Desk organization ideas – 11 ways to enhance your productivity when working from home
Try our desk organization ideas to make your workspace efficient and clutter-free
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If you're struggling to concentrate or stay productive for long when working from home, you're probably in need of some good desk organization ideas. A messy workspace leads to distraction, while a neat and orderly room or desk allows you to stay calm and be more focused. Plus, an office desk isn't all about aesthetics; it’s also about function.
Piles of paper, stray stationery, sticky notes, folders, surplus home tech and more can start dominating your office if you aren't careful. With home office ideas like drawers, shelves, peg boards, and more, much of the chaos can be controlled. We spoke to designers and stylists to get the best desk organizing ideas, for both a tidy desk and tidy mind.
11 desk organization ideas that really work
1. Choose long open shelving for easy access and referencing
If you have a small home office, clutter can be your biggest enemy, making the room look even smaller and chaotic. Swipe all the knick-knacks off your desk and keep a clean space. Only display well-chosen, edited, and currently-in-use items on your open shelves for ease of access.
'It was important that we were able to meet our clients varied needs while designing this custom desk area in what was formerly an empty, awkward landing at the top of the main staircase of the house,' says interior designer Sandra Fox (opens in new tab). 'We created long, open shelving to store the myriad of books that our client wanted to be able to access and reference easily. This collection of colorful books sparked the vintage feel for the desk area.'
'When we decided to add a custom desk area in an unused corner of our client's great room we knew that it needed to be small but mighty,' says Sandra. 'It was important that this space flowed seamlessly with the nearby kitchen with its contemporary flat-front drawers and thick floating shelves in a matching custom-stained white oak. Matching banks of drawers were the perfect solution; one drawer for each member of the family. Now, mom and dad can easily find what they need without having to worry about their son's endless supplies of arts and crafts supplies. And the floating shelves above will surely be filled with said crafts shortly.''
2. Add a custom built-in desk with drawers
If you don't have an entire room to dedicate to a workspace, desk ideas with built-in drawers can transform a zone to become the office space when you need it and hide all of the clutter when you don't want to look at it. Choose ones that look sleek and have automated locking systems, especially useful if you have kids at home or deal with sensitive documents.
If you working on a renovation, consult with a joiner to design the best unit with smart shelves. Measure the depth of your books so that you can scale them accordingly.
'Our client was looking to create a private office area, away from the family living areas, that could be used by both working parents as well as guests,' says interior designer Kimberley Harrison (opens in new tab). 'The challenge was to take an existing guest room closet and convert part of it into an office nook that was both functional and blended well with the aesthetics of the home.'
'We installed a custom built-in desk with easy drawers and maximized the wall space by adding open shelves, which gives a modern look and allows our clients to display fun items like plants, photos, and their favorite books,' says Kimberly. 'The wallpaper blends well with the guest bedroom color scheme and provides a nice contrast to the neutral wood without being distracting.'
3. If there's space, add an extra table to spread out the work
To work from home effectively, reduce the visual noise on your desk. Just looking at piles of papers and overstuffed files can be stressful as these are constant reminders of the work that is pending. If your job is such that you need to look at several papers, files, and more at the same time, divide the work area up so you have a clear view, and the clutter is handled.
If the room is large enough, bringing in another desk or table is a great home office organization idea. Use the two to spread out your work. At the end of the day, as you clean up and put things back to where they belong, the extra table can double up as a decorative one, used to place fresh flowers and candles, giving the office a zen feeling.
'This is our clients light filled his and hers offices in their Sonoma retreat,' says Katie McCaffrey, founder and principal designer at McCaffrey Design (opens in new tab). 'The rooms, across the main hall from each other, reflect each homeowners personality. His office looks to the gardens at the front and hers to the spacious vineyards and olive grove to the back.'
4. Take the storage up to the ceiling
Often when thinking of storage ideas for modern offices, we forget to look up and consider the dimensions, and therefore functionality of the room in its entirety. If you have loads of office supplies, folders, and papers, plus if this space also serves other members of the family, it's worth taking the storage cabinets to the ceiling.
While this will add plenty more storage to the area, to ensure the room doesn't feel too closed in with the bulky storage, merge the color of the shelves with the wall. This will help it blend in better, creating lighter visuals.
'To make this space truly functional, we made sure there was a drawer that fit hanging files (the must of any home office) as well as fit the dimensions of her favorite, but unsightly, printer hidden behind doors,' says Sandra. 'Smaller accent drawers were added to visually break up some of the larger door areas and allow for easy access to writing utensils and post-it notes galore. In addition, we kept the top of this floor-to-ceiling custom desk space open so that it wouldn't feel too top-heavy and overwhelming – and also allow our client to continue to grow her book collection if needed.'
5. Create your perfect desk storage with a modular system
A Vitsoe shelving system (opens in new tab) is a modular storage structure built on a track and pin. Shelves, cabinets, desks, and tables are hung from e-tracks by adding the pins into position, using no tools. The system ideal for apartment offices can be configured into any room and dimensions. The entire system can be removed and taken to any other room or home.
'As a family of four living in just under 1,700 square feet, having separate but adjacent “hubs" has proven essential in managing business and personal lives,' says Julie Goldman of J.Latter Design (opens in new tab). 'The thin drawers hold (frequently hard to find) items like extra phone cables and stamps and measuring tapes. The deeper drawers hold personal and work files.'
'When I first purchased this Vistoe system, we had a farm table desk between the two file drawers that projected into the room,' says Julie. 'As our lifestyle changed, I moved the farm table to my studio and added the side-by-side workstations in the center. While we rarely, if ever, sit here together, the system has worked beautifully for us. The flexibility to reconfigure the design or to take it with us if we move made it worth every nickel.'
6. Install screens into a wall recess for a neat look
For the best desk set-up, it's ideal to hide all the gadgets away or allot them a specific space for display. Keep all the wires inside drawers, push them behind desks and for the screens, find a nook to install them.
'This office was designed for a client who has been working from home since long before the pandemic,' says Greg Howe, founding partner of Searl Lamaster Howe (opens in new tab). 'Serving as his primary workspace, the function was the utmost priority. Working within the financial sector, it was a given that multiple monitors would be needed. another given was the nonstop evolution in technology.'
'The monitors of today would be replaced at some point; by what is unknown,' Greg adds. 'Therefore, the wall at the workspace was detailed with a generously spaced recess. Cladding it in ebonized oak allowed for the current and future black-framed monitors to melt into the background.'
7. Bring in a movable stool to serve as an extra surface area
Short on storage? Take a walk around your kitchen, bathroom, or craft supplies and find things you can use to add more functionality to the room. Case in point: a movable stool.
Small stools are good for keeping what you need handy; they also add interest to your home office. Grab a stool that matches the vibe of your office, or even the home office paint ideas, perhaps add a tray on it and you've got yourself a handy surface to keep your mug, pens, or books.
8. Rely on your trusty storage baskets
For anyone who has caught the home organizing bug, they know that storage boxes are the answer to most clutter issues. These look pretty and discreetly hide miscellaneous things that usually don't have a home. Think remotes, batteries, clips, adaptors, etc. Label them so you know exactly where to find these little nifty things.
Another great addition to home office organizers is storage racks, that can be placed behind or next to the desk. These serve as open storage units and can be used as a bookshelf, a rack for plants, and more. What's better, if you find one with wheels, you can move it around the house and put it to multiple uses.
9. Use a pinboard to clear your desk
Pegboards or pinboards are especially useful to clear your desk of important papers that you need to keep close at hand. Adding a desk and a wall-mounted pegboard system will create an instant office that isn’t short on storage. Plus, the board is the ultimate tool for organizing your work and staying on top of things.
Use this board to add your to-do lists, WIP sheets, swatches (if you're a designer), and more. Feel the space lacking color and inspiration? Use it as a gallery wall to hang art.
10. Go for desks with wireless built-in chargers
The more plugged in you are, the more efficient you will be. But more gadgets also mean lots of trailing cables and bulky switchboards, making your home office look like a busy, chaotic IT hub.
It's best to invest in a smart wireless charging desk, that displays a sleek mid-century style with solid wood tapered legs and concealed soft close drawer at the front. And, is pre-installed with discreet built-in technology, incorporating QI fast wireless charging (with an 8mm charging distance), so you can plug in your smartphones, earphone charging cases, smartwatches and laptops on it.
A few smart desks also offer two USB ports and an AUX port for extra connectivity.
11. Install a wall swivel-arm lamp for optimum lighting
In the home office that requires a lot more focus-intensive work, choose a well-defined light source to reduce eye strain. Bring in an articulated lamp with a swivel arm, and install it on the wall. This will be especially helpful if you have multiple workstations, for example, a desk, a computer, an iPad, a filing area, and a table, so you can move the lamp around where you need it.
Make this room the most relaxing space with a tall standing lamp too, for mood lighting when you're not reading or doing focused tasks. Plus, a sofa – in fact top designers are now following this trend that makes the office a much more creative space.
How do I organize my desk stationery?
Bring in small containers as these are the perfect place to stow your small office supplies. Label each box, so you know exactly where each thing is. For items such as pens and pencils, consider using mason jars. You can stack these inside drawers so this style is organized even within the storage units.
Rolling carts are a great way to store extra office supplies; plus these can be wheeled in and out as per your need. Hang an organizer on the back of a door or the side of your office wall for added office supply storage.
Don't forget shelving ideas for all your larger office needs. Choose open shelves for keeping books, records, and folders, and closed ones for the unsightly objects such as scissors, staplers, glue guns, etc.
Aditi Sharma Maheshwari is an architecture and design journalist with over 10 years of experience. She's worked at some of the leading media houses in India such as Elle Decor, Houzz and Architectural Digest (Condé Nast). Till recently, she was a freelance writer for publications such as Architectural Digest US, House Beautiful, Stir World, Beautiful Homes India among others. In her spare time, she volunteers at animal shelters and other rescue organizations.
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