How to Clean a Desk

A desk overflowing with files.

If your desk looks like a stationery shop, a bookstore, a vending machine, and a garbage can all simultaneously exploded onto your desk and you want to fix the problem, this article is for you. Cleaning a desk is super easy – it’s just doing it that can be difficult, so hopefully after reading you’ll have the motivation to go and conquer Clutter Mountain.

Prepare to Clean the Desk

Before we begin the actual cleaning, here is a list of things that you will definitely need and some things that will be nice to have on hand:

  • Disinfecting Wipes (any type either full of bleach like Clorox or Lysol or natural cleaners like Clean Well or Seventh Generation, any scent that you find pleasant)
  • Trash Can
  • Trash Bags (if things are REALLY bad)
  • Box or Boxes (it is easiest to organize and clear up clutter if you have a place to put items that are no longer needed or wanted…feel free to donate it to a place like the Salvation Army or Goodwill)
  • Folders (for reining in the piles of papers around your desk)
  • Any type of organizational containers that you might like to have (for holding pens, extra office supplies…I have a bowl that I use solely for holding my rather large and at time excessive Post-it note collection) If you’re not sure what you want here, you can check out the extensive options for Desk Organizers at Amazon.

Alright. Got your supplies? Ready for battle? Let’s do this!

Get down to the surface of the Desk

First thing is first. Before you can clean your desk you need to de-clutter and de-stuff your desk. This means you are going to have to tackle that mountain of papers and Odin only knows what that has taken over your work surface.

You can do this. It’s easiest to start from the top and work your way down to your desk’s surface. This is where the trash can (and possibly bags), the boxes, and the folders will come most in handy. Whatever papers that are not important can go right into the chuck it bucket (trash). If you come across something that IS important, place it into one of the folders that you have – and now would be a good time to label the folders too…whatever you want to label them as and works for you.

common desk clutterAs far as the collected junk and stuff and things – if they serve no purpose, throw them away. But, if they do have a reason for being on your desk, put it in a box that will hold all your desk things until after you clean it. We’ll tackle the organizing of your stuff in a few steps.

Now, if you find some things on your desk that you either no longer need or want (like chargers, stationary you no longer want…maybe a lamp…who knows what you’ll find), go ahead and put all those things into another box. This box will be your give away box. If you want to let your co-workers a chance to look through them, write “FREE” on the side and once you’re done, place it in a place where most of them congregate – like the break room. But, if you’d rather donate it to charity, there’s no need to write “FREE” on the side.

Organize the drawers of the desk

Okay. Now we’ve cleared off the top of the desk. Awesome! Time to tackle the drawers. Basically, you will want to repeat the same process for each drawer that you have; that is, clear it out, sort what you want to throw away, keep, and give away.

I know this sounds dull and repetitive. It kind of is. But, you can make the process a bit more enjoyable if you play music (if your office permits it) or to challenge yourself to see how fast you can work or to see how much stuff you can throw away – there’s always a way to make boring things a bit more worthwhile.

So. Everything is cleared. Time to clean!

Grab the disinfecting wipes and start with the top of your desk. Depending upon how messy you tend to be (I usually have a nice collection of coffee rings and sometimes dried food on my desk…don’t judge…), you might have to invest some elbow grease and a good amount of wipes into getting your desktop nice and clean.

Once your desk top is clean, move onto the drawers. These shouldn’t be anywhere near as messy and dirty as the top of your desk, unless something spilled and dried inside a drawer. If all that your drawers are is dusty and a bit crumby, a quick wipe will be just fine.

All clean? Cool. Time to organize and put things back.

Remember that I mentioned in the list of things needed that various organizational containers would be a nice thing to think about having? If you grabbed some that you like, now is the time to use them. A good rule of thumb is like with like; meaning things that do similar functions should be grouped together (paper clips and bulldog clips, push pins and tacks, Post-its and scratch paper…you get the idea).

Reload the now clean Desk

Once you have everything in containers to how you want it organized, start fitting them into your drawers and on the top of your desk. This is also a good time to file and organize all the folders you’ve made up while sorting through that pile of paper that had been on your desk. Some people prefer a file cabinet and some people prefer to use those large, expanding accordion file folders on their desks. I’m part of the second group – that way all my papers and documents are at my fingertips. But, whichever you prefer is perfectly fine.

Do you have anything that you kept from when you went through all the stuff on your desk? Yes? Now is the time to put them all back on the top of your desk – either in the exact same place they were or in a completely new way (sometimes, changing where things are helps with the energy flow of an office…try it…you never know).

Free box of desk suppliesTake one last look at your desk and in your drawers. Is everything where it ought to be or where you want it? Huzzah! You’re done cleaning! Now, take the trash that has accumulated from your cleaning – and if you’re doing a “FREE” box, that as well – out of your office and put it all where it belongs (the trash to the big garbage can and the box to the break room, or wherever your co-workers congregate). And if you are donating the things you don’t want to charity, make sure that you take it with you after you’re done with work…otherwise all this cleaning and organizing will be kind of pointless.

And here is the last step – sit in your chair and admire just how fabulous your desk looks!

A clean deskHopefully, this article will give you the direction you are looking for in how to tackle cleaning your desk. While I know that this level of clean won’t last forever (it never does for me), keeping your tools handy for cleaning your desk will make it a whole lot easier the next time the urge to clean up your desk strikes.