Now that you have an immaculate desktop in your computer, we need to work on your desktop in meatspace. Anyone who uses a computer for work or at home most likely has a space dedicated to their computer. Laptops, desktops, iMacs, or even paper notebooks, drills, hammers, and hair dryers. Whatever you use, the area surrounding you probably has a few more items on it than you'd prefer. That pile of tax-related papers here. Three plates and a cup from the last couple days of late-nighters there. Countless pens and pencils. Some crumbs from that crispy crostini you nibbled on for lunch. Over time, this mass of stuff builds and builds until you give in to the battle and stop trying altogether. This is nothing to be ashamed about though; there is still hope for you. We can get through this together. Take my hand.
First off, this article is aimed at tackling a messy desk, but will also include best practices for maintaining desks that are already tidy. As a minimalist, I strive to have the absolute least amount of stuff in my surroundings. With less distraction, I am able to focus more on the tasks at hand. This isn't to say that this is the 'correct' way to do it. Many of the great minds of our time absolutely thrived in some levels of chaos. Check out this article to see how Steve Jobs, Einstein, and many others operated. We're a different breed here at The Minimal Minute, though. So let's dive in.
Before you start moving things around and organizing, you should decide what the purpose of your desk is. What are the things you use it for? For computer-focused jobs, your list might look like this:
- Accessing your computer comfortably
- Listening to music
- Writing notes and drawing sketches on real life paper
- Answering calls on the office phone
- Reading articles on The Minimal Minute
Whatever it is, take a minute to think about it and narrow it down to just the essentials. Let's say that you use Post-It's sometimes, but not often enough to garner a spot on your visible desktop. That wouldn't be on this list then.
Once you understand the purpose of your desk better, you can get started organizing!
Cleaning Up Your Act
When getting started, you must give yourself permission to go nuts. Don't worry about placement just yet. Instead, we need to get everything out in the open. If there's a pile of anything anywhere, bring it front and center. For the things you know you'll keep on your desk, such as your keyboard, mouse, and computer, push them back and out of the way.
Don't just move things around on your desk. Ideally, you'll take out everything in all of your drawers and cabinets to put onto your desk. If there are size restraints, you can do this in chunks. Once you've uprooted your stuff, you should look at everything and mentally build out some categories.
- Pens and pencils
- Screen cleaners and wipes
- USB and charging cables
- Envelopes and stamps
- Gadgets and thumb drives
- Installation DVDs
- Condiments and vitamins
- Assorted nuts
- Emergency hygiene tools (fingernail clippers, nail files, baby wipes, floss, deodorant, eye drops, etc)
Your list will obviously differ, but once you make these piles, you can arrange each pile by type. So from my list, paperwork, notebooks, pens, pencils, folders, and envelopes are all related and should live near each other. Same goes for headphones, gadgets, thumb drives, and cables.
During this whole process, you should be more than willing to throw away or sell as much as possible. Or put it back in the mail room.
A New Home
Once your piles are slimmed down as much as possible, we must distribute! The best thing I have found for small item storage are those little under-desk drawers. Super efficient use of space while maximizing organizational potential. Ideally you won't need drawer organizers because you shouldn't load them up with that much stuff in the first place. My drawers look like such:
- Top Drawer - easy access items. Fingernail clippers, tweezers, cuticle scissors, Post-Its, papers, screen cleaners, business cards.
- Second Drawer - power and data. All sorts of USB cables, charging cables, wall warts.
- Third Drawer - headphones! I currently have three pairs of headphones in there. Accessive, I know, but two of them are up on Craigslist right now. Below the headphones are manilla folders and envelopes.
- Fourth Drawer - gadgets. Rugged camera, Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera, like a dozen thumb drives, installation DVDs, batteries, one halogen light bulb, an external Blu-Ray reader/DVD burner.
- Fifth and Final Drawer - food and hygiene...?! Salt, pepper, vitamins, almonds, tissues, deodorant, floss, toothpaste, mint strips, nail file, tongue scraper, hair gel, contact solution, toothbrush, spare underwear.
Well that got personal quickly. Anyway, that's my current drawer organization. It's not perfect, but because it's been the same way for over a year, I always know exactly where all of the things are.
After you have everything tucked away in its place, get some cleaning spray and go to down on your desk surface. Your immune system will thank you.
You may have noticed I didn't talk much about parsing through paperwork, which is often the worst offender. If you have loads and loads of papers, check out my article about getting rid of clutter. I go through a bunch of additional sections, one of which focuses on different types of paperwork and how we can get rid of them. Forever!
What Does Your Desk Look Like?
I reached out to my friends to get a sense of what an 'average desk' looks like. The responses were more enlightening than I expected! Lots of large monitors, organized spaces, and a couple cool workshops. Rock on for making your spaces your own! Click the images to see them in their full glory!