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14 Best Ways to Organize Your Home Desk

Messy desk no more! These 14 tips will keep workspace clutter under control.

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Organized deskthe_burtons/Getty Images

Organizing Your Desk

A well-used desk can quickly become a chaotic mess of papers, craft supplies and writing utensils. All that clutter can be distracting, and you’ll waste time searching through piles looking for what you need.

But streamlining your space to be more productive doesn’t have to be a challenge. Begin by paring down to only what you need while working, and finding a better home for everything else. Next, give each item that’s earned its place a clearly labeled storage spot. There will be no question where to return them to as soon as you’re finished using them.

Read on for 14 more in-depth organization ideas for desks used for homework, schoolwork, life management and more. Mix and match to find the ones that will help keep your personal workspace clean and clutter-free.

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HH simple standing deskFamily Handyman

Keep Key Necessities Close

Create convenient, front-and-center storage for your most often-used items. You should be able to reach for standards like pencils, paper clips, tape, scissors and paper without interrupting the flow of work or learning. Grab what you need, use it, then return it to the right spot just as easily.

If your desk lacks a drawer or doesn’t have enough of them, you can add one. Also, a double-duty monitor riser will not only lift your screen to a more comfortable eye level but offer lots of storage in a compact footprint. You can also build yourself a desktop table. And remember that containers that sit out can be pretty and pretty functional, like this desktop organizer.

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Add a Trash Can

One of the biggest sources of a messy desk can be leftover scraps of paper and other random trash just waiting to be dealt with. Prevent it from piling up with a compact trash and/or recycling bin tucked under your desk, not across the room — even that extra, seemingly simple step of getting up can be a real hindrance. A mini desktop trash helps, too, especially if it’s nice to look at. (There are small and sleek options, too.)

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Go Vertical

Making use of space around the desk is especially helpful if desktop space is limited. Take to the walls with an organizer that’s just your style, whether that means a small storage center, an organizational pegboard or wall pockets made for papers and files. You’ll keep what you need within reach and your desktop remains clutter-free in the process.

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Create a Satellite Workstation

Sometimes it’s nice to have a change of scenery. Other times it’s a necessity, for privacy reasons. Creating an organized on-the-go option gives you the freedom to move about, whether from room to room or even outside.

Young kids can take everything they need in a colorful caddy with lots of compartments. Older kids can stash supplies inside a portable laptop desk. And grownups can use the office-in-a-bag tote to keep it all together when working between locations. And if you’re regularly taking meetings in your car — maybe to ensure there are no interruptions? — consider a handy mobile car desk with a slot for file folders.

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Skip the Scraps

Reserve the sticky notes and scratch paper for doodling or working out math problems. All that extra paper can make a mess of any desk. Using an inexpensive paperless notepad is a great alternative. And because it’s battery-operated, you’ll have one less cord to manage. Boogie Boards links to its mobile app, too, allowing you to capture the screen for helpful saves, edits and shares.

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Container Score

Storage bins are a smart organizer’s best friend for their ability to beautifully contain and store, and tidying up a workplace is no exception. Conceal clutter, such as spare computer cables and even printer paper, in decorative boxes. Just remember to add a label so you know what’s tucked inside. For kids, use multicolored bins to color-code categories of supplies or school subjects. (Building association by color helps them find it that much faster.)

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Select Smart Lighting

Task lighting is key to a comfortable work environment, but that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice workspace. Wall-mount sconces and stylish clamp-on lamps do the trick while keeping your desktop clear. Another route: A multifunction task lamp that earns its spot. The Wanjiaone LED Desk Lamp has storage space, a clock/calendar and a USB charging port, so you won’t need another clutter-causing cable on the desk. It’s all in a footprint that’s fewer than five square inches.

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Office supplies on shelvesfotostok_pdv/Getty Images

Set Up a Supply Area

Instead of keeping that pack of highlighters, six rolls of tape and three reams of paper in your desk, dedicate a bin or slice of shelf elsewhere for supplies. Keep it stocked to avoid a last minute dash to the store (or long waits to receive it by mail).

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Hang Your Headset

Headphones are helpful for privacy during virtual meetings or for cancelling out background noise while you work, but leaving them on your desk only adds to the disarray. Give your headset a dedicated storage space, whether mounted on your wall or clamped to your desk. This one doubles as a charging station and has space for two sets.

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Bring Back the Blotter

A desk blotter helps beautify and organize your workspace. Commit to keeping the pad surface tidied — being able to see the blotter helps ensure success. Good ones protect your desktop, too, and are easy to wipe down.

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Dedicate Paper Space

A reoccurring avalanche of papers isn’t just an eyesore; it increases the chances of lost documents and missed deadlines. Prevent it with two key necessities: A clear spot to house incoming and in-play papers — this under-desk paper tray considers other family members, too — plus a filing system that works for you.

A well-labeled expandable file certainly does the trick, but a tickler file system takes it a step further. Tabs labeled January through December with numbered days of each month let you file things away for the future, whether that’s tomorrow, next week or months from now. Just be sure to check it daily.

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Stop Project Pileup

Does your desk tend to be overrun with all the pieces to a project you meant to get back to? Consider creating a project bin containing all mid-project tools and materials, so you can clean it up and tuck it away temporarily. When you’re ready to dig back in, whether that’s the next morning or next week, all you need is right there and ready.

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Prevent Dropped Cords

Charging cables are a constant source of annoyance, whether they’ve cluttered the desk, turned into a jumbled mess or dropped to the floor after unplugging. Solve all three problems with a simple, inexpensive cable management system. Whether clip-in or rack style, it keeps them all secure and tucked away, yet still at the ready.

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Organizing papersWestend61/Getty Images

Make Time to Tidy Daily

Tidying up at the end of a busy work or school day is the key to maintaining desk organization. Build an extra few moments into the schedule to put things back where they belong. Make it a habit. It ensures every day starts on a clutter-free note.