Skip to main contentA logo with &quat;the muse&quat; in dark blue text.
Advice / Succeeding at Work / Productivity

8 Fast and Easy Hacks to Organize Your Desk (and Give the Impression You're on Top of Your Game)


According to author A. A. Milne, “organizing is what you do before you do something”—meaning it should be a precursor to your day, not how you spend the first hour (or more!) of it.

Starting your morning off with a clean slate doesn’t mean you never have to think about organization, but it does mean that you’re thinking about it much less. These eight simple office organizing tricks will cut your de-clutter time down and help you gain focus, so that you can get more work out of your office hours (and leave at a normal time!).

And yes, for all the people out there who have open seating plans (with no drawers, cubicle walls, or under-desk storage), these tips apply to you, too.

1. Choose a Desk Layout That Fits Your Natural Flow

Product courtesy of Wayfair.

If you start each morning with a physical to-do list, have your pen and pad open in front of your keyboard. If you check emails first, clear that keyboard space so that you can slide into your chair in the morning and just start clicking away. Remember, just because something looks neat (on Pinterest), doesn’t mean it’s the right setup for you. Do what makes sense for your daily routine.

2. Place a Trash Can by Your Desk

Product courtesy of Amazon.

How many times do you glance at a piece of paper and think, “I’ll toss that out when I get up?” Instead, clear it off your desk right away by dropping it in your handy new trash can. While it might seem like a fun challenge, keeping a can a throw away will leave you with a few missed shots and ultimately crumpled papers cluttering the floor.

3. Corral Your Cables

Product courtesy of Amazon.

Cable clutter is a sad reality for almost everyone—but it doesn’t have to be for you any longer. Keep cables in line by adding a cable holder to your desk or trying that fun binder clip hack. You can even take it to the next level and label your chargers and cords, to keep track of them even when you lend them to a co-worker. (Or when they’re scattered around your desk.)

4. Keep a Document Storage System on Your Desk

Product courtesy of Poppin.

If you have physical documents (because you’re old-fashioned like that), you’ll need a physical way to keep them organized. Take five minutes to figure out how many “inboxes” you’ll need, and then bring in an accordion folder, filing cabinet, or simple desk organizer with at least that many slots or folders. If nothing else, designate a corner of your desk to stack papers as they come in.

5. Store Reference Documents Nearby

Product courtesy of Ikea.

If there are documents that you’re constantly pulling out of a drawer to check, you should organize them so that they’re always available for you to see or grab. Place them in your new desktop organizer, pin them to your cubicle wall, or buy a cute frame for them if you’re fancy like that (or don’t have walls). Not only will this make completing tasks easier, but it will also save you time from rustling around in your desk looking for that one sticky note with the password.

6. Get a Junk Jar

Product courtesy of The Container Store.

Loose change, paper clips, and rubber bands will make their way onto your desk—it’s inevitable. Almost as inevitable as the fact that those items will sit on your desk for days on end before you move them. Good news: There’s an effortless option to just letting them sit there: a junk jar. Grab a simple glass jar (it helps if it’s transparent) and stick it in the far corner of your desk. Every time you find a coin, clip, or loose thumbtack, just drop it in. Even if you never go through that jar (and you probably won’t) everything will still look neat and organized.

7. Organize Your Desk Before You Go Home

Product courtesy of Amazon.

No, you don’t need to do a deep clean every single night—I’m not crazy. But you should make an effort to neaten your space up so that when you come in the morning, you can get right to work. Throw away any obvious trash (your leftover lunch wrappers), stack your papers in a pile, and put pens back in their place. It won’t take longer than five minutes to complete, but it will save you such a headache in the morning.

8. Decorate Your Desk

Product courtesy of Etsy.

By decorating, I don’t mean covering it in tchotchkes that’ll just clutter it up more. Instead buy a nice frame, a cool paperweight, or even a plant. Having one item on your desk that you want to show off (even if it’s only to yourself) will make you more motivated to keep your space clean.