How to Organize your Desk

Being disorganized can be a real roadblock to success, says Donna Smallin Kuper, personal organizing coach and bestselling author. On the flip-side, being organized can really help you shine!

Get rid of stuff you don’t need

The toughest part of organizing is getting rid of the clutter, but it can also be the most satisfying! If you’re like most kids, teens and adults, you have a lot of clutter! Old papers and scraps, half-used notebooks, pencils without erasers, mechanical pencils without lead, and random things you kept for some reason or another all clutter up your space and are pretty easy to get rid of!

Some people like to go drawer by drawer and get rid of things. Others like to empty everything out, surround yourself with it and go through it that way. Either way, arm yourself with the following:

  • A big trash bag
  • A bag for recycling
  • An empty French memo board, pinboard or corkboard
  • A calendar
  • Desk organizers (more on that below!)
  • An empty box

Then, go through your things. Throw out or recycle anything broken, used up, or too dirty to use. Like old pencil cases that have already served their purpose, broken crayons or dried out markers. If you have announcements or reminders for things like try-outs, practice schedules, or special events, note the date and time on the calendar, then recycle or file the paper.

Got pictures, postcards or ticket stubs you want to keep? Arrange them on the French memo board or cork boards. Place things you want to keep for display like Japanese erasers, random 3-D items like origami cootie catchers and other stuff in the box. You’ll decide how to display that later, but it doesn’t belong on your desk! For all the school supplies, scrap paper, note cards and important items you need for your desk, place them in piles and read on…

What you should have at your desk

Your desk is your work station. Your command center for school. When organizing your desk, “think of how you would organize if you were in a real office,” Donna suggests. Folders, desk organizers, and hanging files keep major corporations organized so they should be more than enough to help organize your school life! Of course, most teen room décor doesn’t match the usual black and metallic office décor, so see this as an opportunity to add to your room theme. “You can get pretty folders from a place like – sweet and sassy online organizing products. Or M by Staples has colorful patterned file folders and you just need to label them,” Donna suggests. Pottery Barn Teen has loads of great organizing products for your desk, locker or room.

Martha Stewart, the organizing guru, posts the following must haves for your desk on her website: “a calendar for upcoming school events, an "in" box for unfinished assignments, and an "out" box for finished homework to be checked by Mom and Dad.”

Make your own desk organizers

If you don’t want to shop for supplies, it’s easy to create desk organizers from things you have at home. Cut cereal boxes in half diagonally using sharp scissors or a box cutter (carefully, people, do this carefully!) and you have two boxes that hold important papers, workbooks, notebooks or other 8 1/2 x 11” papers. Clean out cans and take off their wrappers – instead of recycling them, they can be used as pen and pencil holders. Jewelry boxes can be used to hold paper clips, rubber bands or erasers, too. Cover them with colorful duct tape, scrapbooking paper or decoupage them with magazine cutouts to fit your room décor and interests.

Have a system

Keep your life organized as much as possible with a calendar. It can be electronic and live on your computer, on your phone, online or it can be on a dry-erase board or a store-bought calendar. The easiest ones to use have a week or month per page and have enough room to write in everything from upcoming assignments and tests, practices, games and after school activities and appointments. Every day when you get home from school, note new important items in your calendar.

Recycle as much paper as possible. When you come home with notes or announcements, most are not meant to be kept forever. Note the information, then recycle or file the paper. For things you want to keep, post them on your pinboard or memo board and keep them off of your desk.

At the end of every marking period, empty your notebooks of things you don’t need and file them in folders for easy access when you need to reference them and study for finals.

Most importantly, whatever system you create, be sure you make it easy to stick to and then stick to it! Good luck!



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