Recently, a reader wrote to me the following:

“I don’t know if you’d want to blog about your desktop but I’d like to know…is your desk always so ordered?  I have a feeling you have an ability to clear the desktop daily. I am consistently in the midst of so many huge projects with my classes, well, I see the top of my desk 3 times a year.  One of my goals this year is to see my desktop more than 3 times a year.  Maybe you could show us what your desk looks like when you are REALLY in the swing of things.”

It’s confession time.  I always have to organize my desk for photos, because it definitely does NOT look this neat on a regular basis.

In the picture above, I was in the midst of filling out student applications for my local federation of music clubs’  upcoming Junior Festival.  This was right after I received the email, so it was the perfect opportunity to capture the evidence of my cluttered desktop.

So even though I’m guilty of the occasional messy desk, I’ve become very good at making it appear neat and tidy.  I really have no choice, considering there are students and parents in and out of my office/studio on a daily basis.  But what they don’t notice is my inbox tray stuffed to the gills, the papers concealed under a music book, and the sticky notes tucked into a drawer.

Despite all of these confessions, I do have some tips that help keep the visible clutter to a minimum and maintain my sanity.

  1. I keep filing boxes stacked right underneath my desk, so that I can quickly file away invoices, pay stubs, and important documents that don’t require further action.
  2. I make it a habit to empty my inbox tray (and then empty the trash can) every Sunday so that Monday is a clean slate.
  3. Almost everything has a place or a dedicated folder.  I only allow myself one tiny junk drawer for things that I can’t find a regular use for yet just can’t part with.
  4. I’ve broken all of my former pack-rat habits.  When I moved out of my parents’ house after college, they forced me to throw out the boxes and boxes of schoolwork — dating all the way back to 6th grade — that I absolutely did not need.  It was hard at the time, but I’ve never looked back.
  5. I keep a scanner on my desk so that I can digitize anything I think I might need later but don’t want taking up valuable space.

And just in case you thought perhaps the picture up top was staged for this blog post, here’s another one (taken back in the day, when I still had my old Macbook and warhorse printer) to prove my occasional desk messiness.

What about you?  Are you one of those people who always has a perfectly tidy workspace?  If so, please add your tips in the comments.  And if you’re a total slob, tell us about that too so we can all feel better about ourselves.  (Just kidding, sort of.)