pens, tape, rubber bands, hole punch reinforcements tangled in messy desk drawer

Is Your Desk Drawer Organized Enough?

So, I’m working with a client and we’re organizing office supplies. We’re looking at the desk drawer and it’s stuffed full of paperclips and tape, push pins and address labels. The scissors might be in there somewhere but it’s hard to tell. We take everything out and do the decluttering thing. Do you love this, does it make you smile? Do you use this? Does this still work? You have four of these, which is your favorite?

Then it’s time to organize the drawer. Finally! This is it! The Organization part. It’s time to fill the complicated desk drawer dividers, which sometimes separate one desk drawer into 13 separate little sections. Clients are sometimes surprised when I take out the dividers and suggest we add them to the “donate” pile. Why am I removing these fabulous organizing tools? Look how pretty! All the little compartments.

Sure, we could spend 20 minutes finding a slot big enough to hold the stapler, putting the little paper clips in one spot and the big ones in another. Designating separate cubbies for different sized binder clips.

But let’s get real — are you going to go through that laborious sorting process every time you need a piece of tape or a pencil? Probably not. Most likely, you’re going to grab what you need and then shove it back in there when you tidy up.

So, let’s make sure you only have what you need in there. Yes, the address labels are cute, but either put them with the envelopes or better yet, toss them. You can write your return address on an envelope in half the time (conservatively) it takes to find a label.

Ditch the supplies you never use. The white-out tape that you’ve never quite mastered how to use. The pencil leads for the mechanical pencil you can’t find. The cute but odd-sized post-it notes that have seen way better days. Pens that don’t write or worse, that write erratically. The ones you have to scribble on a piece of paper to get going each time.

Put back the things you use. Put them all in the drawer. Test it out: if you open the drawer, and reach for the scissors, are they easy to find? How about the glue sticks? Is your pen easy to grab? If you have to put things on top of each other, the drawer’s too small or you’re trying to put too much stuff in there. Can the pens go in a cup on top of the desk? Can you go through the contents a second time and see if anything you don’t use snuck in there?

The goal is to be organized enough. Which is to say, to arrange your things so you have easy access to the things you need, it’s easy to put things away and it won’t seduce you into trying to maintain a level of organization which no one outside of a magazine photo shoot can keep up with.  Life’s too short to sort binder clips by size.


  1. I have to disagree about the return address labels – I can always find those right away, even though I hardly send any mail anymore. On the other hand, every time I go through my desk drawer (or other areas of my home) I discover items that I forgot I even owned. Those I can (usually) get rid of.

What say you?