Not in the basement yet...
August 7, 2011 10:32 AM   Subscribe

I got moved to a much smaller desk at work (I kinda feel like Milton) and now everything feels really crowded. How can I increase the empty space on my desktop? What can I move or rearrange? Is there any magical desk accessory that can help me?

I do have two built-in file drawers as well as a cabinet above my desk (also built-in), but those are mostly full. I have one shallow drawer that's also full. I don't have any shelves, but I might be able to get permission to add one or two.

Here's what's on my desk:

*office phone
*standing framed 4x6 photo of my son
*regular keyboard, flat-screen monitor, and tower (I may be able to get permission to move the tower to the floor)
*vertical-slotted plastic file-holder thing
*plastic inbox tray
*little box/tray of scrap paper for phone messages, etc.
*water bottle I bring to work every day
*work notebook, 8.5x11

The only remaining space isn't large enough for me to open up my notebook and lay it flat so that I can see both pages.

The only thing i thought of so far is a phone stand so that I can put my scrap paper, etc., under it. What am I not thinking of? This new desk is driving me crazy and it's making it hard to do my work.
posted by trillian to Work & Money (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
What about stacking - combining what you can into one... thingy that offers more vertical storage? I'm thinking in/out tray-style. This could hold/replace your current inbox, scrap paper tray, and notebook. If this thingy had a solid roof, the phone and photo could go on top.
posted by jessicapierce at 10:37 AM on August 7, 2011

Depending on the size of the vertical file holder, could it possibly be replaced by a wall-mounted version like this? Either on the actual wall, or mounted on the side of a cabinet?
posted by jessicapierce at 10:39 AM on August 7, 2011

Can you hang your sons pic? Slide out keyboard tray? Stand for your monitor/laptop so you can put your pad and stuff under it? Hanging inbox?

I feel your pain, my new job has ridiculously small desks.
posted by lannanh at 10:40 AM on August 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

• Definitely move the tower to the floor: make a fuss, if necessary (or alternatively, ask for forgiveness rather than permission), but after a move like this they really should try to be reasonable.
• An adjustable monitor arm would take away the footprint of your monitor stand and give you all the room underneath it, provided that there's a way to clamp it to the edge of your desk (or the wall behind). This could also give you a place to put the keyboard when you're using your notebook.
• Unless your desk surface is mirrored or you're not using an optical mouse, you could probably ditch the mousepad: nowadays they can generally track on any surface.

Jessicapierce's vertical stacking and lannanh's slide-out underdesk keyboard tray are hereby seconded.
posted by xueexueg at 10:42 AM on August 7, 2011

Get a stand to put your phone on (if you can't hang it on the wall) and put the tray of scrap paper under it.

Get a stand to put the monitor on so you can slide the keyboard under it, or get the sliding keyboard tray if you have enough room above your lap (watch your knees!).

You can also look for one of those "all in one" things that have the file folder holder on top, with maybe a small tray in front for the scrap paper (or put the scrap paper in the front slot on the holder) and your inbox below it.

Can the picture hang on the door of the cabinet above your desk? What can sit on top of the cabinet to be out of the way?
posted by MultiFaceted at 11:20 AM on August 7, 2011

My desk space is small and awkward and most of the space is taken up by two monitors. I just bought two of these mini optical mouses and I just love them. They work wonderfully in just a couple inches of space.

My computer tower is on the floor. At a previous job I had my monitor on a stand that had space underneath that could house things like a notepad, paperclip dish, etc.

Currently I have a set of stacking letter trays that I keep my file folders in. I've only got about 10 files that I need to keep on my desk at any given time so they take up a single tray, lying flat. I color code the tabs to make things easier to find. The top tray is my inbox. Additional trays could be added to such a setup to hold notebooks or any other flat, 8 x10ish items, and would take advantage of vertical space instead of taking up desk space.

If you pull your shallow drawer all the way out, is it sturdy enough that you could use it as a flat surface to hold your open notebook? You could maybe cover the open drawer with a small desk pad so you don't feel like your notebook is actually in the drawer while you are using at it.

Could you add a filing cabinet or small typing table to your workspace to create a bit more surface, maybe placing it at a right angle to your desk to create an L-shaped work area?
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 11:24 AM on August 7, 2011

Unless your desk surface is mirrored or you're not using an optical mouse, you could probably ditch the mousepad: nowadays they can generally track on any surface.

I would be careful about this—another caveat to add would be "unless your desk surface is finished wood or another surface that can be damaged by repeated movement of even a smooth-bottomed mouse." My secondhand desk at home and others' wooden desks at work have unattractive damage to the finish from mice used without mousepads.

I would definitely try to move the tower to the floor—in addition to saving desk space, it'll make your workspace quieter and cooler, too, as the sound and heat from the tower will be at foot level, rather than head level. Having a one-level inbox and separate tray for scrap paper is also inefficient; could you get a multilevel stacking inbox, or use the vertical file for that? Apart from that, as Serene Empress Dork noted, it sounds like you need a desk wing of some sort, official or unofficial, like a filing cabinet (could you justify it by noting that it could house the stuff that's currently in the vertical file-holder on your desk?) or a credenza.
posted by limeonaire at 11:44 AM on August 7, 2011

trackball mouse?

Are your file drawers full of stuff you need to keep? I kept active files in the front of one of my file drawers because I hate desktop file holders.

Is your scrap paper letter-sized? I cut mine down to half- or quarter-size and heavy-duty stapled it to keep it together. This could also go in a hanging file or shallow drawer if it's cramping your style.
posted by momus_window at 12:04 PM on August 7, 2011

A cordless keyboard would be a big help, since it can be put in an out-of-the-way spot (even on its side, if need be) when you need to use the space right in front of you for some other purpose. A lot of the little things (stapler, tape, etc.) can be put into one of these that fits onto the rails of a hanging file drawer.
posted by DrGail at 12:37 PM on August 7, 2011

Definitely lobby for a wall shelf or two. At the least you could put supplies there and your son's photo, or possibly put the framed photo on your wall instead of your desk? What are your desk and built in wall cabinet made of? If anything is metal you can use magnetic holders to extend your usable space, including a magnetic picture frame for your son's photo. (I find I look at the computer more than anything else, so I have done away with physical photos at my desk and instead use my photos as computer wallpaper and screensavers.)

I have my tower on the floor on a small rolling cpu stand similar to this one. Since it is movable and not directly on the floor the powers that be are happier about the tower being below my desk. I also have a desktop monitor stand with integrated keyboard drawer, and a desktop shelf similar to this.
posted by gudrun at 1:27 PM on August 7, 2011

What's in the two built-in file drawers and wall cabinet? Is it all your stuff? Does it abosultely need to be in there, or is there a better place for it? That seems like prime real-estate for you. In my office, and all other offices I've been in, everyone at least has a few drawers for their personal stuff. I'd fight for that before anything else.
posted by two lights above the sea at 2:01 PM on August 7, 2011

If you put your tower on the floor, don't put it in your kneehole space. That way lies injury, both to you and the PC. If there's no room on the floor outside your desk's envelope, you might try putting the tower sideways, behind your flat screen. If the tower has a vertical optical drive, you'll want the front of it facing the right hand side of your desk, or discs will be awkward to load. If the optical drive is horizontal, point the front toward your dominant hand.

Next thing is a monitor stand cum keyboard garage. This is essentially just a couple of housebricks the width of your keyboard apart, with a plank over the top on which your screen sits (other realizations are available in elegant plastics for high prices), allowing you to push your keyboard back under the screen when you need desk space for something non-keyboardy. If you're tall enough that your desk is actually the right height for you to type on, this might work better for you than an under-desk keyboard tray.

And you definitely need a red Swingline.
posted by flabdablet at 5:57 PM on August 7, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks so much - these are great!

And yes, I do totally need a red Swingline.
posted by trillian at 8:53 PM on August 7, 2011

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