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Dark Puss

I have my desks (I have two offices at the moment) as clear as humanly possible. I have a 24" LCD monitor, mouse and keyboard and small desk lamp. That's it. All paperwork is put away (filed or scrapped, not hidden away in a drawer) every night before I leave for home. It took me a lot of courage to reach the "empty desk" stage but the wonderful feeling when I arrive each day and don't see a depressing pile of papers is truly liberating. I recommend it very strongly indeed, and you will be the envy of your workmates/friends/family. I do allow myself one small picture (of Morgana) and a paperweight made from a bronze gear wheel to sit on the lamp base but that's it.

Dark Puss

I'm interested in the efficiency vs. comfort question

I think it is a good one to ask, so discover whether you find yourself in any way regularly distracted by your desk accoutrements and if so then you have an answer. Whether it is one you will wish to take action over I cannot of course say.


Do you remember the Writer's rooms series on the Guardian?

Good opporutnity to compare yourself with the great and the good...

I don't mind clutter if it is orderly, I'm a great one for piles. And notebooks - glad I'm not the only one, although I only have four now. What are yours all for?

Lee Wittenstein

I come down firmly on the cluttered side. I have piles of books, papers and knitting as well as a place for a mug and the lap top and printer. I try, once a week or so, to have a tidy up to control the piles, but a bare desk never happens.

Dark Puss

Dear "Pips" and "Lee", I am very interested to know whether your desk clutter is desired or just that you find yourself unable or unwilling to deal with it. If the former what benefits do you derive from it?


I would love to be a clear desk person and I'm sure I would work more effectively if I wasn't always at risk of an avalanche. It isn't even personal ... it's just rubbish!

Dark Puss

Dear "m", it took me many years to achieve it. I always thought it to be a crazy waste of time and effort, why put away your work only to get it out again the next day. The answer, and this may not be applicable to you or other readers of this post, is that what is pressing can easily change overnight and then you have last night's pile plus today's new urgent work. I also find that I am quite easily distracted by other things around me on my desk, particularly if what I should be doing is important but in no way fun. Prevarication, displacement activities etc. are so much easier if you have lots of things to play with surrounding you.

I should clarify that the way I did it was to completely clear in one go, not a gradual diminution.

Have a go at totally clearing things and then stick to your clean desk policy; please believe me when I say it is all very much worthwhile!


I need to be reminded of things to be done so on my desk (apart from my lovely Macbook) are my newspaper subscription coupons, a work in progress Elizabeth Bradley tapestry (easier to work in the study with the Bose to listen to or iPlayer to catch up on), the latest John Lewis statement, an assortment of printed out recipes and knitting patterns and the in-tray, which is partially emptied once a month or so except for That Which Cannot be Filed but seems risky to thrown away. Tidy but not, if you know what I mean Dark Puss?

Margaret Powling

I share the study/bookroom with husband - we have a wall-to-wall work bench which acts as our desk. On this are our computers, a telephone/answerphone and the printer, which we share. This doesn't leave much room for other things, but it's surprising how cluttered it can become. At his 'end' are the stapler, the hole punch, the calculator, etc. At 'my' end, and which I've just cleared of files (upstairs in a pile awaiting weeding) are a table lamp, a miniature chest of drawers in cardboard covered with pretty paper, a flip-top notepad, and pretty little jug in which are a set of six matching pencils. Oh, and a pale blue and white jug containing white chrysanthemums. It is all neat and orderly. It won't last!

Lee Wittenstein

I suppose my desk is only semi-cluttered. A bare desk seems so...bare. A few well-edited piles of "things that need attention" are on one side, the printer on the other. Because my desk is, in reality, a small table, there is plenty of room to work on my laptop in the middle. I keep papers that I might need quickly in a portable file and the "permanent collection" in proper file drawers. Once a week or so I give it a clear-off

Dark Puss

Georgina, I do indeed know what you mean! It took me about 5 years from being alerted (through reading management books!) to the desirability of a clear desk to actually achieving it. That was about 7 years ago and I've never looked back.

Dark Puss

A bare desk seems so...bare

Like a pristine, cool linen sheet ...

Lee Wittenstein

My designer friend would agree with you. I just seem to need more "stuff" to be productive. Not "more is more" just "some is more."


But what if you haven't managed to complete your paperwork before leaving. Is it in a pending file? If so, where? (Sorry to be nosy, just trying to get the picture).


I don't find myself distracted by my things, but perhaps having so many books which are waiting to be read, on or near the desk, makes pressure build sometimes (also, there's not usually much space for taking pictures of the books - which I always do).


I do remember that series, Pip, and I must take another look!
Notebooks: one for notes on whatever I'm reading, one to keep a record of all the books which come in (until recently I used a spreadsheet but I prefer pen and paper), one is to do with knitting, one is a sort of scrapbook, one is for daily jottings - notes of phonecalls, etc., and the last is for quotations, ideas and so on.


Yes, I find if things are out of sight they can so easily be overlooked, so better have them there right in front of me, but even that doesn't always work, e.g. the bright pink note stuck to the side of my computer screen right now reminding me to do a small administrative task - other things have been more pressing today so it may not be done until tomorrow (if then!).

Susan in TX

Dark Puss, my dh would agree with you wholeheartedly. Sounds like y'all have had a similar journey to reach the clear desk stage. It's easier for him to do at the office, but he's been keeping his home desk clear since the beginning of the year and loving it. Then there's me... I have two desks in the house. The kitchen desk is nearly impossible to keep neat and is just one of those places I choose NOT to let bother me. My desk upstairs has my desktop computer on it and just enough stuff to make the dust around it irritating (and would be embarrassing except that no one sees it but dh and I :) ). I think I fall in the middle - I like a clear work area, but there are certain "home-y" touches that need to be there. Like my MMOA calendar, a small book stand with my favorite books and address book...hmmm, but no, I did not leave the empty battery box here! :)


I wouldn't call it cluttered, maybe - that suggests it is all anyhow. I am a tidy person and do have regular clear-outs. The benefit is that I have it all to hand and where I can see it. It seems more orderly to me, not less.

So I have lots of piles - reading now, library books to be read, ongoing reading, notebooks, things I want to look through every-so-often to see if they are relevant etc. However, if I had more drawers, there might be less on my desk!

Rose Harding

I've got my old School 'cash book' on my desk recording how my pocket money was spent: "Speech Day Hair Ribbon" 5 shillings in 1968; I've got a covered dish of the gorgeous 'roast potatoes and garlic and herbs' that I made last night that I planned to eat cold for lunch (left-overs) - but didn't - I forgot; I've got the words "In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths" Proverbs 3v6 stuck to my pinboard, plus the words wrongly attributed to Nelson Mandela but glorious stuff nonetheless "Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate, but that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, handsome, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God within us. It is not just in some; it is in everyone. And, as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our fear, our presence automatically liberates others." Oh yes and a list of my four nephews birthday dates - I've got a bottle of champagne on my desk too, gathering dust; the Biscuiteers Booked of Iced Biscuits that the Biscuiteers mailed me as a Christmas present as I'd spent so much money with them last year; I've also got the House of Bruar catalogue on my desk waiting for me to choose something; the 'modern theatre guides' to 'Waiting for Godot' sits untouched and unopened because my daughter opted for 'Cabaret' instead; my Royal Anglian regimental mug for my tea; posters for the 'Poverty Over' and the London Festival of Architecture and lots and lots and lots of paperwork! Lets do bags next!


Rose, that's wonderful! To those of us who like well-furnished or accoutred desks, yours speaks of a rich life!
(Good idea about the bags).

Dark Puss

Hey there! I know there is a phrase that goes something like empty desk, empty mind and I know you are nor directly implying the converse but I think I have a fairly rich life too despite the lack of immediate evidence on my desk!

PS I think you left the word "who" out of your comment.

PPS, I'm up for a discussion of bags too.


Thankyou DP, and yes, you provide evidence of your interests and so on in other ways!

Dark Puss

That's is a very tactful response! Thank you.

Peter x

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Please note

  • Sidebar book cover thumbnail pictures are affiliate links to Amazon, and the storefront links to Blackwell's and The Book Depository are also affiliated; should you purchase a book directly through those links, I will receive a small commission. Older posts may also contain affiliate links to one of those bookshops. I am not paid to produce content and all opinions are my own.


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