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The Best Desk Organizers, According to Professional Organizers

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist

Whether you’re returning to the office to find piles of paper clips and dusty Post-it Notes or trying to rein in a sprawling WFH setup, now is a good time to get organized. Professional organizer Allison Dunn, the founder of Neat Rules, says, “You want to get rid of clutter so that you can really focus on the things you need to use on a day-to-day basis.” The best way to do that, she says, is to “create a system where you only keep what you need, and everything you need is accessible, so you can be more productive.” Once you’ve cleared out the junk and zeroed in on your essentials, the next step, of course, is to keep them in order.

To find the best products for organizing desks or other workspaces, we talked to Dunn and eight other professional organizers about what they use to provide a place for everything (allowing them, as the saying goes, to keep everything in its place). While our experts generally agreed on the types of tools you’ll need, each had slightly different preferences when it came to specific items, so we’ve organized their recommendations by category, from desktop trays to filing systems to drawer organizers, and more.

Best desktop trays

“The first step to any organizing process is to group and categorize things,” says professional organizer Rolanda Lokey. She says the biggest complaints she gets from her clients relate to paper, from bills to files to loose Post-its. “It piles up so quickly and is also very easy to misplace,” she says. For those clients, she recommends three-tiered trays like this affordable one from Amazon (which can work just as well for storing notebooks or even small office supplies). She likes the three tiers because they allow for easily categorizing things within them as urgent, midterm, and long-term. “Once you get papers contained, your desk looks a lot neater,” she promises. While there are a lot of three-tiered trays out there, another reason she likes this one is that it’s made of steel mesh, which doesn’t collect as much dust and makes it easier to see what’s inside. Plus, mesh “goes with just about every décor scheme,” she adds. “A lot of my preference for mesh organizers is functional, and it’s something I would recommend to probably 80 percent of people. You can do a lot with them.”

If you want something with a little more heft, consider this tray that Queer Eye’s Bobby Berk recommended to us. It’s made of solid brass and looks “beautiful,” according to Berk, who says that it’s more than just a pretty object sitting on a desk. “Having a tray is better than just using a desk drawer,” he says, “because I find that when you use drawers, the stuff that goes in it is never seen again, which just adds a lot of clutter to your life.” Trays, on the other hand, are a visual reminder “of the stuff that needs to get thrown out or dealt with.”

Or, if you want something low-profile (and high-personality), proclaim your love of unusual aspect ratios and the “True Happiness Is Found Through Satan” plot with this fiberglass desktop tray by the merch maximalists at production company A24. It’s roughly five inches by seven inches in size, perfect for a small notepad or planner.