wikiHow to Clean Up Your Desk

Four Parts:Clearing Your DeskCreating Organizational SystemsPutting Your Desk Back TogetherChoosing an Organizational System

Many people get their most important work done at a desk. However, if your desk is messy or disorganized, it can be difficult to focus or to keep track of your important projects. Once you do a big cleaning of your desk, you should be able to keep it clean fairly easily. However, first you need to go through everything on your desk and find a new way to organize all of it.

Part 1
Clearing Your Desk

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    Take everything off your desk. Remove absolutely everything and place it all in one large pile. When it’s time to reorganize your desk, you’ll go through this pile methodically. However, don’t try to organize it now. First you need to create a clear space.[1]
    • Remove everything from your desk, even if you think it will stay there. This includes pictures, plants, and your computer.
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    Throw away trash. Something becomes trash as soon as you don’t need it anymore. You may think that you need to save something, but be sure before you do. If you’re not sure, you can place it in a bin or drawer for things that you’re not sure if you’ll need.[2]
    • Shred any sensitive documents before disposing of them.
    • Recycle paper, plastic, and anything else that is recyclable.
    • People who are extremely organized with clean desks have a saying: “When in doubt, throw it out.”
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    Wipe down all surfaces. Even if you think the things at your desk are pretty clean, it doesn’t hurt to give everything a once over. Clean your computer screen, dust all of the surfaces, dump out and wipe down desk drawers.[3]
    • You can use compressed air to clean your keyboard or any other objects with difficult to reach areas.
    • You can use a solution of water and white vinegar to clean many surfaces or purchase a cleaning agent that you like.
    • Surfaces include the top of your desk, the inside of your drawers, the tops of shelves, and any screens.

Part 2
Creating Organizational Systems

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    Use shelves. You may want to build shelves into the wall or buy them. You may want them right above your desk or on the other side of the room. This usually depends on where your desk is and what you use it for.[4]
    • If your desk is in a cubicle at work, you may need to setup some small shelves above or next to your desk.
    • If your desk is in a home office or bedroom, you may want your shelves away from your desk so that they’re out of sight and don’t pose a visual distraction.
    • Think about what will go on the shelves before you install them. Make sure they’re the right size for the books or tools you plan to put on them.
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    Label drawers and shelves. By labeling shelves and drawers, you are telling yourself what goes in each place. This is key for staying organized. You can make your own labels with masking tape or stickers, or you can buy more decorative labels if you prefer.[5]
    • Make sure every label is clear and specific. That way, no drawer will simply become a “junk drawer.”
    • If you like, you can use a color coding system instead of writing the words on each drawer.
    • Be careful with labels. Don't generalize to much or you can end up having messy drawers full of miscellaneous items. This can also cause confusion when it's time to put something away.
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    Make important things accessible. You know the things that you use at your desk the most often. Keep those things close by and easy to get to. For example, if you have a few vertical drawers under your desk, the top one should contain the things you’ll reach for most frequently. Alternately, you can keep crucial items on shelves that are visible and easily within reach.[6]
    • You can choose a few important things that get to sit on top of your desk. These can include current projects or tools you reference repeatedly, such as a ruler or calculator.
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    Place a trashcan nearby. This is key for not having trash pile up around your desk. Your trashcan should be reachable without getting up from your desk. That way, there’s no danger of leaving a piece of trash on your desk to clutter it up.[7]

Part 3
Putting Your Desk Back Together

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    Sort through your pile. Now you have a clean desk and a large pile of things that came off of it. Begin going through the pile from the top down. Don’t skip over anything.As you sort, remove junk and trash. Separate important things that will eventually go on shelves on in drawers.[8]
    • Do whatever needs to be done with each object immediately, if you can. If a paper needs to be shredded, or a knick-knack needs to be dusted, do it now. Don’t wait until later.
    • If it will take more than two minutes to deal with an object (for example, if the paper shredder is in another building, or you’d need to go buy a duster) place the object on your “to do” list.
    • Objects that will go back on the desk can go into a new pile. Objects that are trash go in the trash. Objects the you’re not sure about can go in a third pile.
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    Store objects you're unsure about. Take the pile of objects that aren't trash but that don't belong on your desk and put them in a bin or a drawer. Store that container in a basement, a closet, or somewhere else.
    • After a month, six months, or a year, you can go through that container. If you haven't used something from it, throw it away. The chances that you'll ever use it are very slim.
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    Replace objects on the desk. Take each object from the first pile and place it on your desk or on a shelf. Use the labels you’ve created or use another organizational system. Put each item back on the desk, one thing at a time.[9]
    • Try to avoid having a lot of visual distraction at your desk. Limit the amount of decoration at your desk so that you can still focus.
    • Books are best kept off your desk if possible. Have an accessible shelf where you can keep the books you need regularly.[10]
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    Clean your desk regularly. The more frequently you clean your desk, the easier it will be each time. At the end of each day, look at your desk and tidy it up. Throw away any trash and file away any stray papers or pieces of a project.[11]
    • By cleaning your desk off at the end of each workday, you ensure that you’ll come into a clean and usable workplace the next day.
    • Designate one day per week or month to really clean your desk thoroughly, depending on how quickly it gets messy or disorganized.

Part 4
Choosing an Organizational System

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    Organize things in a way that works for you. Everyone has a different way of organizing their desk and their tools. Yours will depend on the kind of work you do at your desk. Make sure that whatever you do, it keeps the space usable and clear of distractions.[12]
    • You might want to use different kinds of containers for different items.
    • You might need file folders or a bulletin board to pin things to.
    • You may have lots of tools that need to be hung on hooks.
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    Keep only relevant tools nearby. If you mostly use your desk for office work, don't keep your craft supplies there. Choose a different place in your room or office to keep those things.
    • If you have noticed that a certain item rarely or never gets used, don't keep it at your desk.
    • If there's a tool or resource that you use a lot but have been keeping elsewhere, create a space for it at your desk.
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    Try new things. If you've been having a hard time staying organized or keeping your desk clean, this could be a sign that you need to create a different organizational method. If you've kept everything in drawers, maybe shelves or hooks would be better for you. If you have a hard time focusing on your computer screen, maybe you need to clear everything else out of sight.
    • Ask other people who work in your field how they organize their desks. They might have valuable insights for you!


  • The goal of a clean desk is for it to be a productive and healthy place for you to work. Do what feels good for you. If you need decorations and inspirational images around you to feel good, that’s okay. Just make sure that you can still focus.
  • Make sure you only have five erasers maximum, one pot of writing pens and pencils and one pot of colouring pens and pencils.

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Categories: Clutter Busting | Office Skills