With calls, deadlines and unexpected emergencies, the day-to-day business of work can culminate in a messy desk. While the clutter can cause distraction, take the first step toward organizing your workstation, as daunting as it may be. We talked to Toronto’s Christina Campbell, Professional Home and Office Organizer and Certified KonMari Consultant, on how to tackle desk mess so you can get back to doing your best work.
1. Sort your papers
According to Campbell, the most common cause of a messy desk is procrastination. “When we’re busy or exhausted, the idea of having to decide what to do with everything that accumulates on our desks can feel overwhelming.”
To fight that feeling, Campbell suggests starting small. “Paper tends to be the most common source of frustration in our workspaces,” she says. “I use a three-tier paper tray or a standing file box with folders labelled Action/Pending, File and Shred. All incoming papers are sorted into one of these three categories. This way, all papers are contained until you’re ready to deal with them.”
2. Corral your cables
Portable tech like smartphones, Bluetooth headphones and laptops have become essential and thus charging and data cables have taken over our workspaces.
To untangle, Campbell offers this advice: “For the cables that are used every day and stay plugged in, keep them tidy by coiling the excess length with simple twist ties or silicone cable ties.” We like the Poppin Cable Catch — each of these units is designed to hold a small or medium cable with small connectors. They also have a peel and stick 3M backing so you can attach them to any smooth surface, making sure they stay put.
“For cables you use less often,” adds Campbell, “put each one in a small resealable bag or pouch, label it, and store it in a small bin inside your desk. This keeps them tangle-free and easy to find.”
3. Check your supplies
Fight the urge to keep things neat by stashing pens, staplers and other stationery items in a drawer where they are often forgotten. A stylish but functional organizer such as the Poppin Pen Cup keeps writing instruments in plain view and accessible while keeping your space tidy and professional (pro tip: having a set of matching accessories also makes your desk look pulled together).
4. Personalize your space
Decluttering doesn’t mean making your workspace sterile. “Keeping a few personal items on your desk is a great way to spark creativity and can help you decompress,” says Campbell. “But make sure to keep them contained on a small tray or desk organizer so they don’t take over your space.”
5. Clear out your drawers
Once you’ve decluttered your desktop, it’s time to take on your drawers. Using a drawer organizer that uses compartments can help you store basics like paperclips, rubber bands, staples and sticky notes.
One caveat. “Organizers are great,” Campbell says, “but make sure you regularly edit what you store inside them. Dried-out pens, old phone chargers, and a three-year supply of sticky notes take up valuable real estate and waste time when you’re on a roll but can’t find a dry-erase marker that works.”
6. Take it off the table
If you are working with a limited surface area, consider using your vertical space.
“Wall files are an excellent way to triage your papers,” says Campbell. “Bulletin boards and whiteboards are perfect for pinning inspiration and brainstorming ideas. And bookshelves keep your reference books and picture frames in clear view, but out of the way.”
Another way to add dimension to your desk is a monitor riser like this one from Poppin. It doubles as an all-purpose shelf, allowing you to store a desk tray or other accessory underneath to free up space. And it has a cable cut-out in the back to help keep cords from becoming tangled.
7. Pack it up at the end of the day
If you work from a common area in your home like the kitchen or living room, Campbell suggests having a routine for packing up all your work essentials at the end of the day, so others can use the space as well.
A catch-all like the Poppin Desktop Organizer can be a great option for helping you keep everything from documents and paper clips in one spot so it’s easy to pack up.
Another helpful hint from Campbell: “If you have a dedicated home office, keep your desk as a work-only zone. That means keeping utility bills, kids’ permission forms and magazines in another area of your home so you can stay focused during work hours.”