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We’ve discussed how to keep things off your desk, but what tools and supplies should you keep near? These are my suggestions:

Your favorite writing implement

Some people prefer a certain pen, or pencil, or fountain pen. If that’s you, make a space for it that is its home. Put it back as soon as you’re done with it and it will always be there when you need it. (P.S., secret – (whisper) that’s true of all your belongings.) In fact, keeping track of one pen is easier than keeping track of many. This is the secret to minimalism. Having only what you need is part of the secret to sustainability. Choosing to live more simply with less allows you to have favorites. It allows you to have better-quality things in your life that will last longer. Having less in your life makes it easier to get and stay organized and that allows you to have a certain peace in your life.


It usually makes sense to put your printer/scanner on the dominant hand side of the desk. It’s easier to operate that way and if you have it just in reach, you still have space for project items in front of you. It’s also okay to place it slightly out of reach so that it gives you a break from sitting.

Charging station

There is nothing more annoying than needing to make a phone call and your battery being out or needing to finish a project and your laptop running out of juice. Set up your workspace so you have your charging cables or wireless charging station where you need them. Keep the length of wires on your desk as short as possible to avoid a tangle of wires. Utilize cable management (velcro wraps, ties, cable sleeves, cable clips, donuts) to keep the wires under control and avoid the dreaded spaghetti tangle.

Good lighting

Natural light is always best, but it is not always possible to arrange your desk to take advantage of natural light, and let’s face it, sometimes we work when it’s not light outside anyway! Lighting professionals recommend having a general overhead source of light, supplemented with a desk light to provide task lighting. The best position for the task lighting is on your non-dominant side to avoid shadows cast by your hand while you are writing. Also consider having color control with your lighting to allow you to adjust your lighting according to your task needs. Adding warm colors to your lighting setup gives your eyes a break, especially if you happen to have fluorescent lighting overhead.

Place for files

Set up your filing system, whether it is paper or digital. Develop a naming convention for your files that you communicate to everyone who uses the system. Your system is only as good as the retrieval time. If you’re constantly spending time searching for documents, either you need to file or you need to address your naming convention. It should take 30 seconds or less for you to locate the item you are looking for. Some estimates say Americans spend about 45 minutes a day looking for things. Your time is much better spent putting things away as you go along. You can relax knowing that you’ll be able to find it easily later.

Office supplies

Other office supplies that you may need during your day—tape, stapler, extra note paper, etc. can be stored in drawers, shelves or other storage within reach for the items that you need frequently. Items that you need infrequently can be stored elsewhere. Again, think of having to get up out of your chair or move from your desk as a mini-break to get moving again.

Each solution presented here may not in and of itself be a huge difference to how you operate and think about your tools and supplies, but combined, they make for a desk that is pleasant to work at and distraction free.

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