8 Tips for Organizing Desk Drawers for a More Efficient Workspace

Work smarter, not harder with these organization tips to keep desk drawers tidy.

drawers with organized office supplies
Photo: Marty Baldwin

Sure, an organized desk setup looks nice and can help you stay on task. But a tidy desktop isn't helpful if your desk drawers are a jumbled mess. Finding the office supplies you need between client calls and meetings with the boss is important to help the workday run smoothly and efficiently.

Whether you're arranging a work-from-home space or tackling your setup at the office, organized desk drawers can make all the difference. A solid drawer organization system also lets you know when it’s time to replenish those highlighters or binder clips.

Employ the following desk drawer organization tips to keep your workspace in top condition.

1. Declutter Office Supplies

Prior to organizing your desk drawer, decide exactly what you want to store in it. Do you rarely use your three-hole punch? Perhaps it doesn't need to be taking up prime real estate on your desk. Take everything out of your drawers and divide items into two categories: Things you need easy access to while sitting at your desk and items you can store elsewhere in the office. Now is also the best time to declutter what you no longer need, such as dried-out pens, broken rubber bands, and actual trash. This should leave you with a pile of supplies that's ready to go back into your desk drawer.

2. Sort by Category

Now that you’re left with the items you use regularly, go through them again and sort by type. This process can be as specific or as broad as you want it to be. For example, all of your pencils should be grouped together. However, if you only own a few, feel free to create a broader writing utensil category and combine pencils with any pens, highlighters, or markers. Or divide things by what you want to keep out on your desktop (in a Better Homes & Gardens Wire Utensil Caddy, $13, Walmart) versus what you want to be stored in a drawer.

drawer organization
Adam Albright

3. Organize with Desk Drawer Containers

Now, here’s the fun part. Find organizers that work for your desk drawer and your aesthetic. Clear, acrylic inserts are a popular choice but you don’t have to resign yourself to them if they’re not your preference. Bamboo organizers (like this Better Homes & Gardens Natural Bamboo Drawer Organizer 5-Piece Set, $22, Walmart) expandable trays, mesh containers, or even affordable organizing solutions such as muffin trays or jewelry boxes can work so long as they fit into the drawer and are the right size for the items you're storing. Longer, narrow organizers are better for items like rulers while small square or circular ones are best for pushpins and paperclips.

4. Prevent Sliding with Putty

To prevent containers from slipping and sliding around the inside of the desk drawer, employ a hack used by professional organizers. Roll up a dab of putty or museum gel and place some on the corners of each organizer. This keeps them in place but won’t ruin the bottom of the drawer. If you need to reorganize things at any time, simply lift up the inserts and refresh the putty or gel when placing them back down.

desk drawer organization

Better Homes & Gardens / Jacob Fox

5. Make DIY Dividers

If you can't find the right containers for your desk drawer, consider using adjustable dividers instead. These types of organizers have a little bit more flexibility because you can space them out as needed. Similar to long, narrow containers, dividers work best for longer items like scissors and staplers. However, some are designed to create custom compartments. Look for a bamboo spring-loaded version with or without separators for smaller items. Or, if you’re the craft kind, create your own DIY drawer dividers.

6. Organize Cords, Cables, and Chargers

In today’s digital age, we often have more electronics than we know what to do with. Depending on the type of work you do, you might need to keep a handful of cords and chargers close by. In order to save space in your desk drawer, be sure to organize any and all cables so they’re as compact as possible. Use bundlers or wraps with the option to label each cord to make identifying them a breeze. In a pinch, a small piece of Velcro will do the trick.

organized and labeled desk drawer
Adam Albright

7. Add Labels

While not necessary, placing labels in your desk drawer can keep them even more organized in the long run. Using a label maker—like the kind you use on the tabs of important file folders—type out the categories or supply zones you have within the drawer. Attach them to the inside lip of the drawer or the part of a container that faces you. Label tape can also be removed or rearranged at any time, so as your needs change, you can adjust your labels.

8. Prioritize Top Drawers

If your desk contains a multitude of drawers, it’s important to use the extra storage space wisely. Organize everyday things in the top drawer, the stuff you reach for once a week in the middle, and the once-in-a-while items in the bottom. If you only have one drawer, you can still use this technique by giving priority to the supplies you need most by storing them front and center, with your least-used items tucked behind.

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