If you feel less productive when your work desk is cluttered, you’re not alone: Studies have shown that a messy work environment can make you unproductive and less likely to focus. In fact, a 2015 Harvard University study found that a cluttered work environment negatively impacted people’s self-regulation and persistence in completing a task, and a 2017 study published in "Current Psychology" found that clutter in a person's living space was strongly associated with procrastination. “With a more organized space, the brain is simply better able to concentrate on important tasks at hand,” said Jamie Hord, co-founder of Horderly Professional Organizing.
Whether you’re revamping your work from home setup or keeping things organized in the office, there are multiple organization tools out there to achieve a stress-free, decluttered workspace that ensures you’re keeping all of your tasks in order. To help you narrow down the tools you’ll need to get started, we consulted professional organizers to provide tips and their recommendations to shop.
What do you need to declutter your workspace?
Nancy Meck, a professional organizer and owner of Meck Organizing, said that there are several ways a tidy workspace can benefit a person’s professional and personal life: “You can find what you want and need more quickly, and you’re sending a clear message that you are on top of things and things are not on top of you.”
One of the biggest culprits that creates desk clutter is paper. Caroline Solomon, a home organizing and lifestyle expert based in New York City, recommended digitizing as many files as possible and printing documents only when necessary. For physical documents that you no longer need, she noted a paper shredder is both useful and satisfying.
Some other tools that experts recommend to clean up your workspace include:
- Drawer organizers: These can prevent things from sliding around and separate small tools. Meck recommended modular/individual ones so you can “customize the organization to how you like it versus making the drawer organizer dictate what fits.”
- Scanners: Before purchasing a good quality scanner to help digitize your files, Meck recommended considering where the power source is, how loud it can be and how much room you have to work with. “Ideally you want it to be out of the way but still easy to access when you need it,” Meck said.
- Filing cabinets: These can ensure all of your papers and documents are in one place.
- Acrylic paper trays: These are a good option to “corral anything on top of your desk that you need to reach for regularly,” according to Hord.
- Cable and cord organizers: These are useful for containing and de-tangling cords. A useful hack is “using a Command Hook on the back of your desk to keep cords up off the ground,” Hord said.
Our experts also recommended labeling each tray within your desk drawer and filing cabinet to make the process as simple as possible. This can include labeling trays for work documents and mail to naming storage boxes and individual cords.
Top-rated desk organizers in 2023
Once you’ve decided to tidy up your workspace, there are several tools that can help you get to a comfortable level of organization — and experts told us some of the best tools include drawer organizers, filing cabinets and systems, desk trays and cable organizers. To help you narrow down your options, we’ve compiled some expert-recommended and highly rated items in each category.
Desk organizers and trays
To help you organize your stray papers, Solomon recommended this multi-tray drawer system from IKEA for more minimal filing needs. “Just make sure to label each tray,” she noted. Each of the four included trays can be pulled out for easy access to paperwork, while the vertical design can help save space, according to the brand. There’s cork liner on the bottom of the trays to keep papers from sliding around, and self-adhesive surface protectors are included to keep it from damaging your desk and other surfaces, the brand says. It also earned a 4.9-star average rating from over 100 reviews at IKEA.
These Jerry & Maggie storage racks — which have a 4.3-star average rating from over 10,200 reviews on Amazon — can be stacked, adjusted and rotated to form a customized organizer that fits your style, according to the brand. Made from natural wood, the two included racks feature five separate units and have flat surfaces to store everything from books and mail to pencil holders and Post-it Notes.
This organizer’s built-in phone stand can make this a great option for people who use their smartphones as an office tool. Alongside the phone stand are two tall trays for pencils, pens and highlighters, a short tray for paper clips and other loose supplies, a medium tray for items like business cards and whiteout, and a Post-it holder. The organizer has a 4.8-star average rating from more than 2,300 reviews on Amazon.
For essentials you want to keep within reach, Hord recommended this clear, acrylic desktop drawer that can hold letter-size paper along with other office supplies. Although they’re purchased individually, the drawers can be stacked on top of each other, and the brand says clear bumpers on the bottom keep them all in place.
This mesh desktop organizer — which has a 4.6-star average rating from over 9,900 reviews on Amazon — offers three letter trays where you can stow away papers and a three-compartment drawer to store smaller items like pens, paper clips and a calculator, according to the brand. The back tray is vertical, meaning you can store hanging files while the front trays can hold notebooks, notepads and other office supplies, the brand says.
To keep office supplies like paper clips, pens and highlighters tucked away in a desk drawer, Solomon recommended this sturdy, multi-compartment organizer that features six removable dividers and up to 15 partitioned compartments. And it’s not only useful for office supplies — you can use it to store everything from crafting essentials to kitchen utensils, according to the brand. It’s also highly rated, boasting a 4.8-star average rating from over 100 reviews at Wayfair.
Hord recommended this multipurpose organizer, which is made from clear plastic that’s both durable and functional. The brand says the matching compartments come in different sizes, ranging from a small 4-inch square to a 16-inch-long rectangle for longer items.
In line with Meck’s advice to buy a separate compartment drawer organizer, this metal option comes with five different sized stackable organizers and each compartment comes in its own bright color. According to the brand, this organizer is food-safe, too, so you can use it to store snacks or get a matching set for the kitchen. It has a 4.8-star average rating from more than 700 reviews on Amazon.
Filing cabinets and systems
The Poppin Stow File Cabinet is sleek, portable and durable, and it comes equipped with casters that allow you to roll it around your home office, according to the brand. It has three drawers: two 3.5-inch-high top drawers and a larger 10-inch-tall bottom drawer that can serve as a hanging file organizer. Dividers are included to further organize your files, and it comes with one lock that secures all drawers plus two keys to keep them safe, Poppin says. This cabinet earned a 4.4-star average rating from over 90 reviews on Amazon, and the brand also offers a mini 2-drawer version of this cabinet for smaller spaces.
A simple desktop file organizing method, this mesh organizer from SimpleHouseware can hold letter-size hanging files and features built-in handles for portability. It also has rubber feet to protect your desk from scratches while also keeping it from sliding around when you’re looking through your papers. This file organizer is offered in Black and Silver, and there’s a two-pack option.
This collapsible file organizing box can be used as a small filing cabinet for hanging files, and each box comes with a label to keep track of your documents, the brand says. This organizer earned a 4.5-star average rating from over 2,800 reviews, and you can choose between four colors: grey, light grey, black and navy.
Experts told us a hanging file organizer can help you keep track of your documents. This option has 10 pockets that can fit letter-size file folders and includes three hangers so you can easily hang it over your door, according to the brand. It’s also machine-washable, made from durable nylon fabric and has a 4.7-star average rating from more than 3,800 reviews on Amazon.
“Not enough attention is paid to electronic wire organization,” Solomon said. To avoid the unsightly and potentially dangerous tangle of cables around your desk, she suggested investing in a cable organizer. This 3-pack of organizers has an adhesive back that lets you mount it on your desk and can hold up to 11 cables at once to keep them organized and accessible, according to the brand. It has a 4.5-star average rating from more than 6,200 reviews on Amazon and comes in three colors, including gray, white and black.
Solomon recommended these 3-inch Gear Ties, which can be convenient if you have several cables stashed away in your drawers. Made from a flexible rubber exterior and a bendable wire interior, these twist ties come in various bright colors that you can use to differentiate between cords or to brighten up your workspace. They’re available in multiple lengths, colors and packs, and they earned a 4.6-star average rating from over 16,300 reviews on Amazon.
This cable box — which has a 4.7-star average rating from over 1,600 reviews on Amazon — can house unsightly power strips out of view alongside power adapters and block chargers, according to the brand. It has an opening on the side to fit cords and cables, while the lid keeps its contents from slipping out, Bluelounge says. Also included with your purchase are 10 cable ties for bundling and rubber feet to reduce sliding.
More organizing tools to consider
Solomon suggested this paper shredder for disposing of sensitive materials, including work documents, mail and credit cards. This device includes an Auto Start feature and overheating protection, along with a manual reverse option to clear paper jams. Amazon offers multiple crosscut options, from six sheets up to a 24-sheet capacity.
To encourage labeling your file holders, paper trays and drawers, this Wi-Fi-enabled device from DYMO lets you type out and print your desired text onto durable, water-resistant labels. You can create labels in six font sizes and eight text styles and choose from a built-in library of over 200 symbols and clip art images, according to the brand. The device also lets you include borders around the text, write multiple lines on a single strip and preview the text using the large LCD display, DYMO says. It earned a 4.6-star average rating from over 28,500 reviews on Amazon.
To make decluttering and filing papers a hassle-free job, file folders are a major home office essential. This option comes in a pack of 25 and can be easily placed inside a filing cabinet or any other filing system you choose to maintain. Each folder comes with clear plastic tabs and replaceable white inserts for labeling, and Amazon claims the material is made from 100 percent recyclable fiber. You can also get an assorted colors version in legal size.
Meet our experts
At Select, we work with experts who have specialized knowledge and authority based on relevant training and/or experience. We also take steps to ensure that all expert advice and recommendations are made independently and with no undisclosed financial conflicts of interest.
- Nancy Meck is a professional organizer and owner of Meck Organizing based in Atlanta and Los Angeles.
- Caroline Solomon is a home organizing and lifestyle expert based in New York City.
- Jamie Hord is the co-founder of Horderly Professional Organizing based in New York City.