organize a desk without drawers

10 Steps to Organize a Desk Without Drawers + Storage Ideas

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If you have a home office that’s in a small space, or a small desk with no drawers, you know what a challenge it can be to keep the space clean and organized to work efficiently.

My husband works on a folding table in a walk-in closet. We affectionately call his makeshift closet-office his “cloffice”. We have firsthand experience with this problem. 

With no desk drawers or built in desk storage, he’s constantly battling a messy desk. 

In this post, you’ll learn 10 steps to organize a desk without drawers. Plus, I’m sharing desk organizers and vertical storage options that can help you make the most of your space. 

So how do you organize a desk without drawers? Let’s dive in!

How to organize a desk without drawers

Follow these 10 steps that will take you from purging to planning and putting it all together to have a clutter free office you love to be in. 

Step 1. Purge. 

First thing, go through your office space and get rid of any unnecessary items that you aren’t using or that don’t belong in your office space. 

Remove all the random items that have been dumped in your space. That old yoga mat, an extra pillow, a random set of free weights. Find them a new home. And recycle, donate or trash anything else that needs to go. 

Purging regularly and placing items back where they belong when you’re done with them is the key to keeping an organized desk. 

Step 2. Think about what needs to be in your space. 

Do you need extra storage for small office supplies? Will you be storing papers, packs of printer paper, notebooks and binders, or computer parts? Do you have books that need to be in your workspace? You’ll need desktop organizers or floor organizers that can hold the various types of items you need to store in your space. 

Step 3. Position your desk properly. 

First off, consider where the outlets are and how you’ll connect your equipment to power sources. This will heavily influence where you locate your desk.  

Then look around the work area to identify opportunities to create extra space for organizing. Place your desk up against a wall and you can take advantage of the vertical space by adding shelves for books and notebooks. Or hang file organizers on the wall to corral day to day paper clutter. Decide to be near a door, and you can use an over the door file organizer. 

Do you need to place a bookshelf within easy reach? Or to place a filing cabinet next to your desk to store documents? Consider that in your office layout. 

Step 4. Consider your desktop setup. 

First, decide where your electronic items need to be placed so they reach the power source. This is the trickiest piece in planning your desk layout. You may need to use power strips to reach the outlets. 

Then, you’ll want to keep the items you use every day on the top of your desk within easy reach so you have easy access to them. All your important things should have a designated spot.That makes them easy to put back. 

Step 5. Consider your storage needs. 

You’ll need a spot for the items you don’t use often, but you still need to get to them easily. Think about extra printer paper. Extra notepads, printer cartridges, and computer equipment.   

Step 6. Think about how you’ll manage trash and recycling.

You’ll need a trash can, recycling box and paper shredder. These aren’t sexy items. But without them, your best office organizing intentions will go right out the window. 

Once you have a clear sense of how you need your space to function. And what you need to access everyday versus what you need to store, it’s time to look for desktop organizers and wall and floor storage options that maximize your vertical storage space. And then you can get to work putting it all together. 

Don’t worry, I’m here to help! I have 13 desk organization ideas that offer the perfect solution to your organizational woes.  Let’s look at desktop organizers!

Step 7. Use desktop organizers to maximize desktop storage. 

If you want an organized desk, there are some amazing storage systems that allow you to make the most of your desk space.

A desk organizer is the best way to organize small items like paper clips and sticky notes. 

Add an acrylic monitor stand. Use a monitor stand to get your monitor up off your desk and have room to store notebooks or papers and your planner underneath. Keep your cell phone in the holder while you work. To use your desk as a writing surface, tuck your keyboard up and under the stand. If you’ll always be typing and writing at the same time, consider installing a keyboard tray.

Acrylic Monitor Stand

Acrylic Monitor Stand

  • The riser is 20" wide
  • Comes with 2 tiers and a spot to hold your phone.
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02/18/2024 06:17 pm GMT

Fit your desk with a keyboard tray. If you want to write on your small desk while also typing on your keyboard, a keyboard tray is what you need. Just mount it underneath your desk. And pull it out or tuck it away when you don’t need it.  This model clamps on and no drilling is required. It’s larger and wider than other trays. Make sure you measure your keyboard and desk to make sure it will work. It’s compatible with a desk the thickness of 1.25” and less.

Clamp-on Keyboard and Mouse Tray

Clamp-on Keyboard and Mouse Tray

  • Clamp-on keyboard tray is easy to install. No drilling into your desk.
  • Recommended Desk Thickness: 0.5” to 1.25”, Weight Capacity: 11 lbs
  • Tray Dimensions: 26.8” (32.5” including clamps) x 11”, Tray Thickness: 0.6”
  • Extension: Tray slides out a total of 8.5” from desk
  • Orientation: Tray sits 1.5” to 2.75” below the desk surface
  • Comes in 5 colors

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02/18/2024 07:26 pm GMT

Use stackable storage drawers. If you need to add drawer space to hold small things, this is the perfect thing for your office desk. It’s only 9 inches wide so it will take up very little space. That’s perfect for your paperclips, sticky notes, binder clips and small odds and ends that you don’t know where else to put.  

3 Tier Stackable Storage Drawers

3 Tier Stackable Storage Drawers

  • This model has 6 drawers total of various sizes to hold small items.
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1”L X 6.6”W X 5.9”H
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02/18/2024 07:03 pm GMT

Add a desk paper tray. Stackable desk trays are one of the simple ways to get clutter under control. This one is clean, sleek and stylish and will help you get clutter under control. It comes with 2 stackable trays. Designate one as an inbox and one as an outbox. Or use them to hold printer paper or notepads so you can grab them easily. 

Clear Acrylic Paper Tray, 2 Pack + 2 Tiers

Clear Acrylic Paper Tray, 2 Pack + 2 Tiers

  • 2 horizontal stackable trays measuring 12.4"L x 8.8"W x 2.6"H
  • Works with letter size paper
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02/18/2024 07:14 pm GMT

Add an adjustable wood shelf. This little shelf system is the best way to get more vertical storage without hanging a shelf on the wall. This adjustable wood shelf rests on your desktop. Place a pencil cup, books and decorative items. It’s ideal if your desk touches a wall when you use this shelf.

Adjustable Wood Shelf

Adjustable Wood Shelf

  • Two separate shelves. Use them together or apart.
  • Product dimensions: 6.8"D x 16"W x 15.8"H
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02/18/2024 06:04 pm GMT

Consider an acrylic file organizer. An acrylic file organizer is sleek and minimal, which is great if your space is small. And you can easily see what’s in each slot to find what you need. 

Clear Acrylic File Organizer

Clear Acrylic File Organizer

  • This model comes with 3 vertical slots. But there are several models to choose from with 2 to 5 vertical or horizontal slots.
  • Product dimensions: Size: H 6.5 x L 8.5 x W 7.2 inch.

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02/18/2024 06:08 pm GMT

Use a mesh organizer with sliding drawer tray. This mesh organizer gives you the best of all worlds when it comes to desktop organizers. Providing vertical dividers for files, notebooks, binders or even books. And a separate paper tray and drawer. This organizer has over 31K reviews and 80% give it 5-stars. 

Mesh Desk Organizer with Sliding Drawer, Tray and 5 Vertical Dividers

Mesh Desk Organizer with Sliding Drawer, Tray and 5 Vertical Dividers

  • Organizer dimensions: 13"D x 13.25"W x 9"H
  • Vertical dividers are 2 inches wide
  • Made of metal and comes in silver and black.
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02/18/2024 05:51 pm GMT

Your desktop may not be the only place to hold your stuff. Depending on your space, wall storage may also be an option. 

Step 8. Build in new vertical storage options by adding wall storage. 

Hang floating shelves. Take advantage of wall space to hang a floating shelf. These floating wall shelves are perfect if you don’t have a lot of wall space. It can hold a pencil container, your stapler, sticky note pads, and a few slim books or decorative items. 

Floating Wall Mounted Shelves, Set of 2

Floating Wall Mounted Shelves, Set of 2

$19.99 ($10.00 / Count)
  • Product dimensions: 15.74" L x 5.31" W x 5.51" H.
  • Reinforced metal brackets allow shelves to hold up to 40 pounds.
  • Metal brackets are reversible. Install the brackets above the shelf to lean books against the bracket.
  • Installs in minutes on a wood stud, drywall, or concrete wall with 8 screws per board.
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02/19/2024 12:02 am GMT

Use an over the door file holder. This over the door file holder is a great way to add some unexpected storage and organization to your space. Put it inside a closet so it’s out of sight or on the back of a door that’s near your desk to keep track of important files or office supplies. 

4 Pocket Over Door Supply + File Holder

4 Pocket Over Door Supply + File Holder

  • Measures 31.5"Hx13.25"Wx3.75"D; Pocket: 6.8"H x 12.5"W x 3.5"D
  • Made of heavy duty material that's rip resistant
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02/18/2024 05:29 pm GMT

Step 9. Add floor-based storage space.

Add a floor shelf next to the desk. If you have the wall space in your area, add a shelf. Store books or use baskets to hold things out of sight. And store packs of printer paper, binders and other items. This shelf is sturdy and easiest to assemble if you have an Allen wrench. The shelves aren’t adjustable so make sure they will work with your books or storage baskets before purchasing. 

6 Tier Bookcase

6 Tier Bookcase

  • A 6-tier bookcase standing at 23.82"W * 9.25"D * 70.87"H.
  • Distance between shelves is 11.4".
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02/18/2024 11:15 pm GMT

Include a lateral filing cabinet. Adding a separate storage cabinet like a filing cabinet can double your storage power. This one has a top drawer that gives you a spot for all your loose items like pens and sticky notes and binder clips. Add drawer organizers to that drawer so you’ve got a separate spot for everything. Then use the bottom drawers to hold papers you need easy access to daily. Or that you need to store for years. 

3 Drawer File Cabinet

3 Drawer File Cabinet

  • Top drawer holds small office supplies
  • Two file drawers hold letter-size hanging file folders
  • Ships fully assembled
  • Product dimensions: ‎14.25"D x 18"W x 27.3"H
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02/18/2024 08:50 pm GMT

Use a rolling cart with open containers. Put a 3-tier rolling cart next to your desk. The advantage of a rolling cart is that you can see what’s in each tier at a quick glance. Add bins of various sizes to hold similar items together. Like a holder for pens and pencils, sticky notepads, markers, binder clips etc. This cart also has hooks you can hang scissors or other items from. With over 25K reviews, 86% of reviewers give this cart 5 stars for being easy to assemble and well made. 

Rolling Metal 3-Tier Cart

Rolling Metal 3-Tier Cart

  • Product Dimensions: 12.5'' L x 16.75'' W x 32'' H
  • Comes with 3 metal baskets and heavy duty 2" casters/wheels with 2 lockable breaks

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02/18/2024 10:12 pm GMT

Use a rolling cart with drawers. Here’s another rolling vertical storage option with 5 drawers. Perfect for storing items you need to stash out of sight. Like printer paper, binders, extra notepads, computer parts, podcasting supplies. 

5 Drawer Storage Unit

5 Drawer Storage Unit

  • Sits on 4 caster wheels. 2 that lock.
  • 5 easy glide drawers.
  • Cutout handles makes the drawers easy to open.
  • Product Dimensions: 16"D x 19.25"W x 26.25"H
  • Assembly required.
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02/18/2024 11:39 pm GMT

You’re almost there! Now you need a system for getting rid of clutter regularly. 

Step 10. Build an easy system for purging regularly.

My husband faces a pileup of unpurged papers and trash. This is his biggest challenge. So building a system for getting rid of old files and papers is essential. Here are 3 things to build into your office space.

Put a recycling box under the desk. Any cardboard box will do for this purpose. Choose a box that fits the space and make sure it’s close by so you can easily toss papers in there. 

Include a trashcan in the space. Have a trashcan in the space for snack wrappers, tissues and anything else that tends to pile up. 

Develop a routine for emptying the recycling and trash on a weekly or semi weekly basis. 

Put a paper shredder near your desk. Unfortunately, shredding paper is a necessary but tedious task. Add a paper shredder for confidential documents. If you don’t have a shredder right where you are, that creates a total bottleneck in any paper disposal system. If you can do it as the paper comes in, it’s much easier than tackling a massive pile of papers. 

How do you organize your desk without storage? 

First thing, purge and get rid of anything that doesn’t need to be in your office space. Identify what needs to be in the space. Position your desk properly. Consider your desktop setup. Think through your storage needs and how you’ll manage trash. Then get to work and use the right desktop organizers for your space. Build in new vertical storage options by adding wall storage. Add floor-based storage space. And finally, build an easy system for purging regularly. 

Great job! Pat yourself on the back for all the work you’ve done. Get ready to feel productive and inspired in your newly organized work space. 

XO, Marya

Hi, Friend. I'm Marya. I'm so glad you're here!

I’m here to help women feel good inside and out through approachable everyday style inspiration and encouragement for midlife. Once upon a time, I worked as a therapist and coach. Now, I’m a holistic style blogger studying style coaching! Be So You celebrates leaning into who we were meant to be! 

Read about my  journey to self-discovery at 40. Follow me on Instagram here and Pinterest here. Send me a quick question through my contact page here.  

Fit Note: I’m midsized at 5’6″, 160 pounds, with size 12 jeans.

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