How to keep your desk clean & organized

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For anyone who has ever had a cubicle desk in a shared office space, you know the feeling of “messy desk” shame as co-workers walk by. A small space gets messy FAST. But what happens when you live in a small space and work from home? Not everyone is fortunate enough to have a dedicated home office, and if you live in a small space, your kitchen table is probably working overtime as your #wfh set up as well. I’m here to let you know that it is possible to keep your desk clean and organized.

Clean and organized desk
Photo credit: Unsplash – Jeff Shelton

Small space living isn’t for everyone. Having a multi-use space means you don’t have the luxury to put things away later. Are you finished eating? Time to do the dishes. Finished working for the day? Time to put your office away. But how do you just put an office… away? And when it’s in use, how do you keep your desk clean and organized?


Organizing your desk may not seem sexy, but what if your workspace was organized, with everything you need, when you need it? Wouldn’t that be nice? Wouldn’t that make your day easier and maybe even save time and let you get your tasks done quicker? Sexy, right?


Organizing typically starts off not so bad and then gets worse before it gets better. This is that very situation. Let’s start by sectioning out zones in your workspace. Take out everything you use related to work, and divide it into the frequency of use:

  • Items used regularly throughout the day
  • Items used daily, but less frequently
  • Items used on a weekly or monthly basis

Once you have all of your items out, set up your desk with everything in your items used regularly pile.


Take a look at your daily set up. Is this everything that you use on a daily basis or are there items you pull out throughout the day? Are there items you don’t actually use throughout the day but are there just in case? If it’s a just in case, put it in your “Daily but less frequent” pile. You should be down to just the essentials, and have your desk looking more organized already.


Items we use daily, but not as often, like staplers or charging cords are still an important part of our workday, we just don’t need them all the time. Simplifying your workspace creates a calmer vibe and ultimately decluttering your small desk will help declutter your mind. Deep stuff, I know.

Put everything that you use daily, but less frequently in a pile. If you don’t use it daily, put it in the Weekly/Monthly pile. Have your piles changed at all? Leave these items together and we’ll get back to them in a bit.

Last but not least, your least frequently used, but still needed items. As with the other zones, reassess the items and decide if these are needed weekly or monthly … or at all? Could those files be scanned and stored electronically? Is a printer a luxury item that’s taking up much needed real estate in your small living space? Some of these items may seem harder to part with as they fall into that just in case scenario. With some thought (and willpower) I am confident you will be able to lighten the load.

Simple Small Space Living blog. Clean organized desk with cup of coffee, keyboard and notebook.
Photo credit: Unslpash – Lukaz Blazek


Organizing the items you need and those you don’t is great, but where is it all supposed to go? Living in a small space and having a flexible workspace doesn’t always make organizing your desk easy. Finding storage solutions may require some creative thinking. Organizing my own small desk workspace took trial and error before I found a solution that worked for me. Organizing small living spaces can feel ever-evolving. If you stick with it, a solution eventually reveals itself, some spaces just take longer than others.

The zones you designated above are also how your items should be stored. Your workspace set up should be an easy grab and go solution. A small box with everything you need works great and keeps everything together for a quick set up. I have an Inbox style system that has everything I need for the day. I also love my Bellroy Tech Kit which organizes all of my tech gear in one place.

Grey Bellroy Teck Kit with all the daily tech necessities.
My Bellroy Tech Kit holds all my daily tech necessities in one place for quick, easy access.

Grouping less frequently used daily items together gives you quick access for when they are needed but keeps them out of the way for when you don’t. If your workspace is like mine, the more minimal the set up the better, and one of the best ways to keep my desk clean and organized.

Keeping your infrequent items stored separately will keep your day-to-day workspace as clutter free as possible. For me, these are all smaller items, and can easily fit into a pouch (like this fun one). Larger items could be stored completely out of the way, and only brought out on the rare occasions they are needed. You may even find that by having them out of sight, means you don’t actually need the item, and can potentially remove it from your space altogether.


Clean organized wooden desk with black chair, small plant. Simple Small Space Living.
Photo credit: Unsplash – Sven Brandsma

When a chef gets ready to plate up for a big banquet, only the necessities are laid out. The meal is typically broken down into minimal movements to keep the process quick, efficient and streamlined. Keeping your desk clean and organized is no different. Setting up only the necessities at the start of your day will not only keep your desk clean and organized but will also result in a more productive day.

2020 saw a staggering rise to approximately 40% of Canadians and 42% of Americans working from home. After 20 years in an office setting, it took me a minute to figure out exactly how to keep my desk clean and organized. Send this post to someone who is struggling to set up their small space living workspace and to keep their desk clean and organized. Drop a comment below with your favourite small desk organization ideas.

Ready to keep organizing? Why not tackle your closet! Read my post “The Top 5 Quick & Simple Small Closet Hacks” to get your space under control.
Simple Small Space Living Blog - The Top 5 Quick and Simple Small Closet Hacks article
Read The Top 5 Quick & Simple Small Closet Hacks


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Hi!  I’m Emily.

I believe that living in a small space leaves room to live more of a life that matters to you.  To not be bogged down with space that needs cleaning and is full of possessions that aren’t meaningful to your story.  I will show you small space ideas to get you organized and make you fall in love with the cozy space you are lucky enough to call home sweet home.

I’m a former event planner turned blogger, living full time in my newly converted campervan, sharing all my favourite hacks and small space living ideas with people just like you!

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