How to Organize a Computer Desk

Whether you work in an office or from home, your computer desk is a natural clutter magnet. Fight back and increase your productivity by getting organized. Start with basic tips to create a place for everything, and get used to putting everything where it belongs. From there, you can adapt the system to better suit your personal wants and needs.


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    Place four boxes or baskets on your desk. Sort all the items you use every day into one basket, and all the items you use less frequently into the next basket. Pile any papers scattered on your desk into the third basket for later sorting. Anything you come across that you know you won't actually use--including that extra calculator you've had hanging around, or extra pencils and pens that are just clutter--goes in the fourth box.
    • Clean out all your desk drawers and cubbies, too. Everything goes into one of the boxes. Any trash you find goes straight to the trash can, of course.
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    Designate a specific place for every item that you use on a daily basis. Ideally, even day-use items should have a designated drawer, cubby or storage bin, leaving your desktop as clear as possible. Some items you might use every day and want quick access to include pens, pencils, paperclips or binder clips, a stapler, a calculator and a receipt book.
    • Label a sticky note with the name of each daily-use item, then place the sticky note on the item's home. For example, if you decide to keep your stapler in the upper right-hand drawer, put a sticky note with the word "STAPLER" on the front of that drawer. Keeping your desk organized isn't just about designating a home for each item, it's also about training yourself to associate each item with its new home and leave it there at the end of the day. You can use a label maker to make more permanent labels, if you find they help, or remove the sticky notes once you're used to storing the daily-use items in their proper places.
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    Sort through the items in the less-frequently-used box. Sort them into two piles: Items you'll actually use, and those you won't. The latter pile goes into the clutter box.
    • Be honest with yourself: If you'd forgotten you even owned something, it belongs in the "clutter" box instead.
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    Designate a storage place for less-frequent-use items. The less frequently you use an item, the further out of reach it can be comfortably stored. Avoid the temptation to strain your desk's storage capacity to the limit. If it can't hold your less-frequent-use items comfortably, store items you use less than once a week in a small chest, box or basket near the desk.
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    Create a three-part sorting station for incoming papers and mail. You can use three baskets, a three-tier desk organizer, or three file folders in an upright file holder. Label the parts of the system: To Read, Follow-up, and To File.
    • This is not a storage station; papers should be stored in a filing cabinet or in filing boxes, not on your desk. Incoming papers and mail go directly into the "To Read" part of your system. As you have time to read them, you can then sort them into the appropriate "Follow-up" or "To File" part of the system.
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    Sort all the papers from your box into the "To Read" or "Follow-up" bins of your new organizing system, as appropriate. Don't put any papers in the "To File" section; instead, file them away right now. Otherwise you're just reorganizing your clutter.
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    Practice keeping your desk organized. Everything should be in its designated place before you leave work for the day. Starting the day with a clean computer desk will give you a natural springboard into productivity.
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    Keep a small wastebasket near the desk. If recycling is offered in your area, place a small recycle basket or box nearby as well. Place trash or recycle items in the appropriate receptacle, instead of leaving them on your desk.
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    Place a small white-erase board near your desk for writing down notes, to-do tasks or appointments. This helps cut down on the clutter of "self-reminder" sticky notes and papers that tend to accumulate on a busy person's desk. If you need a place to store hard-copy notes, like index cards, purchase a magnetic white-erase board or a combination bulletin board and white-erase board.

Things You'll Need

  • 4 boxes or baskets
  • Sticky notes
  • Pen or pencil
  • White-erase board
  • Small wastebasket

Article Info

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