If you are looking for teacher desk organization ideas, then you’ve found the right place! This post shares 5 steps for transforming your desk from a hot mess to a systematized, tidy workspace. The first step is to reflect on why it’s important for you to have a tidy workspace. This will give you the motivation to complete the project. Whenever you feel like you are losing steam, think back to why you are taking on this task. The second step is to determine if you actually need a teacher desk in your classroom. This post will talk you through the process of making that decision with reflection questions. The third step is to take action and declutter your desk. This post will walk you step-by-step through how to do that. The fourth step is the organization phase. The final step is to maintain your newly organized space. There are 20 tips to support you in doing so down below.
This post will equip you with the information you need to declutter and organize your teacher desk and establish systems and routines for maintaining an organized work space. Get all of the teacher desk organization ideas below!
5 Steps for Organizing Your Teacher Desk
Below are 5 steps for organizing your teacher desk. There are tons of great teacher desk organization ideas imbedded in them as well.
1. Reflect on why it’s important for you to have a clean workspace.
Before we get into anything related to teacher desk organization, think about why you want a tidy workspace and the benefits of keeping a clean desk. Below are some examples to help you start the brainstorm process.
- A clean workspace will improve efficiency.
- It will present an organized, professional image.
- Having systems to maintain your space daily helps protect confidential data and student information.
- It will make you more relaxed and less stressed.
2. Determine if you need your teacher desk.
Again, before we get into any teacher desk organization tips, think about if you even need a desk. Teacher “desks” often become teacher “offices,” which take up a good chunk of the classroom. If you are short on space, you may want to consider doing away with the desk completely. Ask yourself the reflection questions below to help you determine if you actually need your desk.
What do I use my desk for?
If the answer is storage, then think about other places that you could store those same materials (or better yet, declutter the space and get rid of some of them). If you use your desk for planning, grading, etc. then consider alternative spaces that would work better.
Am I the only one benefitting from the space?
Teacher desks frequently monopolize a large fraction of the classroom, yet only one person is getting use out of it. Consider how you could use the space to maximize student learning.
How does this piece of furniture affect my teaching?
Most teachers report that they don’t spend much time at their desk. When children are present, they are working with them and not sitting alone at a desk. When they are out of the room, there are tables available to work at.
How does my desk area usually look and how does that make me feel?
If whenever you look at your desk you feel overwhelmed and stressed, then that’s a good sign that this is a problem area for you. Another thing to consider is the feeling you get whenever an administrator, colleague, or parent walks in your classroom. You know your desk is a direct reflection of you. If it is cluttered and messy, then that sends a message to anyone who sees it.
Is getting rid of the desk an option? If not, how could it be repurposed?
I currently have a teacher desk in my classroom. I doubt it could be removed because I don’t think there would be anywhere to store it. However, I am planning to repurpose it as an area that kids can work at. It’s higher than the tables so it’ll be a good option for those friends that like to stand and work.
If you have determined you need a teacher desk, then let’s focus on how to make it organized and more efficient! Read below for the next steps!
3. Declutter your desk.
It’s very easy to accumulate a lot of unnecessary “stuff” in and around a desk. Start by determining what you really need and what you can remove from the classroom.
And remember, the more you get rid of the less you’ll need to organize.
- Gather 2 small sorting containers (labeled keep and donate), a recycling bin, and a trash can. Place the sorting containers on top of your desk. Open one drawer at a time, remove the items and place them into the appropriate container.
- Now go through the container of items you plan to keep, sort and reconsider the items. Place like items together (pens/pencils, stickers/stamps, paperclips/binder clips, etc). Get rid of anything that is considered excess. You don’t need three scissors or four bottles of whiteout.
- If you have a teacher supply closet at your school simply place the excess staples, paperclips, and other items there. It’ll be there when you need it. If you can’t stand to part with it then consider getting a small storage box and placing all of the duplicate and overstocked items inside so that your actual workspace is simplified.
- After you have removed everything from your desk, give it a deep cleaning. Add in organizational systems for sorting objects with labels before returning items to it.
- Designate a space for things that come and go with you each day so they are not left out on your desktop (i.e. cell phone, camera, keys).
- Try putting everything you need into a box next to your desk for a week or two. When you take an item out to use place it inside your desk. Reevaluate the items that are still in the box and weren’t used at the end of the designated time period. Do you really need them?
4. Organize your desk.
The next step is to organize your desk. Below are 12 teacher desk organization ideas that may be helpful!
Avoid the big desk calendar.
The first teacher desk organization idea on the list is to avoid the big desk calendar you often see on teachers’ desks. Those giant calendars that cover the surface of a desk look like a good idea, but can be problematic for several reasons. Desk calendars are large and awkward. The items placed on top need to be removed or shuffled to access it, and those items don’t always find their way back to the correct home.
A much better solution is a small planner that is portable and easy to use. If you prefer to view the year or month at a glance, consider creating a display next to your desk that you can see, but not bury.
Only put items you actually need in the desk.
Most likely you will never find yourself in a situation that requires you to immediately put your hands onto 24 pens, 13 boxes of paperclips, and 43 elastics. Use smaller, marked containers to house the surplus of these items and keep only a few handy in your desk.
Create smaller compartments.
The third teacher desk organization idea on the list is to use small boxes or drawer organizers to contain small items in your desk. This will keep your desk not only looking tidy, but will make it easy to find and put away objects that would otherwise be tossed loosely inside.
Label the areas within your desk.
A label greatly improves your chances of returning items to the correct location. It also prevents you from placing items into spots where they do not belong.
Create a bulletin board next to your desk.
You can either invest in a cork board or simply cover the existing wall with paper and border. Use it to display important items like schedules, lunch menus, procedures, etc. If an item is confidential (for example: student addresses and phone numbers), create a “pocket” to hide the information, but still keep it at your fingertips. A file folder works well for this.
Organize your tasks.
The next teacher desk organization idea on the list is to use stacking trays or a vertical wall system for separating items. Some great categories include: to do (things that need to be addressed, filled out or copied), to file (papers that need filing), and to read (items that need your full attention). Also consider that trash can to be your fourth and most important filing category.
Create a home for your plan book.
Always keep it in the same place when you are not writing in it. Inform a close colleague about where you keep your plan book and teacher manuals, so that in the event of an unplanned absence everything will be accessible.
Store small items into your desk.
This includes paperclips, pens, erasers, and such. Desktop organizers seem like a good idea, but add visual clutter and take up valuable space. They also make it too easy for children to access them.
Clean off your desktop often.
Get in the habit of always cleaning off your desktop before lunch and before you go home. This will ensure that you don’t reach the point of being overwhelmed by the task.
Relocate items on your desk.
Take the items that are typically found on a teacher’s desktop and relocate them to a drawer. They’ll still be easy to access, but won’t be cluttering the area. This includes things like post-its, a stapler, tape, etc.
Use small containers within the drawer to keep things organized.
One of my favorite teacher desk organization ideas on the list is to use small containers within drawers. Labeling the baskets is helpful too. There are some great desk organizer products available, but I prefer to keep everything out of sight.
Always be ready for a substitute.
Strive to leave a clean workspace with emergency sub plans out and visible when you leave each day. Not only will you feel more productive coming into a clean spot, but you will never need to worry about sub plans again.
5. Establish systems and routines.
Once your desk is organized, develop routines to make it easy to stay that way. Get into the habit of always clearing off your desktop at the end of prep, before lunch and before you leave for the day. This will prevent you from feeling overwhelmed or having to spend a ton of time at it at once.
Stop using sticky notes for reminders.
Instead of using sticky notes, keep one notebook designated for reminders and to do lists. I love me a Post-It too, but they make your work area look cluttered.
Limit the family photos and kid art.
It’s nice to have pictures of your family available so that your students can connect with you and know you are human. It’s also great to be able to look at the smiling faces or your loved ones while you are away from them. However, your classroom should not be a shrine to your family. Consider creating a personalized binder cover insert or a page protector with your personal photos. You could also go digital and simply look at your phone when you want to see those adorable little smiles.
Say no to knick-knacks.
Limit the personal items on your desk. They take up valuable real estate, are another thing to manage, and could get damaged accidentally. We want everything on our desk to serve a purpose.
Schedule times to clean your desk.
Make this a routine. My class takes a few minutes to wash their hands and gather their recess things just before lunch. They also take about five minutes to pack up to go home at dismissal. I use both of those times to “manage” my desk. I quickly recycle anything I don’t need, address things in my action file, and relocate anything that has been placed onto the surface. Because it never gets to the “out of control” stage, I am able to tend to it during these two short periods of time. After the kids leave for the day I wipe the desk down and place my emergency sub binder in the center of the desk.
Stick to one type of pen.
Pick a brand and color that you like and use it exclusively. Only keep 2-3 on hand at a time.
Don’t print emails or resources unless you absolutely need to.
Reducing the amount of paper you have also reduces the amount you’ll need to manage. Avoid having unnecessary papers as much as possible.
Keep a clear desktop.
You’ll be amazed at how this makes you feel psychologically. To achieve this goal store things in the drawers, attach photos to the desk or on a nearby wall.
Consider creating a “traveling office.”
Create a traveling office by placing a pair of scissors, a stapler, a roll of tape, a couple pens and some paperclips into a portable tote or caddy that can be stored on a shelf, under a table or in a cupboard when not in use. This gives you so much flexibility!
Have a plan for all those student drawings that are presented to you.
Perhaps you could designate a small bulletin board and rotate the gifted artwork or simply say, “this will look beautiful on my fridge at home.”
Create smaller containers and spaces.
Small containers are a great way to store items within drawers. Use small boxes, plastic containers, muffin tins or draw sorters to keep things organized. Go the extra step by labeling each section. It greatly increases the odds that you’ll put things back into their proper place. As I mentioned earlier, this is definitely one of my favorite teacher desk organization ideas!
Find a method of managing cords that works well for you.
You can use zip ties to tighten them and/or a basket to corral them. You could also cut holes in a box to keep the cords together while in use. Attach a label near the power source to identify the purpose of the cord.
Do not use your workspace as a closet.
Designate a closet or drawer to house your purse, coat, and lunch bag during the workday. Try to refrain from hanging your coat on the back of your chair.
Establish routines for maintaining a clutter-free, clean workspace.
Keep a container of baby wipes in your newly decluttered drawer. Get in the habit of clearing the surface throughout the day and wiping it down before you go home.
Keep your keyboard clean.
Use the sticky end of a Post-It note to clean between the keys on your keyboard.
Avoid eating at your desk.
It will invite mess. Plus, you need a real break during the day.
Have a designated space for notes.
Having a spot for notes and a method for organizing your Post-Its will help you avoid little scraps of paper here, there and everywhere.
Avoid a generic “inbox tray.”
Raise your hand if you are guilty of this! Instead of using a generic inbox tray, invest in a filing system. Create sections for managing papers (i.e. need response, to be copied, to be corrected, to be filled out, etc). This will keep things current and allow you to have less piles to shuffle.
Do this as much as possible. Use your iPhone for notes, calendar, etc. to reduce the amount of paper you need to manage.
Keep a paper shredder and a trash can within close proximity.
This will make it easier to purge items in your work area as needed. This is a highly underrated teacher desk organization idea, but it makes life so much easier.
Designate one day a month for a deep desk cleaning.
This is a great routine to get into. Get rid of anything you’ve acquired recently that you don’t need along with items you may have initially saved.
In closing, we hope you found these teacher desk organization ideas helpful. If you did, then you may also be interested in my classroom organization workshop, as well as these posts: