and 4) Is it Not-Urgent and Not-Important (cough, Facebook)? By slotting each thing into one of these categories, you can decide hat needs your attention first, and what can wait until the end of the day.

Declutter Your Desk - Tidy

10. Tidy

Maybe the most important tip for keeping your newly purged desk clutter-free is to tidy it off everyday. Before you leave for home each night, make sure you take all the garbage, coffee cups, and dishes to where they originally came from, then organize all the paperwork that has accumulated on your desk over the day. Take home anything you’ve brought into your office (sweaters, scarves, workout gear?) and ensure that you will come in to a clean, fresh desk every morning.

Extra Tips

Declutter Your Desk - Scanner

1. Buy a Scanner

If you want to get out of the paper era all together, it’s a good idea to invest in a desktop or handheld scanner so you can get rid of any physical documents causing mayhem on your desk. A few good ones to look out for are NeatCo Mobile Scanner and the VuPoint Magic Wand.

Declutter Your Desk - Photo

2. Take a Picture

Once you’ve got your desk to the perfect amount of cleanliness, take a picture of it. This way you’ll have a good reminder of how to keep it, or how it get it back once you mess it up again.

Declutter Your Desk - Label

3. Label It

One of the best investments I made for my home office was buying a label maker! Not only are the incredibly fun to use, they also make it super easy to make a spot for everything. You can even get some with patterned or coloured label tape, which makes things extra fun.

So whether your desk is at home or in the office, and whether you use it for fun thinkings like crafting or “fun” things like work, these are some of the best tips we could find for getting it and keeping it clutter-free. Now you can look forward to increased productivity, a better mood and “jealous-of-your-awesome-desk” co-workers.

If you want some more information on how to optimize and organize your life, check out our post on how to optimize your Gmail account or ways to become incredibly productive throughout your day.

Published by:

Shaylee Field

Shaylee is the social media manager for Data Nerds. In her spare time she likes to hang out with her cats, work on her Beauty Blog and be a giant nerd.

53 comments on “Here’s How To Declutter Your Desk and Reorganize Your Life

    1. I absolutely agree Heather. When my desk is cluttered I feel like I can’t work and can’t focus. It’s definitely a must!

  1. Great advice. My workspace use to be perfect. A few months after I got ‘everything’ where I wanted it, I found my sister was donating her desk to charity. I have always loved that desk – yes, I was suffering from Desk Envy – so I took it instead. Once it was in my house I realized the cool shape wasn’t really practical and drawer space was lacking. My advice – if you are changing desks make sure it fits into your life instead of trying to fit your life around it.

    1. Yes Michelle! I did a very similar thing recently. I bought a desk with NO drawers and it was a big mistake 🙁 Finding a functional desk should be top priority over a pretty one 😉

    1. Great plan Maggie! My office desk is super tidy but my home desk is a disaster! That’s on my list of things to do this weekend 🙂

  2. These are terrific tips, especially if space is limited or visible to other people. I work on keeping my desk at home neat and tidy, but I’ve run into a problem I haven’t get been able to resolve. You see, I recently got new eyeglasses and I haven’t yet figured out where to put my laptop so I can see the screen!! So I’m in the process of moving everything around! Know what, it’s a real PIA!!

    1. Haha oh no Tina!! That would be a pain just to get in the right position! Have you thought of getting a stand for your laptop? It puts it so it’s at eye level and you don’t have to look down. We have them at the office and they are so handy!

    1. That’s great Angie! I do my office desk every night and take everything home that’s piled up at the end of the week 🙂

  3. I love this! I can’t live with an unorganized work station, it beats the crap out of me. I usually divide stuff and arrange them according to relation or something like that. Labels are my friends too and so are drawers and desk organizers.

  4. I started cleaning out my office space a couple weekends ago, but never finished. Now I feel like it’s even worse than when I started. I need to get it taken care of. Thanks for these tips.

    1. I’ve done that before too Cori! I start “tidying” and it somehow ends up messier haha (usually because I find fun things I forgot I had)

  5. This is such a weakness of mine. I’m always moving stuff around to make space on my desk to write something. It’s horrible. Your tips are so solid though. First thing, folders for me.

    1. Haha that’s definitely bound to happen with that large of a family in the house Stephanie! Maybe you should post a sign that says “No Junk on Mom’s Desk!” haha 😉

  6. I love your organizing ideas. Longing for space like this however, I probably would then m=need your to constantly reorganize it. Truly great ides ti stay organized , it is necessary for all business and personal life

    1. Haha I hear you Eileen, my home desk sadly doesn’t stay organized for very long, my office desk on the other hand is always clean!

  7. These are really great tips for decluttering your desk. This is indeed something I really need to do for sure and it is my biggest fault is cluttering up work space. I love the part of labeling everything and taking a picture. Thanks for sharing the tips.

  8. This is a very sound advise and tips. I am a crafter and I seriously need a creative studio of my own to put all the stash in. However, I cannot do that because I am just a transient boarder in this place so I am saving up for a room of my own to put all my stuff in a particular order. I did declutter my table and bought a new, slimmer one so I can only put what is necessary. Thanks for the tips! I learned something new esp. the “catch-in” method. I will certainly apply that. 🙂

    1. That’s such a great start Ria! I only recently got my own space to store all my beauty products (I beauty blog on the side) and it’s been such a relief. Before, it was all over the house and I could never find a single thing! Good luck with finding a wonderful new space for your craft supplies to call home! 🙂

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