What to do when you feel overwhelmed by small office clutter

If you feel overwhelmed by small office clutter, relax with these ideas

Leather desk chair in neutral office
(Image credit: Pottery Barn)

Feeling overwhelmed by small office clutter can really mess up your work day! Have you dreamed of having a large home office with a huge desk, lots of light, and space to store everything? Me too! But unfortunately, I'm stuck in a tiny space. 

If the situation is truly overwhelming and you don’t know what to do — don’t worry. You are not without hope. You just need a plan. 

I spoke with two pro organizers to learn their best tips on what to do when you feel overwhelmed by small office clutter. Their small office ideas won't just change your office's aesthetic — they can actually help boost productivity. 

What to do when you feel overwhelmed by small office clutter

Here’s how two of the best pro organizers declutter small home offices and set up systems so their clients don’t feel overwhelmed in the future.

1. Declutter

messy drawer

(Image credit: Amy Cha)

Less is more when it comes to office desk clutter. Professional organizer and Founder of The Model Home, Eryn Donaldson tells me it’s best to begin by decluttering. “Start by eliminating unnecessary items and paperwork. Keep only what you truly need out on your desk to reduce any visual distractions. Less items on your desk or in your work area will definitely make the space feel bigger!”

Take old papers, notes, receipts, empty envelopes, or anything that doesn’t have a purpose and get rid of it. Make this easier by buying yourself a new wastebasket, like this wooden wastebasket available on Amazon.

2. Embrace your style

Amy Cha

(Image credit: Amy Cha)

Professional organizer and founder of Everyday Organzied, Amy Cha tells me that embracing your organizing style can be a game-changer. “When it comes to organizing your small office, there's no one-size-fits-all solution. Some of us are natural 'stuff-away' enthusiasts, while others thrive as 'stuff-out' individuals,” she explains. 

The key is to find what works best for you and stick to it. "For some, a clutter-free, open workspace is calming, while others need everything in view to stay on track. Embrace your personal style and don't try to be someone you're not.”

If you'd like to keep everything within sight, we found some of the best desk organizers for your set-up.

3. Tailor your setup

small office organization

(Image credit: Amy Cha)

Once you've identified your organizational style, Cha suggests playing to your strengths and tailoring your setup to accommodate how you naturally work best. 

"Stuff-away folks can make the most of drawers and cabinets with small bins and separators, while 'stuff-out' enthusiasts may find desktop document holders and peg boards more helpful.”

4. Invest in smart storage solutions

Even if you’re on a tight budget, it’s crucial to invest in a variety of storage and organization products. This won’t just make your life easier but it will ultimately help you become more productive. 

"Invest in efficient storage options like drawer organizers, cabinets, and shelves to create vertical space. Minimalist style desks such as this Elfa Desk from Container Store will make the most of your limited space,” says Donaldson.

You should have a variety of organization products from things for your desktop to dividers and baskets for the insides of drawers and shelves.

5. Create a cable management system

White cable management box on white desk

(Image credit: PB Teen)

Having cables out everywhere isn’t just unsightly, it can be downright distracting according to Donaldson. 

She recommends tidying up your workspace by organizing and concealing cables with one of these cord organizers from Pottery Barn Teen to reduce visual clutter and create a clean, calming look.

6. Opt for minimalist decor

Grey painted desk

(Image credit: Amanda Lauren Kass)

While everyone has their preferences, Donaldson thinks it's best to go with a minimalist decor scheme in your home office to create as calm an environment as possible. 

“Choose an airy or calming color scheme and minimalist decor to create a serene environment. Opt for light, neutral colors and incorporate plants or artwork that promotes relaxation. Lighter colors always make a small room feel larger,” she tells me. 

7. Keep it up

Small white office

(Image credit: PB Teen)

Donalson suggests having routine organization plans in place to keep everything as clean and neat as possible. “Once you have set up your perfect office, the job doesn’t stop here,” she says. 

“Establish daily and weekly routines for tidying up your workspace to maintain a clutter-free, calming environment consistently. This could be as simple as taking ten minutes at the end of each week to go through those notes on your desk to see if you still need them or if they can be tossed!”

Make a plan and stick to it. But give yourself grace. If you don't declutter this Tuesday like you planned, you can always do it on Wednesday. We all get busy.

8. Don't ignore digital clutter

Pink office chair and laptop on desk

(Image credit: PB Teen)

It’s not just the objects on our physical desks that can cause us to become overwhelmed. Digital clutter is a problem for most of us. 

“Even the tiniest icon on your desktop can be as distracting as a stack of physical documents,” says Cha. “Maintain good digital hygiene by deleting unnecessary items and dedicating 15 minutes each week to organizing your files.”


How should you start organizing a small office?

Start organizing a small office by getting rid of clutter. First, tackle the top of your desk or any visible surface. Then remove anything you don't need from the inside of your drawers. 

What types of products are best for small office organziation?

There are a variety of things you'll need to organize clutter. But you can't go wrong starting with baskets for larger objects, cups for writing instruments, and cord organizers for all of your chargers. 

Meet the experts

Eryn Donaldson headshot
Eryn Donaldson

Eryn Donaldson is a professional organizer as well the founder and owner of The Model Home. 

Amy Cha
Amy Cha

Amy Cha is a professional organizer and owner of Everyday Organized. 

Now that you're feeling less stressed out and have a plan — here are some tips to help you with decluttering a small space. Work on one area at a time and try to get rid of anything you haven't used in six months. I promise you can get through this!

Amanda Lauren

Hi, I’m Amanda Lauren. I’m a design expert and interior stylist who writes for Real Homes, Forbes, Real Simple among other publications. I live in Los Angeles in the historic neighborhood of Hancock Park with my husband, and two dogs, Lulu and Milo. We also have a baby coming in spring 2023. I’m a big believer in finding beautiful things at all price points. There are so many places to find affordable things, you just have to look for them. If you don't find it at first, look harder!