I don’t know about you, but I’m a huge neat freak when it comes to the spaces I work in. My kitchen has to be sparkling, my desk has to be impeccably organized, otherwise I just can’t get anything done. You too??
However, I can’t spend hours cleaning my kitchen or organizing my desk every time I sit down to write, so I try my darndest (is that a word? We’ll go with it!) to keep things organized so I don’t have to reinvent the wheel each writing session.
A few months ago I carved out a chunk of time to really make my writing space a special retreat where I could sit and work without too many distractions or frustrations.
And guys, it revolutionized my work ethic.
My desk became my favorite place to be, my little oasis in a busy world, somewhere I could go to write and concentration and generally be a #girlboss, even when the kitchen sink was full of dirty dishes.
You wouldn’t think something so simple could change so much, but it’s really the small changes that have the biggest impact. And for me, setting up my desk with everything I needed in reach set me up for success.
I’m going to walk you through the steps to create your own little writing retreat. Once you have your space organized, welcoming, and calm, the words will just flow. I promise.
Step 1: Make cleaning and tidying your space easy.
If you’ve read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo you know that cleanliness and tidiness are two different things. Cleanliness is how much dirt or grime is in your space; tidiness is how much stuff is occupying your space. Both can actually set you up for distraction, frustration, and ultimately, failure.
But it’s SO EASY to change that. It’s a two-step process.
Firstly, you’ll want to empty your desk. Of EVERYTHING. Pull out the notebooks and binders and pens and pencil shavings and random papers and stationery and gum wrappers. Pull out your drawers completely too. You’re going to clean every inch of your desk.
I like to keep a small spray bottle in my desk for just this purpose. I make a simple all-purpose cleaner: equal parts distilled white vinegar and distilled water, with a few drops of a fresh smelling essential oil (I like lavender, citrus, or white fir). Take a rag and spray the top of your desk, the base, the legs, the doors, and rub everything down. Spray your drawers and clean the outside and inside of these too.
Don’t worry, you’ll only do this big of a scrub maybe four times a year. Keeping the spray close by allows you to wipe things up quickly and easily, and maintain a clean workspace. If you have a white desk like I do, this is key.
Then you’ll want to go through everything you’ve pulled out of your desk. Sort through the notebooks, the binders, the stationary, the pens and pencils and highlighters and sticky notes. Throw away pencil shavings, recycle paper and notebooks you no longer need and give away pens or trinkets that don’t bring joy to your workspace.
Step 2: Organize for Functionality
The next step after cleaning everything is to organize it all.
Survey your pile of desk “stuff” and start sorting. Things you use frequently go in one pile. Things you use a little less frequently go in another pile. Things you want to keep, but only use a few times a year go in another pile. You’re going to organize based on these piles.
You want the items you use the most closest to you. Things like pens, your main brainstorming notebook, scissors, tape, paper clips, etc. Put these in top drawers or attractive organizers on your workspace. After your most important items are organized and in their spot, work your way through the other items, starting with the items you use less frequently, and ending with the items you rarely use but want to keep. These last items should go in the backs of cabinets or drawers.
I like to keep small boxes and tins to organize little things in my drawers, whether it’s my abundance of paper clips, pen refills, whatever, everything has a spot. I also keep a few notebooks and my planner on my desktop, along with pens, pencils, and a vase of fresh flowers.
While you’re organizing, you’ll also want to take stock of what items you need. Need more staples? What about sticky notes or printer ink? Maybe you want a calendar or a vision board? Write them down and pick them up soon, so your desk can be a finished retreat space, rather than a project in process.
Step 3: Make it Pretty!
My husband, Joe and I have a joke: he makes things structural, I make them pretty, so naturally, I found this last step the most fun.
This is where you really get to create a space that will inspire you, motivate you, and hopefully, give you a respite from the rest of the world and its stressors.
Firstly, you want to identify how you want to feel at your desk: motivated? Energized? Relaxed? Ambitious? All of the above? When you identify how you want to feel, you can start creating a space that will help you feel those emotions.
As well, it could help to pick a color scheme or a theme. Love the Bahamas? Make your desk a beachy theme! Want to reuse your wedding colors? Use your decorations, centerpieces, or invitations to give those elements of your wedding new life in your workspace.
There are of course a few basics you’ll want for a productive work zone:
- Something inspirational
- A wide workspace
But these don’t have to be your run of the mill, generic specimens! Find a lamp (or like me, make one yourself) that you really love. Find just the right light bulb to cast the perfect glow. Find a calendar that inspires you or allows you plenty of room to write goals or to-do lists. Create a small vision board to prop up on your desk, so your goals and inspiration are just a glance away.
I want to feel motivated, inspired, and calm while I’m at my desk so I generally always have a candle, a vase of flowers, and plenty of work space. I like to keep my desk clean and clear with just a few trinkets, my most used notebooks, and some inspirational quotes to get me motivated.
How do you organize your workspace? I’d love to see photos! Tag @thelexiconwritingblog on Instagram to share!