Clean vs. Messy Desk: Finding What Works Best for You
Workplace Inspiration

Clean vs. Messy Desk: Finding What Works Best for You

|May 24, 2023

If you walk into anyone’s office today, one of the first things you will notice is how their desk is organized. A messy desk is not something that will inspire confidence in the person’s abilities to do their work. 

Similarly, your desk says a lot about you. Even if you regularly work very hard, if you keep a messy work desk, you will be undermining all the good work you are doing by allowing your colleagues and clients to judge you negatively based on your dirty desk. 

These days, with so many great office accessories available to help you organize and maintain a neat office desk, there is no excuse for leaving all your work material and equipment scattered all over the place. 

If you have been trying to clean up a messy office desk but finding it difficult, this article has some practical ideas for you to try out. Read on to find out how to say goodbye to a messy work desk once and for all. 

Perception of a Mess

It is not easy to decide what, if anything at all, a messy desk says about its owner. While a lot of people are quick to judge a colleague based on how well they maintain their desk and office, research does not fully back up that kind of thinking. 

Many famous people in history are known to have kept messy desks, such as Albert Einstein, Steve Jobs, and Mark Twain. Can we assume that these people were anything less than geniuses because of the way they kept their offices? No! Amazing individuals such as Einstein and Jobs, have done so much for humanity despite not being particularly neat in their work environments. 

However, one thing we must all understand is that people are willing to overlook these individuals' messy desks simply because they have proved to be extraordinary individuals. Without their achievements, they would likely have been judged very harshly for not keeping a neat desk. 

The same applies to you. If you are just an ordinary individual who has not contributed immensely to the progress of humanity as Einstein did, you are better off taking much better care of your office, and it starts with organizing your cluttered desk. 

Perception of a Mess

Studies and Research

According to research conducted at the University of Minnesota on the effect of a messy desk on productivity, it appears that it is better to have a balance between a messy desk and a clean one. 

The data gathered suggests that having a messy work desk at the start of a project will promote creativity, while a neat one towards the end will help you to focus more on the project. 

However, researchers at Stanford University claim the opposite. According to them, it is very difficult to make your mind focus when you are looking at many things at once. The studies go as far as linking procrastination and a cluttered desk. 

Supporting this theory from Stanford University are statistics gathered from a group of about 2000 UK Employees. The data shows that of the workers surveyed: 

  • 20% think a dirty desk negatively impacts their daily productivity
  • 21% said a messy work desk increases their workload
  • 41% linked a tidy desk with increased productivity 

Thus, what does this mean for you and your cluttered desk? The data seems to suggest that it is better to have a neat work environment rather than a messy office desk. With so many ideas on how to organize desk accessories, finding a few that apply to your situation should not be difficult. 

Studies and Research

What Does Your Desk’s Condition Say About You?

What do your colleagues, clients, and customers think about your messy office accessories? If your job involves dealing with a lot of people in person, this is something you need to consider. 

While it may point to the fact that you are a creative person, others may not see it that way. If you find that your creativity does not suffer from a bit of cleaning now and then, perhaps having a messy desk is not the best idea. 


Messiness can lead to more insight and creativity, which is something a lot of people rely on to do a good job. If you are an artist, designer, writer, or composer, perhaps the secret to your talents lies in your messy desk.

1. Boosted Creativity

A messy desk can stimulate creativity by providing a dynamic and visually rich environment. The presence of various items can spark new ideas and encourage innovative thinking.

2. Personal Expression

Your workspace is an extension of your personality. A messy desk can reflect your individuality and make you feel more comfortable and at home in your work environment.

3. Easy Access to Materials

Having everything out in the open can make it easier to access the tools and materials you need. This can save time and reduce interruptions, allowing you to work more fluidly.

4. Flexibility

A messy desk can adapt to your changing needs and priorities. With everything within reach, you can quickly switch between tasks and projects without having to reorganize your space constantly.

Let us look at some of the pros and cons of a messy work desk: 

Helps you become more creativeCan be unhygienic
It is a source of insightMakes it difficult to focus on a particular project
Save a lot of cleaning timeCoworkers may look at it negatively
 Clients and customers will lose confidence in your abilities
 Colleagues will not be able to find what they need without you around
 Dust allergies can become an issue

What Are the Benefits of Messiness?

Clean Environment

As an ordinary employee, you have a lot more to benefit from by taking the time to clean up your dirty desk. Once you have a good system going and you arm yourself with the right equipment, you will find that keeping your desk accessories in order is not as difficult as you think.

1. Enhanced Focus and Productivity

A clean desk can help you stay focused and minimize distractions. With everything in its place, you can easily find what you need, reducing the time spent searching for items and allowing you to concentrate on your tasks.

2. Reduced Stress

Clutter can be overwhelming and stressful. A tidy desk can create a sense of calm and order, which can improve your overall well-being and reduce work-related stress.

3. Professional Appearance

In a shared office environment, a clean desk can convey professionalism and respect for your workspace and colleagues. It can also create a positive impression during meetings and video calls.

4. Improved Efficiency

An organized desk can enhance your efficiency by making it easier to manage your workload. With clear systems for filing and storing documents, you can streamline your workflow and stay on top of deadlines.

Here are some pros and cons for you to think about: 

Colleagues, clients, and customers will think highly of youCreativity might be negatively affected
Much easier to focus on a projectCleaning up can be time-consuming
The more hygienic option 
Neat desks make working a pleasure 
Productivity levels will improve 

What Are the Benefits of a Clean Environment?

Finding the Right Balance

1. Identify Your Needs

Consider the type of work you do and your personal preferences. Do you need a calm, orderly environment to focus, or do you thrive in a more dynamic, cluttered space? Understanding your needs can help you create a workspace that supports your productivity and well-being.

2. Create Zones

Designate specific areas for different activities. For example, keep your primary work area clean and organized while allowing for a "creative chaos" zone where you can spread out materials and ideas.

3. Regular Maintenance

Even if you prefer a messy desk, regular maintenance can prevent clutter from becoming overwhelming. Set aside time each week to tidy up and organize your workspace.

4. Use Storage Solutions

Incorporate storage solutions that work for you. Consider a standing desk with drawer or a computer desk with drawer for additional storage. Use a monitor arm to free up desk space and a filing cabinet to keep documents organized.

12 Office Accessories and Equipment to Help You Avoid a Messy Desk

Keeping your desk in good condition is not a difficult task if you have the right equipment for the job. Two of the biggest causes of a cluttered desk are not having a good place to store office accessories and failing to manage office paperwork. 

The following are some great ways to solve those two issues and make it easy for you to maintain a clean and organized desk: 

1. Filing Cabinet

Every office needs a filing cabinet. The more paperwork you generate, the bigger the filing cabinet needs to be. While a lot of the work done in offices these days is purely digital, your daily activities are bound to generate some paperwork eventually. 

Things such as contracts, receipts, and invoices are still kept as hard copies in many organizations. A filing cabinet not only gives you a place to keep these items out of sight but is also a safe storage space. 

There are many cool file cabinet designs that you can choose from, from metal cabinets to wood types. Consider the décor in your office and pick the right cabinet for your needs. 

Filing Cabinet

Filing Cabinet

Dimensions15.6”L x 19.7”W x 23.5”H x 46 lbs
ColorsRed apple, Evergreen, Cool gray, Baby blue
MaterialsSteel plate
Weight capacity275 lbs
Warranty1 year

2. Desk Organizer

A desk organizer is a great way to keep your small desk accessories in order. The right organizer can even add a bit of charm to your office. Consider a vibrant color for your desk organizer and one that is made of a great-looking material, such as wire mesh organizers. 

Once you put all your small items in one place, you will be pleasantly surprised at how neat your desk will look. If you want a stable option that you will not accidentally knock over all the time, consider buying a magnetic desk organizer for your metal desk. 

3. Cable Tray

These days, a desktop computer is one of the most common items to be found in a regular office. While this is a very important accessory that most people cannot manage without, it does come with its problems, such as that of desk cable management

If you happen to have other electronic devices on your desk too, such as printers, scanners, fax machines, and desk phones, the jumble of cables can quickly get out of hand. Consider buying a cable management tray to make it easier to tidy up those cables causing a messy desk.

Cable Tray

Cable Tray

Dimensions35.4”L x 6.3”W x 2.5”H
Weight capacity35 lbs
Item weight4 lbs
Warranty1 year

4. Drawers

One of the main things you cannot do without is a good set of drawers. While file cabinets work just fine, they come with the added hassle of having to get up and walk to the cabinet every time you need something. 

Having a plan for under-desk storage, in the form of drawers, is a good way to keep everything you need close at hand but out of sight. One thing you have to consider if you are buying some extra drawers, is whether they will fit properly under your regular or standing desk so that they do not end up taking a lot of your office space.

Swivel Desk Drawer

Swivel Desk Drawer

Dimensions13.8”L x 7.9”W x 3.8”H
MaterialsPlastic + EVA & Fabric
Lifting capacity6.6 lbs
Item weight1.3 lbs
Warranty1 year

5. Paperweights

Something as simple as a few paperweights can help keep your messy desk looking a lot more organized. If you have a fan or a strong air conditioner, or you regularly leave the office windows open, your paperwork can easily get scattered all over the place.

Instead of relying on a coffee mug to keep your papers in place, invest in a set of paperweights. You can even use them as a decorative accessory, especially if you choose a good quality option and add your business logo onto it.

6. Shredder

Are you drowning under a mountain of paperwork in your office? Before you know it, all your filing cabinets and drawers will be full. However, you will be surprised at just how much of that paperwork is no longer necessary. If you have a shredder, you can get rid of it quickly. 

Take the time to sit down and go through your paperwork, sorting out the essential documents from the duplicates and redundant paperwork. Once you are done, one round in the shredder will leave your office looking tidy once more. 

7. Paper Clips

There is a reason why something as simple as a paper clip has been a common office accessory for decades. It is a very simple way to keep paperwork organized. 

If you can group documents in the right way, it will be easier for you to label them and store them somewhere safe until you require them. A few paper clips will go a long way to getting that done.

8. Desktop Vacuum

One of the biggest issues that come from having a cluttered desk is that cleaning and dusting becomes difficult. However, a small, portable, and convenient desktop vacuum can solve that issue. 

Before you end up developing dust allergies, you can buy an electric or battery-operated desk vacuum that will help keep your desk and other office furniture dust-free. 

9. Office Bin

Without an office trash can, you will end up placing your rubbish in the wrong places and that will just add to the problem of a messy desk that you are already facing. Every office needs a bin, especially if you are sharing with multiple individuals. 

However, for the bin to be effective, you will have to set a few ground rules that everyone needs to follow, such as not throwing any food items in the office bin and making sure that it is emptied at least once a day. 

10. Keyboard Tray

If you have a small desk, you will soon realize that your keyboard takes up a lot of space that you would rather use for something else. Having a keyboard tray that you can conveniently slide under your desk is a great way to keep your desk free of unnecessary clutter.

Mount-It! Clamp-On Keyboard Tray

Mount-It! Clamp-On Keyboard Tray

Dimensions26.4" L x 11.8" D
CompatibilityWith most keyboards on the market
Warranty10 years

11. Slim Cart

In some offices, you might find that documents have to be shared by many individuals meaning that keeping these in your cabinet or drawer is not practical because your colleagues will need to access them. 

Rather than leave them simply lying on your desk, you can label them and keep them on a slim cart, preferably with wheels so that they can easily be moved around the office. 

12. Wall Shelf

Do you have some books and office décor that you would rather display somewhere visible rather than lock them up in a cabinet? Installing a wall shelf might be the solution. Done properly, wall shelf installation can improve the look of your office and provide you with extra storage space at the same time. 

Techni Mobili Floating Wall Shelves

Techni Mobili Floating Wall Shelves

Dimension27.6"L x 12"W x 16.7"H
Max loading bearing11 lbs/shelf
MaterialEngineered wood
ColorWhite, Walnut
Warranty1 year

An Organized Desk Promotes Productivity!

Having looked at both sides of the issue, having an organized office is a much better option than keeping a messy desk. You can find other ways to boost your creativity that do not involve working among all your scattered accessories. 

Use any of the methods listed above to get rid of that messy office desk and transform your work environment into a more pleasant atmosphere.

Autonomous Chair Ultra - First 3D-Printed Chair

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