Simple Ways To Keep Your Desk Clean and Tidy

A clean desk is a beautiful thing. A crisp workspace where you can get stuff done or just relax. 

I’ve made a huge effort in the last few years to keep my desk clean. Sometimes it gets out of hand, but I put systems in place that make it worthwhile to keep clean.

Here’s what my clean and tidy workspace looks like these days:

aothia desk shelf with ultrawide monitor on desk

In this article, I’m going to show you the benefits of a clean and tidy desk, actionable ways you can clean your desk, and how to keep it clean in the long run.

Here are the main reasons you should follow through with keeping your desk clean today:

  • Less stuff goes missing
  • Becomes a distraction-free workspace
  • Your desk is always ready
  • Improves productivity
  • Your desk just looks better!

Let’s get started!

Keep A Positive Mindset

First things first, don’t beat yourself up if you have a messy desk. Everyone has a different priority system in their lives and that’s okay. 

We need to approach cleaning our desks with good vibes only, however! This way we don’t build it up in our heads as a huge mental chore.

So put on some music and go through the motions. Get excited that you’re going to make your workspace look clean and inviting.

Simple Ways To Clean Up Your Desk

Let’s talk about the best ways to clean up your desk that actually help you keep your desk clean as well.

Start With A Clean Slate

If you don’t know where to start, I encourage folks to start with a clean slate. I mean that literally! This will take a bit longer, but you only do this step once.

Clear off your desk so you have nothing on top. Now you can clean your desk surface completely.

ikea alex drawer desk with solid oak top
My IKEA drawer desk cleared off for a thorough wipe-down.

Grab your favorite household cleaner and give your desk a good wipe-down. Chances are, you haven’t done this to your desk in a while and there is a lot of dust and markings on the surface.

Now that we have a clean slate to work with, let’s go on to the next step.

Only Leave Out What You Need

Before you place everything back on your desk, try this. Only place the essential items on your desk that you actually use every day.

That means your monitor, computer speakers, desk mat, keyboard, mouse, etc. Just the absolute bare minimum. (I recommend dusting or cleaning each item before placing it back on your clean desk).

minimal desk setup flexispot E7 standing desk

Once you have the bare minimum on your desk, you should have a pretty minimalistic-looking workspace. This is great, but a little boring.

That’s why the next step is to add personalizations to the desk. This could be a plant, a family photo, etc. Try not to crowd your desk at this step though. One or two items here can keep your desk minimal and unique to you.

What you want to avoid doing is placing a ton of random items on top of your desk that don’t get used often. This is exactly how desks can become cluttered very quickly.

One not-so-important item sitting on your desk can invite a lot more not-so-important items.

We only need the essentials plus anything we use every day on our desks. The result is a pretty clean and minimal desk setup that is efficient to use for everyday tasks.

This brings us to our next section.

Designate a “Secondary Items” Location

Anything that you use often, but not daily, deserves an easy access location that is not on top of your desk. An out of sight, but still convenient location.

This could be a drawer set or a nearby organizer. Anything that is quick to get to, but stores the items without a huge visual burden. 

I find myself having a ton of items in my “secondary” locations. This includes the IKEA ALEX drawers that I have next to my desk.

Legroom at underneath desk

I have a ton of useful stuff in my drawers that I can’t live without. That includes charging cables, pens, paper, a box cutter, power banks, glasses, a calculator, and more. 

I don’t use these items every day, but I barely have to move when I need to get to them. They are also out of sight and not crowding and cluttering my desk setup. 

Give yourself a secondary item location and make it accessible. If you like IKEA ALEX-style drawer sets, check out our article on ALEX drawer alternatives.

Give Everything A Home

This is a very important step when getting your desk organized. Everything you own needs a home. This is a designated location where that item lives. 

For example, if your pens and pencils live in their pencil cup or pencil tray you know where to look when you need one. When your items have a designated spot, this makes finding things quick and painless.

Critically, this also means that when you are done using an item, you know exactly where to put it. This is key to keeping your desk clutter-free.

Here’s a graphic from our article on high-efficiency drawer organization tips:

How-To-Organize-Desk-Drawers-1

Use Organizational Tools

This brings us to the last item in keeping your desk clean: use organizational tools! Organizational tools tie in the the previous step of giving everything a home.

Organizational tools take the mess off of your desk and give it some structure. My favorite organizational tools include desk shelves for desktops and drawer organizers for drawers.

I included links to the products I use underneath the images of my desk setup.

ultrawide monitor on desk with desk shelf
Desk shelf under my ultrawide monitor
Aothia Large Dual Monitor Desk Shelf
4.5
Pros:
  • Comes in three wood grain colors
  • Made with real poplar wood
  • Supports up to 100 lbs.
  • 43 inch by 9.4 inch surface
  • Affordable compared to other wood desk shelves of the same size
Cons:
  • Cork legs are not the prettiest
Check Price On Amazon
drawer organizers shown in foreground with desk in background
Drawer organizer in ALEX drawers
Felt Drawer Organizer Tray, 8 Pack
4.7

Organize your drawers with this rectangular tray made of felt material that maintains its shape and prevents sliding. With 8x felt drawer organizers in 4 sizes, you can fit and nest them within each other to store almost everything in drawers.

Check Price on Amazon

If you are willing to spend more, you can get some beautiful organizational tools from boutique companies like Grovemade or Oakywood.

They both offer beautiful and high-quality desk organizational accessories. I like to browse their websites just for some clean desk inspiration. 

Black Clamp-on Desk Pegboard
4.6

This clamp-on magnetic pegboard attaches to your desk for easy instant organization and installs in seconds with no drilling needed. It includes built-in storage with hooks, a designer box, a hook for fat markers, a space for Post-it notes, a long shelf, and more pegboard holes for organizing.

Check Price on Amazon

Another organizational tool that can make a huge difference is pegboard organizers. We have a dedicated article on why pegboard organizers are worth it.

Pegboards are great if you want to put some of your items on display while using vertical space. This keeps your desk clear.

There are a ton of organizational tools out there. Everyone will want a different setup for their own desk functionality & aesthetic goals.

If you don’t have a drawer set and don’t want to spend a ton, check out desk-mountable drawers that you can add right under your desk!

Hidden Under Desk Drawer Organizer
4.0

This desk drawer attachment is perfect for organizing your desk and saving space. With strong self-adhesive, it can hold up to 11lbs. The larger capacity can hold a variety of items, and it's easy to install without needing to drill into your desk.

Check Price on Amazon

How To Maintain Your Clean Desk

With the above tips, we should have a clean and organized desk. At least for the moment. How do we keep it that way? 

This last section is going to be about maintaining that clean desk for the long run. After all, the end goal is keeping your desk clean.

Put Things In Their Home

We introduced a bunch of organizational tools and gave everything on our desk a home in the previous section. Now all you have to do is ensure everyone makes it home. 

At the end of the day, everything should go back to the home that you designed for them.

If you find that your items are too much of a hassle to put back in your home, you might have to change that home to be more convenient.

Dial in the location of your items over a few weeks. Soon enough you’ll find it is faster to put stuff away! 

Opt For Quick & Frequent Cleanings

If you let weeks and weeks build up without cleaning your desk, the task becomes monumental, which makes you want to procrastinate more. I have to remind myself of this every once in a while.

Opt for more frequent short desk cleanings rather than waiting for a mess to build up into a giant cleaning job.

It takes a quick minute or two to tidy up your desk at the end of each day. I would gladly choose a 2-minute job over a 1-hour job less often. Especially if you don’t like the motions of cleaning. 

Daily Cleaning Is Quick

How long does it really take to clean up a single day’s mess? Chances are, it is pretty dang fast if you don’t let the mess build up over time. 

Putting pens, papers, mail, and notes away from a single day’s work takes me around a minute or so. Because we designed our desks to have convenient homes for everything, cleaning becomes super quick. 

Desk Dusters (1)

When you have the mindset that a single day’s mess is quick to clean up, you are also less likely to put it off. If it only takes a minute or two every day, why wouldn’t you do it?

The mental switch here is pretty powerful when you realize it’s actually easy once you have the organizational systems in place.

Realize that you can make the tradeoff of short daily cleaning instead of building up a monumental mess. 

Tidy Up As You Go

You don’t have to wait until the end of the day to tidy up, however. As you move from one task to another, put stuff away that is no longer needed.

Tidying up as you go can help you maintain focus on the next task at your desk. This makes the cleaning at the end of the day super minimal.  

Use The 5 Second Rule

If you are still finding it hard to get yourself to just start the cleaning process, try the 5-second rule. I got this tip from Mel Robbins. She actually has

based on this rule. 

Basically, if you are dreading the task, just count down from 5, and just go. It is a helpful trick to do every so often.

It also is one of those tricks you don’t want to overuse to the point that it loses its strength. Just add it to the toolbox of mindset shifts. 

Know that cleaning will only take a minute or two, and just start. 

Get Inspired With Desk Setups

This last tip helps me immensely, I love a good-looking desk setup.

I am constantly browsing r/workspaces on Reddit. The desk setups are so clean and it always inspires me to make my workspace look that good.

On Reddit, you can see and post comments on people’s setups. This can help you learn more and improve your own desk space with the community. Pinterest is also a great place to check out desk setups

dual alex drawer desk setup with herman miller sayl

Constantly striving to improve not only the look of your desk but the functionality of your desk helps too. Improving the functionality just makes it a more pleasurable place to work.

After implementing various productivity desk setup tips, I almost dread working when I’m not at my desk. My desk now just makes me so much more efficient.

Reasons You Should Keep Your Desk Clean

Why should we even keep our desks clean in the first place? Turns out, there are a ton of reasons.

Here are some of the major benefits of keeping your workspace tidy at all times. These reasons are all true for me when I have a clean workspace. 

Less Stuff Goes Missing

When you have a clean and organized workspace, you just know where everything is, and you know where everything goes.

This is probably my favorite side effect of staying organized. I just know where everything is located when I need it. 

I used to always misplace things, and that was back when I never gave anything a home. Once everything has a home, you start getting used to placing items in those specific places. 

Think about how much time you spend looking for things that are misplaced. Staying organized with a clean desk will give you some time back.

Keeps Your Desk Aesthetically Pleasing

I never used to care about how my desk looked. How things have changed…

Ever since I started browsing r/workspaces on Reddit, I have been all about making my desk as awesome and inviting as possible. 

Some people like the “gamer” look with RGB LEDs everywhere. Others want just a minimal desk with a laptop. Some like having plants all around their computers. 

alex drawer desk setup without computer tower on desk
rgb LED backlit workspace with lights behind monitor

Here are some of the top-voted workspace images from the subreddit linked above:

Floor Setup – (Check out our article on Japanese Floor Desks)

Cozy Corner Setup With Shelves

Minimal L-Shape Desk Setup

Find out what type of desk setups resonate with you. There is a unique setup for everyone based on the colors and functionality they want. 

Clean Desks Give You Better Focus

Clutter can be very distracting. It is an endless pit of distraction actually, which is dangerous if you need to get some work done. 

Anything on your desk is a quick glance away from a full-on derailment of your focus. I can tell you from experience that a ton of clutter on my desk makes me very inefficient.

Staying focused and on task when working ultimately gives you more time in your day. Who doesn’t want more time in their day?!

A clean desk helps reduce distractions, stay focused, and can ultimately give you some time back.

Your Desk is Ready at a Moment’s Notice

When you maintain a clean desk, it is always ready for you. You can just sit down at your desk, and your functional and distraction-free setup is ready to go. 

If you have a messy desk or a chair that has a bunch of clothes on it, you add a step between you and the work you have to get done.

A clean desk that is maintained means it will be ready whenever you are.  

Conclusion

Be sure to go easy on yourself. Nobody is perfect, but we can all improve any part of our lives we want to. It doesn’t help you improve if you beat yourself up. 

Get inspired with other desk setups out there. Imagine what your workspace could look like if you tidied up, then take action. Take your organization and cleaning goals one step at a time. 

First, clean that desk. 

Second, give everything a home and get yourself some good organizational solutions. Make sure everything you need on a daily basis is within reach. Your workspace is only as convenient as you design it. 

Keeping constantly used items nearby makes it a functional and efficient place to work. Also, keep in mind that you can make your workspace look way better with organizational solutions while keeping it clean. 

Lastly, maintain that clean desk. Know that it’s easier to give yourself a quick minute to tidy up at the end of the day than to take on a monumental mess later. 

Give yourself less to do at the end of the day by just tidying up throughout the day. Stay inspired by other desk setups out there!

Photo of author

Dasun

I'm a big time workspace enthusiast who is constantly experimenting with my setup. Sharing along the way to help people make their own desk setups more functional and inviting, whether it be for productivity or play!

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