These 3 Organizers Got My Messy Desk in Order Once and for All

published Aug 30, 2023
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Studio apartment in New York City with bedroom, small sofa and white desk.
Credit: Chinasa Cooper

At some point in my childhood, I must’ve read a quote about how creative people have messy spaces. Which, while it may be psychologically accurate, was just the kind of messy-person propaganda my young mind did not need to latch on to. Why clean my room when I could do arts and crafts? Over the years, though, my mindset shifted and I’m now a mostly tidy person. I never go to bed with a sink full of dishes and while, sure, a respectable pile of clothing may stack up on my dresser throughout the week, it never reaches mountain status. There’s just one area, though, that took me forever to organize: my desk.

Maybe because it’s the arena for much of my professional creativity — brainstorming, writing, and editing — but it’s long been the last holdout for my mess. That is, until I found three organizers that wrangled my desk clutter. While testing products for Apartment Therapy’s 2023 Organization Awards, I tried the Small Acrylic Desktop Organizer, the Poppin White Mini 2-Drawer Stow Filing Cabinet, and the Marie Kondo Harmony Linen Landscape Stacking Letter Tray, all from the Container Store. While they were all impressive on their own, hence their awards, putting them together was just the mess-busting combination my desk needed. 

Credit: Sofia Rivera

Small Acrylic Desktop Organizer

Previously, my desk organization tactic had been storing things in little cups and bowls. I had a ceramic bowl painted to look like a cat that I bought for my first office job that held paper clips, hair elastics, and other odds and ends. I also had a cup that my sister made in high school pottery class, which I used for pens and scissors. You get the picture. Because I opted for a sleek, glass-top desk with no drawer, I’ve never been able to contain those bits and bobs in an organized way. But the acrylic desktop organizer does it effortlessly. 

Because it’s clear, it blends in with my glass desk and makes it look like my pens and paper clips are satisfyingly floating in space. It has two pencil cups, a slot for my notepad, and a trio of little rectangular compartments (which are perfect for stashing miscellaneous office supplies). Finally, a small drawer slides out of the bottom, which I use to tuck away all of my random cords. This one item has replaced my many-little-bowls method, looks like it was made for my desk, and takes up just one small corner.

Credit: Sofia Rivera

Poppin White Mini 2-Drawer Stow Filing Cabinet

The next kind of clutter I had to contain was paper. My work is mostly paperless, but between tax documents, mail I have to keep, notebooks, and sentimental papers, there are some things I just can’t toss. I’d long associated filing cabinets with cubicles, but when I saw this one, I was smitten. Its rounded edges and matte white exterior are simple yet stylish, and because it’s only about 21 inches tall and has wheels, it tucks easily underneath a desk. The bottom drawer is bigger and has slots for hanging file folders, so you can organize your papers into as many subsections as you want. The top section, meanwhile, is the desk drawer I’d never had, which holds any extra or bulkier items that don’t fit in my desktop organizer. 

Credit: Sofia Rivera

Marie Kondo Harmony Linen Landscape Stacking Letter Tray

The last piece of the puzzle is the linen letter box. Not only is it aesthetically pleasing — the woven texture is so soothing and the lid closes with a satisfying thunk — but it is also ideal for capturing the remaining papers I don’t want to file away, but don’t want to pile up on my desk or kitchen counter. I use it in several ways: as an inbox for mail, before I go through it and decide whether to recycle or keep it; to stash away my notebook and planner at the end of the workday so I don’t need to see them on my desk; and to sometimes prop up my laptop during Zoom calls. Especially for such a simple organizer, I’m amazed at how multi-purpose it is. 

Unsurprisingly, my desk still gets messy throughout the day. Between the multiple beverages I have near me at any given moment and the notebook cluttered with my nearly illegible handwriting, I let myself work in a little chaos throughout the day and tell myself it’s supporting my creativity. But at the end of the day, tucking my pens and papers back into their respective organizers feels so good — and lets me maintain a work-life balance even while working from home.