Eliminating Items From Your Desk

Meggin McIntosh
4 min readDec 16, 2022
iStock by Getty Images: Liudmila Chernetska

To be able to work productively at your desk (or other workspace), you need to have easy access to those items you need…and that means getting rid of those items that you don’t. Consider these items to eliminate:

  1. Things you used to like but don’t anymore. Desks (the surface and the drawers) often become static and items come in and never leave. At least once a year, but preferably more often, remove every single item from the top of and inside your desk and do a deep clean. It’s a good time to realize, “Hmmm…I don’t even like this thing anymore; I’m going to get rid of it.”
  2. Desk “accessories” that aren’t. You accessorize your clothes, not your desk. Accessorizing your desk can quickly get out of hand. Buy a pen holder if you need one but avoid buying the matching (large) stapler, calculator, tape dispenser, tissue box, mouse pad, wrist rest, glasses holder, coffee mug, and inbox. Seriously. Stop yourself.
  3. Excess anything (paper, sticky notes, paperclips, coffee cups, eyeglasses, pens, essential oils, throat lozenges, stress toys, eye drops).
  4. Piles (of anything). Piles have little voices that call out to you (I know this from when I was a piler). “Hey, I’m in here.” “Look over here; there’s something you need to do here.” “When are you ever going to get all this stuff done?” You know the voices. Deal with the piles when you can (maybe come to the Backlog Study Halls I host on Sundays) but until then, move the piles off your desk.
  5. Food in large quantities (or with an expiration date in the 20th century). Back when I used to help folks get the offices organized, the amount of food I found in people’s drawers was amazing. Cans of peas (seriously), food bars that would break a tooth if you bit into one, partial bags of chips and crackers, rancid peanut butter — and rancid peanuts, rock-hard raisins, Snackables that no one would want to snack on, etc., etc. It reminded me of when I used to require my elementary-aged students to completely empty out their desks every Friday afternoon because we’d find squished bananas or partial sandwiches, etc., in some kids’ desks and then we’d have…you know…critters in the room that we didn’t want when we came back on Mondays.
  6. Makeup, lotion, lip balm, etc. that has become a hazardous material because it has sat so long. If you can smell any of these items or the color seems “off,” you don’t want to put it on your body.
  7. Knick-knacks. Tchotchkes. Whatever trinkets or other useless items you might have, regardless of whether you collect the particular animal that is represented, get them out of your desk area. Note: For heavens sake, if you don’t collect a certain animal at all, never display even one of them because other people will assume that you collect them and you’ll end up with SO MANY (because people are thoughtful and want to show they are paying attention). That has happened to me. The one animal I do collect has all its representations in places other than my desk.
  8. MULTIPLE pictures. If you want to have a picture of a family member or a fun trip on your desk, then have one. One. Or get one of those cool devices that will display varying pictures. However…that would be better put somewhere in your office where you’re not looking at it while you’re trying to work.
  9. Books or other papers you are not currently (CURRENTLY) working with. If you are planning for an upcoming class, then you’ll have books and other materials spread out on your desk while you’re planning. But when you turn your attention to an article you’re writing, then you want to have room for THOSE materials on your desk and that means it would be distracting to have the books and papers from your course planning still on your desk.
  10. Anything that distracts from your overall productivity. Except, of course, cats. They’ll move along when they’re ready.
iStock by Getty Images: Gilitukha

Remember: Your desk is a place where you do your work. Anything that distracts you from that work or that clutters your space (and thus your mind), is worth eliminating from this productive space.

And if you liked these tips you may be interested in the Get a Plan! Guide® to Designing a Productive Environment, which is now FREE, and is part of the Get a Plan! Guides® series designed to give you the ideas and inspiration to do your work easier, faster, and in a more focused fashion.




Meggin McIntosh

Meggin McIntosh, “The PhD of Productivity®”, invests time & energy with people who seek ways to be overjoyed instead of overwhelmed. https://meggin.com