Being able to find the exact thing you want at the exact second you want it sounds like magic, doesn't it? Being organized can help you actually do this. Now, I'm not talking about wanting a million dollars and it appears... a more realistic wish would be wanting and finding that school permission slip when the bus is due to arrive at any moment. People who are organized think this is an every day occurrence, but for a lot of people, missed deadlines are a way of life.
Just thinking about being late gives me the shivers, but I've put steps in place in my life to keep most things running like clockwork and you can, too. Time management is a huge factor. Assigned homes for all household items and papers is a biggie, as well. One seemingly silly thing I know that really helps is simple: having a clean desk.
What are the components of a clean desk?
An open and clear work space
Accessible office supplies
A designated in/out box area for To Dos
Zones (or homes) for certain items
The picture you see above is an actual view of my desk this morning with no pre-cleaning. It's not the most perfect it's ever been but it's far from messy. The way to keep it usable (and you happy) is not that tough if you put some effort into it - an intensive initial organizing session, followed by a little bit of maintenance EVERY DAY.
To give you some perspective, think about your bathroom. It requires a deep clean at least monthly, if not more, some quick touch up cleaning when company is coming, and some maintenance chores you do every day without thinking - flush the toilet, put the top back on the toothpaste, hang up the wet towels. Your desk requires these touch ups and regular maintenance as well, but it's not as vital to your health if you don't keep it up, so... you don't.
Without getting into paperwork, which is a whole other topic in itself, you can do an initial big purge of everything else in your desk quite easily. Sort all of your office supplies into categories, move things that don't belong there back to their rightful homes, clean out all of your drawers, and dust everything. Then really sit and think about what you do on a daily basis so you can set up your desk to work for you.
Here are some ideas for zones to set up on your desk:
Have an area for incoming mail & bills before you take action and/or put them into your command center.
We will always have ongoing projects, so make a place for these items that aren't as urgent as bills but can't be filed away until they are completed. The dining room table or kitchen counter is not this place. It can simply be a file in your command center or a completely separate area like my desktop organizer.
Have at least "one piece of pretty" to remind yourself it's not all work and no play. This can be a plant, candles, or a vision board with inspirational pictures and quotes.
Create a drawer or desktop organizer with your most basic office supplies and consistently replenish it with stock from your bulk office supplies. These extras (big reams of paper, boxes of new pens) do not need to be at your desk if you don't have room.
Group your envelopes, cards, stamps and address book in the same area for easy access.
Set up areas to keep all of your computer cds, usb drives, cameras, cables, etc but think about what you use on a regular basis (make it accessible) and what you don't (put it in the least used spot in your desk or even in a closet or bookcase).
If you are right or left handed, always put the things you use most on that side of your desk.
Things also have a way of mysteriously appearing on your desk, like the toy cars that are parked on mine this morning. However, if you do your maintenance each day and take 5 minutes after you are done with your work to put things back where they really belong, it shouldn't be hard to keep it clear and clutter free as long as you remember to do this consistently every time you work at your desk. For instance, the mail that appeared on the corner of my desk yesterday afternoon will be dealt with today... only to be replaced with today's mail. However, I am ok with it living there on my desk as I know it's only 1-2 days worth at the most because that's my system. If I filed it away in a To Do folder, I wouldn't see it, and it wouldn't get taken care of, so this visual reminder works for me. Figure out what works for you.
So take a look at your desk right now and think about what you could do to make it easier for you to be happy while working there. If you can't see the top at all, then it's definitely time to tackle it. Get going and get happy!