Your desk can be your best friend, or it can be your worst enemy. When you originally picked out and set up your desk, you made sure that it was perfect. It had plenty of drawer space, surface area, and was suited for your personal enterprise. Now you have piles of miscellaneous papers, binders, books, and junk stacked all willy-nilly on top of your desk, and spilling over onto the floor around you. What happened to the desk you loved? Has it let you down, or have you let it down? Let’s give your desk a fresh start and give it the attention it deserves.
Step One: Sort Everything Into Labeled Boxes
You should only need four boxes. Label them “Misc. Stuff”, “Do”, “Keep Handy” and “File”. Now, grab a cup of coffee, and sit down with every loose item on your desk and in your drawers, and sort your stuff into the four boxes. Don’t think too hard about any one item. Touch it once and put it in a box quickly. You have time later as you’re putting things away to rethink anything you have.
Step Two: “Miscellaneous Stuff” Needs A Home
This is the box of odds and ends that end up on your desk instead of put neatly away. These are the paper clips, cd’s, pens, pencils, telephone books, scratch paper, sticky notes, Sharpies, erasers, keys, coasters, etc. that either don’t have a place to go or haven’t seemed to find their way home. You’ll find that, once you start culling out all the miscellaneous stuff and putting it where it belongs, your pile will be manageable. You’ll want to purchase some simple dividers for the desk drawers to help corral those “hardware” items and keep them from getting tangled up with your important papers. Some inexpensive baskets, and small bins and boxes, will help contain those little office necessities while keeping them handy, but not cluttering up your desktop. Using matching desktop accessories, like your stapler, tape dispenser, and pencil cup make a difference in how you view the top of your desk. If it looks organized, it feels more organized, and you actually keep it less cluttered.
Step Three: “Do” Keep Those Important Papers Neat And Visible
Your “Do” box contains valuable documents, projects, time-tables, and all sorts of dated items that need attention. Putting your “Do” items away just won’t do! Having a multi-compartment desktop organizer will do wonders for keeping track of those important “Do” items. I like the kind of multi-compartment organizer that has vertical slots because papers don’t tend to get buried as easily. If you don’t have room for a desktop organizer, some strategically placed see-through hanging wall files or pockets can keep files and papers neatly organized, but still very visible and accessible. Even hanging wall pockets directly on the side of the desk is an option worth considering. A small bulletin board or magnetic board close to your desk will provide a safe home for the little scribbled notes that you rely on every day.
Step Four: “Keep Handy” Those Frequently Needed Items
In your box labeled “Keep Handy” you should find all your reference material that you need handy, like documents you need to refer to on occasion, how-to manuals, lists of phone numbers or addresses, your checkbook and register, deposit blanks, catalogs, and anything your particular enterprise or family needs to refer to routinely. These items are generally important enough that you don’t want to be looking for them when you need the information, but they are not items that need daily reminders and certainly do not belong on top of your desk. This is what your desk drawers were created for. Most desks have built-in rails for hanging file folders. If your desk does not, do yourself a favor and visit an office supply store. There are many hanging folder frames that will fit inside your desk drawer for hanging your files. Be creative when you’re shopping, and check the stores return policy. If the frame doesn’t fit like you imagined, be sure you can take it back. You may even find a desktop organizer that fits your drawer and will work great for you. If your desk does not have adequate drawer space, or your enterprise requires a number of manuals, books, and binders, it would be wise to purchase at least one two drawer file cabinet and a small bookcase. Even if you move into a larger filing system, you can’t lose with these two items. Right from the start, you’ll feel more relaxed and be more productive when paperwork is neatly organized and off the top of your desk. Manuals, binders, magazines, and books should also find a home on a bookshelf, and not on top of your desk. You’ll also be able to place additional storage like attractive boxes and baskets on top of your bookshelf and filing cabinet for storing odds and ends that would otherwise clutter up your desk. I like to shop those big clearance stores and thrift shops, and often find decorative boxes and baskets at reasonable prices.
Step Five: “File” Those Papers Instead Of Shuffling Them Around Your Desk Top
How many pieces of papers do you shuffle around your desk in a day’s time? If a piece of paper is not time-sensitive, if it no longer requires your attention, file it. If you’re not ready to invest in file cabinets, the contents of your “File” box should be neatly stored in sturdy boxes, carefully labeled with its general contents, dated, and set aside neatly in a closet or corner. Consider purchasing sturdy legal-size storage boxes especially designed for office use. They are built to last, stack well, are much less expensive than file cabinets and, if you don’t need access to these papers regularly, are perfectly suitable for long-term storage. However, if you are ready to invest in a permanent filing system, and like the idea of having your files accessible in drawers instead of boxes, do some preparation work before you shop. It’s crucial to take an accurate inventory of your needs before shopping for filing cabinets and storage. Assess your needs, take careful measurements of your space, and shop around. Filing cabinets come in a wide range of sizes and features. The price of a good quality filing cabinet will set you back on your heels a bit if you haven’t shopped for office equipment before. This can be an expensive investment, so you’ll want to make wise choices that will leave you without regrets. And now that you have filed away those papers, your desk is starting to look like it did when you fell in love with it. Time to get out the furniture polish or glass cleaner. You can see the top of your desk again.
Step Six: Scoop Up That Mess Of Cords
You can see your desk again, and it’s beautiful! But you now notice that the cables and cords under your desk are a tangled mess. If you have pets or small children at home that frequent your office space, this is also dangerous. If you’re afraid to get too involved moving the cords around, the simplest solution is to gently gather them together, kind of like scooping up a pile of freshly raked leaves, and place them in a cardboard box that has the four-flaps type cover. Then carefully close the four flaps that form the box cover, allowing the cords and cables that hang from your computer, down the back of your desk, to stick out through the loosely folded flaps. There are other ways to straighten the mess of cables out, but this is the easiest, and fastest. If you’re confident in computer hardware, go ahead and organize your cables. One inexpensive method is to cut lengthwise along empty paper towel tubes or gift wrapping tubes and gently push the cords into the tubes. There are also cord coverings you can purchase at office supply stores.
Your desk is a reflection of you. It’s widely believed that people think more clearly, get more accomplished, and are under less work-related stress when their desk is neat, orderly, efficient, and the implements they require are within easy reach. You want a clutter-free desktop, but filing everything away in drawers may not be feasible, or advisable, when you’re trying to do research, read, or be creative. You need “functioning workspace”, which means you need to have your paperwork and tools of your trade convenient, accessible, and at your fingertips. Having an organized desk, while having your critical documents and tools within easy reach may seem like a difficult task. But with a bit of planning and a lot of research, it’s not impossible. Whether your desk is your household command center or your desk is the hub of your home-based business, you need to develop a system you can live with to keep your desk clutter-free. It’s not easy to maintain your desk in perfect condition every day, but when you begin by cleaning away the clutter, your natural talents will take over. You even have a spot on top of your desk for that picture you love of your family enjoying the beach. Now, wasn’t organizing your desk worth the effort?
And now that your desk is organized, it’s time to move on to the next project… check back here for more Home Organization Ideas.