3 Steps to a Polished, Productive Workspace

January 29, 2015

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Today: How to make your desktop a place where things actually get done -- while also being truly comfy-cozy.

3 Steps to a Polished, Productive Workspace

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1. Put everything away. 

Yes, all of it! The first step to workspace zen is to hide your uglies. The sad fact of the matter is that most office supplies, no matter how cute in your hand, are just clutter when heaped in stacks and crammed into a pencil holder. I know: Who doesn't want a pen in every color, or so many stationery sets you could open a store?

Don't cry! This isn't a post about purging. Just tuck them away. Make use of those desk drawers, and if you're without them, consider big woven baskets underfoot where you can toss pencil holders and reams of printer paper. Colored glass jars are good for wrangling loose clips and rubber bands, and you can set them up on a windowsill or shelf within reach. 

2. Add back a few useful, attractive accessories.

What should go on your desk? A very few thoughtfully selected tools -- items that actually serve a purpose, and ideally, are delightful to look at. A large, flat writing pad is a great choice for scribblers; just tear away the top piece when it's covered with doodles of your name in block letters. We also approve of keeping a good mug nearby -- not as a graveyard for unused pens but for your coffee! Or an afternoon bourbon. Or a breakfast mimosa! Whatever gets your creative juices flowing. 

Acrylic Home Office Set

As for those often-ugly necessities (tape dispensers, staplers, etc.), look for lightweight but durable options. We love this Acrylic Home Office Set from Russell + Hazel, which is so chic it's scary and made of gleaming, translucent acrylic with muted gold hardware. You'll actually want to use its palm-sized stapler, and the matching clipboard is the perfect place to trap loose papers that invariably find your desktop within moments of cleaning it. Check back soon for the other pieces to complete the set: a delightful geometric tape dispenser and a business card holder -- yes, it's time to print some. 

Geometric RugBooks and Plants on a Shelf

3. Get a little cozy. 

Don't get so comfortable that you want to take a nap, but get warmer: This is a space you want to be happy to walk into (and, realistically, stay there for a while). Whether you're in a home office or working from a stylishly taupe cubicle, find a way to make it more comfortable. Textiles are a great solution. A lightweight throw can play slipcover on your swivel chair (and protect you from corporate A.C.). Better yet, find a small modern rug like these Shapes Rugs by Alyson Fox for Hawkins NY. Their designs are muted but infectiously fun, woven in a durable blend of wool and cotton.

And if you can, add some plants. Ususally kill them? Consider fitting low-maintenance succulents into these tiny Wind & Willow painted planters. There's something undeniably encouraging about a green and growing deskmate (and you're more likely to water it if you see it everyday). Hanging them also ensures no added desktop clutter, and this triple-tiered ceramic planter by Light + Ladder will also double as extra storage space.

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Ashly sims
    Ashly sims
  • AntoniaJames
  • Amanda Sims
    Amanda Sims
Amanda Sims

Written by: Amanda Sims

Professional trespasser.


Ashly S. February 4, 2015
I love and appreciate this article so much. I do not currently have a desk for organizing... More like a shelf. It has inspired me to create my own little office space that's just mine. Great tips!! Thank you!
AntoniaJames January 29, 2015
Looking at the photo at the top - is that clear tape on the wall?! If so, is there a brand you recommend that doesn't damage the finish on your wall or leave a sticky residue, or perhaps you can recommend some sort of damage-resistant paint?
Also, for letters, notes re projects, etc. nothing beats one of these:
And to my mind, no desk is truly functional without a blotter, preferably one with hidden pockets on each side (best solution ever for small paper clutter). Here's the one I have: No doubt it's more masculine than most Food52 users would choose, but it suits me perfectly. (I have a Smartphone case in the same leather.) ;o)
Amanda S. January 29, 2015
Thank you, Antonia! I love toast/letter racks, too. Personally, I find that nothing beats painter's tape for tacking up temporary notes on the wall; I'm partial to the royal blue, but a white masking tape works as well. For something transparent, I'd go with washi tape, which is also made of paper and not overly adhesive.
AntoniaJames January 29, 2015
Thanks, Amanda. Never heard of washi tape. I'm not a wall taper or refrigerator magnet person, myself, as it just looks like clutter and seems supremely disorganized. Anything that can go into the scanner for use later is converted to PDF, well labeled and filed. And then, if there is an action associated with it -- such as, "try this recipe" -- the action itself is noted in my digital project management system. (Can you tell I'm a disciple of the GTD system?)
Getting back to images, clippings, etc. - any non-digital note goes on a large sticky note (pretty colors) and adhered in the most logical place, which differs, obviously from note to note. I find myself using fewer and fewer of those, however, as I use my digital tools more effectively. I do have an extensive set of attractive small frames, so if I get a small card or similar hard-format image that I want to see, I'll pop that in to enjoy. My space is beautifully and neatly decorated, with no tape in sight. I don't use it often enough for it to merit any desk real estate. I keep it in a small box in a cabinet with a couple of "Sharpies", clear acrylic packing tape, large labels for packages and plain bond fold-over notes/envelopes, which tend to be used together. Paper clips are also out of sight, as I find that I don't use often enough to give them a place on my desk.
Obviously everyone has unique needs, based on their behavior. (As you can probably figure out, the engineer in me has figured out what works best here.) ;o)
Amanda S. January 29, 2015
Forgive me -- I thought you wanted a tape recommendation! As it is, I do very much admire your nearly paperless, very logic-driven organizational system.
AntoniaJames January 29, 2015
Best thing ever: my freezer and spice inventories on my phone, synched to kitchen iPad. Has made my shopping so much more efficient, and cooking so much more fun! ;o)