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Disorganized Desk Syndrome


“Disorganized Desk Syndrome” can affect all of us. When you are practically diving into piles of paper to find what you are looking for, and the floor surrounding your desk is even cluttered with “stuff”, something needs to be done!

Tip One - Get an Inbox
A proper physical inbox is a must for keeping an organized desk! It’s there to keep anything entering your desk in one place, looking neat and tidy ready to be organized later. At one stage, my whole desk acted as my inbox (as well as the floor around it when things got really bad), with everything just being piled on top of what already lay on it.

Tip Two - Set up a “student filing system”
As students, we haven’t got the need for a full filing system, it’s just an overkill and wastes precious space in our work area. We do still need somewhere to file things though, what I’ve found works best is a large arch-lever folder with dividers in for each category. This keeps everything filed away, without taking up too much space.

Tip Three - Organize how to arrange your school notes
If there is one thing I produce a lot of, it is lesson notes! Everyone has different systems for organizing notes; whether it’s individual folders for each subject, one big folder with dividers in or notebooks, the possibilities are endless. Leaving notes laying around your desk is not a solution however; and for the sake of your desk, find the system that works best for you as soon as possible!


Tip Four - If you are not a regular filer, add a “To File” tray on top of your inbox
I know that I don’t file regularly unless it is necessary, there is often useful tasks that I could be doing and therefore, I batch all my filing so that it becomes more productive, and usually do it every couple of days. If you buy into this “batch processing” mentality, then have a “To File” tray as well as an inbox tray. This means that when you get to filing, the papers aren’t all across your desk, they are all in one place.

Tip Five - Get a stationary holder
Whether it’s pens, pencils or paper, there are two problems people often have here. You can either never find them, or they are dotted all over your desk! Buying stationary holders not only keeps your desk looking tidy, but also improves your productivity by making it easier to find what you are looking for.

Tip Six - Invest in a good quality desk
If possible, buy a stylish looking desk that you really like the look of. It’s all psychological, but if you like the look of your desk, then you are more motivated to keep it presentable so that you and others can see how stylish it looks.

What tips do you have for curbing the clutter on and around your desk? Share them with us in the comments section below.

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7 Responses to “Disorganized Desk Syndrome”

  1. David Pierce says:

    One thing that’s helped me a LOT is keeping a trash can next to my desk. It’s a subtle hint, and an easy way, to throw away all the stuff I collect, most of which I don’t need. Things I need, I either file or scan onto my computer, and everything else gets thrown away. Having the trash can right there keeps my desk much more clear, and my trash man much busier.

  2. Kit says:

    To add to what David Pierce said, you can also keep a trashbin for paper recycling. This is something very useful to keep by your printer.

    I also believe in Tip 6 about investing in a good desk that you like. For me this year I have a new apartment that I moved in to over the summer, but it wasn’t until august that I went desk hunting. Where I ended up buying was from Home Decorators ( My first requirement was for a desk that would go with the rest of my furniture, and then it had to be of good size. I wanted enough room for my desktop and my laptop, as well as extra space for work. The desk I got also came with a slide-out keyboard holder, which alot of desks have. Since I prefer to use my desktop keyboard right on the desk, I instead used the keyboard holder for a place for my laptop.

    A picture of my setup:

  3. Kim says:

    What really worked for me was to get some clear file folders which is just a 8-1/2 x 11 inch folded sheet of plastic sealed at the bottom. Open on two sides. Every time I get new material related to something I write on I simply file it in one of the clear file folders. Being they are clear it is easy to see which one to use.
    This system is easy for every day filing and the clear file folders was inexpensive I think it was around $5 for 25 pieces from

  4. Carl Hickson says:

    David Pierce, are you partially/fully paperless in your office then? I’d love to hear about how this works for you, it is something I have considered in the past but I think it would be simply impossible, given the substantial volume of handouts I get as a student!

    Kit, nice set up! I must say the desk looks amazing. I like your idea about separate bins for recycling, that is what piles up at times because there is no separate bin, it waits to be carried out to the recycle bin until it is disposed of.

    Thanks for the comments.

  5. Thank you for the post, but I doubt that it will work for me since I can hardly stick to any plan. If you were to see my desk you’d bet that it has been hit by a tsunami several times before. Lol!

  6. David Pierce says:


    Paperless is the goal, but it’s a long, LONG process. I get a ton of handouts as well, and am constantly in the process of reducing the amount of paper I use. The way I do it right now is that if it’s something I’m likely to need more than once in the future (i.e. more than just to study for a test) I scan it into my computer, and save it that way. If I’m only going to need to look back once, for a paper or test, I file it, and then throw it away when I’m done with it. I’m not great at sticking with it, but it’s worked for me really well. I’m much more organized on my computer than off it, and keeping things there has been huge.

  7. alexa says:

    I agree with the clear-desk rule. Even if there’s no item-locating to be done, I still can’t work as well when I’m distracted by a messy desk/house/life. I need some order so I can focus. And it sucks when I’m so busy I don’t have time to keep up with the papers, etc. on my work space, and I then have to spend precious work time cleaning so I can think clearly. Dealing with items as they come across my desk and not putting them ff until later seems to help keep the clutter and the distracting sense of things-undone to a minimum.