How Messy is Your Desk?

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My husband Eric and I are preparing to downsize to a much smaller home. As we are planning what we will take to our new space, we are getting rid of quite a bit of furniture. One of the most difficult pieces of furniture for me to part with so far has been an antique oak spinet desk. It has a cover that unfolds to reveal many small cubby holes and a writing surface that can be pulled out for more workspace. Although I don’t think I ever used the writing surface or the cubby holes very much, I just loved that desk! Come to think of it, I pretty much love all desks. Maybe it’s because I always loved being a student, and desks reminds me of that time in my life.

I’ve been thinking about all of the different types of desks I have used throughout my life and how much desks have evolved in general. Remember those early desks with a cavity in the side for storage, a built in chair, and a wooden writing surface with a groove for your pencil? While it’s true that desks have changed drastically over the years, they are still an essential part of a functional office space. Whether or not your desk is organized can have a huge bearing on how effectively you work. The true measure of an organized desk isn’t just how it looks, but whether or not it is functional for you. Can you find what you need quickly? Do you have adequate space on which to work?

I use the same steps and principles for organizing a desk and an office as I do for any other space. I start by considering how the space is used and by making an overall plan. The next step is to reduce by removing any unneeded item. When decluttering a desk, if you have time, empty out each drawer and sort the contents into categories, either one at a time or all at once. You may be surprised to discover that you have 3 staplers, 5 pairs of scissors, or more pens than you could ever use in a lifetime! This decluttering step includes removing unnecessary paper. Very few of us go through their paper files frequently enough, so you can probably reduce that paper volume quite a bit. You might also consider scanning some or all of the papers you need to keep, either as a backup to the physical paper or so that you can dispose of the physical paper. Get rid of any item that you don’t need or use now. Be ruthless!

Before placing office supplies back into the desk drawers, take a few minutes to consider what items you use frequently. These frequent use items should be placed in an easy to reach location. If your desk is cluttered, you might consider moving items that you use only occasionally to a different location altogether. It is very helpful to separate drawer contents into categories, especially if the items are small, like paper clips or staples. You can use small boxes, bins, baskets, or trays with divided sections. Although trays can be handy, they’re not always the best choice because the number and size of sections may not be well suited to the drawer’s contents.

When it comes to arranging papers, we all have different needs and preferences. Some people, like me, prefer to have a desk surface with very few items on top and everything else hidden away. Keeping important papers in an alphabetized file system in a file drawer works well for this type of person. When I need a particular paper, I can open the drawer and quickly find the appropriate file. Others need to have everything visible, so keeping important papers in a file drawer doesn’t work for them. In their minds, if they can’t see something, they may forget it’s there. For this person, a good solution might be a tabletop vertical file, a tall tabletop organizer with labeled horizontal slots, or wall-mounted trays or files.

Companies like Workspace Interiors, Inc. that provide office furniture and equipment of all kinds argue that the most important piece of furniture in your office isn’t your desk, but your chair. A comfortable chair that is fitted especially for your needs is essential for your work health. If you are comfortable while you work and you have all of the tools you need organized in a way that works perfectly for you, you are a lot more likely to enjoy your work and to perform your job well.

How messy is your desk? If you work in a business that is a member of the Kingsport Chamber and you have a messy desk, you might want to consider entering our Messiest Desk in the Chamber Contest. I am excited to be partnering with Workspace Interiors for this contest. Here is their description of their company and its products and services:

“Workspace Interiors, Inc., the area’s sole Steelcase dealership, is the leading commercial interiors and furnishings company in the northeast Tennessee and southwest Virginia regions. Our turn-key services include: Office Furniture including ergonomic and organizational worktools, Commercial Interior Design; Technology, Architectural Solutions, Flooring, Branding, just to name a few. Our expertise extends beyond the corporate world by offering solutions for:  Healthcare; Education (K-12); Higher Ed; Hospitality; Retail Banking; Government/GSA; Legal; Industrial/Manufacturing; Home Office, and Outdoor. With WorkLife Centers conveniently located in Kingsport and Knoxville, our goal is to help you make your job easier. Whether you design work spaces, manage them, or work in them — we’re passionate about creating spaces you love to work in.” (

The winner will receive 1 day of free organizing services from Shipshape Solutions and up to $1,000 value of worktools and ergonomic tools from Workspace Interiors. Our goal is to transform a messy office with suboptimal equipment into an organized and comfortable space that lends itself to efficient work. For details, entry requirements, and an application, visit my website at and look under the Messy Desk Contest tab. Applications will be accepted until the end of May 2019. The contest winner’s project, including before and after pictures, will be featured in an upcoming article, as well as on our social media pages. We can’t wait to help transform one lucky Chamber member’s office!

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