Essential office supplies: what not to put on a work desk?

Are you tired of the clutter on your work desk? We all want our workspace to be organized and efficient, and one way to achieve that is by being mindful of the items we place on our desk. In this article, we will explore the essential office supplies that you should avoid putting on your work desk. By understanding what not to have on your desk, you can create a productive and clutter-free environment that will help you focus on your tasks and stay organized throughout the day. Say goodbye to the unnecessary distractions and hello to a more efficient workspace!

Personal items


When it comes to personal items on your work desk, keeping clutter to a minimum is essential. A cluttered desk can be visually overwhelming and can also make it difficult for you to find important items when you need them. It’s important to keep only the items you use regularly on your desk, and find a designated place for everything else. By keeping your desk free from unnecessary items, you create a clean and organized space that enables you to focus and be more productive.

Large personal items

While it’s understandable that you want to make your workspace feel personalized, it’s important to consider the size of the items you bring in. Large personal items such as stuffed animals, oversized figurines, or bulky decorations can take up valuable desk space and potentially hinder your ability to work efficiently. Opt for smaller items or wall decor that can still provide a personal touch without overwhelming your workspace.

Offensive or controversial items

It’s crucial to remember that your work desk is a shared space, and what you choose to display can have an impact on your colleagues. Offensive or controversial items such as politically charged merchandise or provocative posters should be avoided. These items have the potential to create tension or discomfort among coworkers, affecting the overall harmony of the workplace. Keeping your desk decor neutral and inclusive is a considerate choice that fosters a positive and professional atmosphere.

Food and beverages

Strong-smelling or messy foods

When it comes to food and beverages at your work desk, it’s important to be mindful of your coworkers’ sensitivities. Avoid bringing in strong-smelling foods that may linger in the shared workspace and potentially distract or bother others. Foods with strong odors can be particularly disruptive in a confined office environment. Additionally, messy foods that are prone to spills or crumbs should also be avoided to maintain cleanliness and prevent attracting pests.

Open containers

To ensure the cleanliness and safety of your workspace, it is best to avoid using open containers for your beverages. Open containers, such as uncovered cups or mugs, increase the risk of accidental spills which can damage your desk, paperwork, or electronics. Opt for spill-proof bottles or containers with lids to minimize the likelihood of accidents and unnecessary messes, keeping your workspace clean and organized.

Dishes and cutlery

While having a quick snack or meal at your desk may be convenient, it’s necessary to properly handle your dishes and cutlery. Leaving dirty dishes or utensils on your desk can create a breeding ground for bacteria and attract pests. It’s important to promptly clean and store any dishes or cutlery you use to maintain a hygienic workspace. By practicing good hygiene and proper dishwashing, you contribute to a clean and pleasant environment for yourself and your colleagues.

Plants and flowers

Plants requiring high maintenance

Adding greenery to your desk can bring life and freshness to your workspace, but it’s essential to choose plants that are suitable for the office environment. Plants that require high maintenance, such as those needing frequent watering, pruning, or specialized care, can become a distraction and burden in a busy work setting. Opt for low-maintenance plants like succulents or pothos that can thrive with minimal attention and add a touch of nature without demanding excessive time and effort.

Flowers with strong scents

While flowers can brighten up any space and provide aesthetic enjoyment, it’s important to avoid choosing flowers with strong scents for your work desk. Strong fragrances can be overwhelming and may trigger allergies or sensitivities for your coworkers, making it difficult for them to focus or enjoy their work. Opt for flowers with more subtle scents or consider floral-inspired decor that doesn’t emit overpowering fragrances to ensure a pleasant working environment for all.

Electronics and cords

Obsolete or broken electronic devices

When it comes to electronics on your work desk, it’s crucial to keep up with the times and ensure that the devices you use are current and functional. Obsolete or broken electronic devices can take up valuable desk space and hinder your productivity. These outdated devices may not offer the same efficiency or capabilities as more modern alternatives. It’s important to stay up to date with technology and replace or repair any malfunctioning electronics to maintain an efficient and effective workspace.

Excessive cords and cables

The presence of excessive cords and cables on your work desk can not only create a visually cluttered environment but also pose a safety hazard. Tangled cords not only look messy but can also increase the risk of tripping or accidentally disconnecting important devices. Take the time to organize and consolidate your cords using cable management solutions such as clips or cable sleeves. By keeping your cords tidy and out of the way, you create a safer and more pleasant workspace.

Inappropriate decorations

Distasteful or offensive decor

Decorating your work desk is an opportunity to express your personality, but it’s crucial to choose decor that is appropriate for the workplace. Distasteful or offensive decorations can create an uncomfortable or hostile environment for your coworkers. It’s essential to be mindful of the impact your decor choices may have on others and opt for decor that is inclusive and respectful.

Inappropriate or NSFW posters

Posters are a popular choice for personalizing workspaces, but it’s important to ensure that the content of these posters is suitable for a professional environment. Inappropriate or NSFW (Not Safe for Work) posters can create discomfort or give off an unprofessional impression. Choose posters that are positive, uplifting, or relate to your professional interests to create a pleasant and motivating work environment.

Political or religious items

While it’s important to embrace personal beliefs and values, displaying overtly political or religious items on your work desk can create tension within the workplace. Such items may unintentionally alienate or offend colleagues who hold different perspectives. To foster an inclusive and harmonious work environment, it’s best to keep political or religious symbols and items out of the shared workspace.

Noisy items

Loud or distracting gadgets

In a shared office space, it’s crucial to be considerate of your coworkers’ need for a quiet and focused environment. Avoid bringing in loud or distracting gadgets that produce unnecessary noise. Items such as noisy fidget toys or disruptive alarm clocks can disrupt concentration and productivity for both you and your colleagues. Opt for quiet and non-intrusive gadgets that can enhance your work experience without causing disturbance.

Musical instruments

While it may be tempting to bring your musical instrument to work for quick practice sessions during breaks, it’s essential to consider the impact on those around you. Musical instruments can produce loud and disruptive sounds that can be distracting and impact the concentration of your coworkers. Reserve your musical talents for appropriate venues outside of the office to maintain a peaceful and harmonious workspace.

Sharp objects

Weapons or dangerous tools

For the safety and security of all individuals in the workplace, it is crucial to refrain from bringing weapons or dangerous tools to your work desk. Weapons or tools such as knives, firearms, or any other potential weapons are not appropriate within the office environment and can create an environment of fear and discomfort. Respect your colleagues’ safety by keeping such items securely stored elsewhere.

Unsecured knives or scissors

Even if they are not considered weapons, it’s important to handle sharp objects like knives or scissors with caution and ensure they are properly stored when not in use. Leaving unsecured sharp objects on your desk can lead to accidents, potentially causing injury to yourself or others. Make it a practice to store sharp objects in designated drawers or organizers to maintain a safe and hazard-free workspace.

Excessive paperwork

Unorganized stacks of paper

To maintain an organized and efficient workspace, it’s important to manage and minimize the amount of paperwork cluttering your desk. Unorganized stacks of paper can make it difficult to locate important documents or contribute to a disorganized appearance. Establish a filing system and regularly sort through your paperwork, discarding unnecessary items and filing important documents appropriately. By keeping your paperwork organized, you create a more efficient and productive environment.

Sensitive or confidential documents

When it comes to paperwork on your work desk, it’s crucial to be mindful of handling sensitive or confidential documents. Leaving sensitive information exposed creates a risk of unauthorized access and compromises privacy and security. Ensure that any sensitive documents are appropriately secured, either in locked drawers or cabinets, or stored digitally with password protection. By prioritizing the security of sensitive information, you contribute to maintaining a trustworthy and professional workspace.

Unsanitary items

Dirty or unwashed items

Maintaining cleanliness and hygiene in the workplace is essential for the health and well-being of all individuals. It’s important to keep personal items, such as coffee mugs or lunch containers, clean and regularly washed. Leaving dirty or unwashed items on your desk can lead to unpleasant odors, attract pests, and contribute to an unhygienic environment. Practicing good hygiene by cleaning and washing your personal items contributes to a clean and sanitary workspace.

Used tissues or napkins

Used tissues or napkins should never be left on your work desk. Proper disposal of used tissues or napkins is important for maintaining cleanliness and preventing the spread of germs. Leaving used tissues or napkins on your desk not only creates an unclean and unsightly workspace but also poses health risks to yourself and others. Dispose of used tissues or napkins in designated waste bins to maintain a sanitary and pleasant working environment.

Unhygienic personal care products

While personal care products, such as hand lotion or lip balm, can be essential for your well-being during the workday, it is crucial to ensure that these products are stored in a hygienic manner. Avoid leaving open or unsealed personal care products on your desk, as they can collect dust and become a breeding ground for bacteria. Store these items in clean and properly sealed containers or drawers to maintain their effectiveness and hygienic integrity.

Uncomfortable or distracting items

Uncomfortable chairs or furnishings

A comfortable and ergonomic workspace is essential for maintaining good posture and preventing discomfort or pain. Avoid using uncomfortable chairs or furnishings that can contribute to poor posture and potential long-term health issues. Invest in a quality office chair and ergonomic accessories that promote comfort and support, allowing you to work in a relaxed and healthy environment.

Noisy or uncomfortable keyboards

The keyboard is one of the most frequently used tools in a workspace, and an uncomfortable or noisy keyboard can impact productivity and comfort levels. Avoid using keyboards that are noisy or uncomfortable to type on. Opt for keyboards with soft and responsive keys, ergonomic design, and minimal noise to ensure a pleasant and productive typing experience.

Bright or flickering lights

Proper lighting is crucial for a comfortable and visually efficient workspace. Avoid using overly bright or flickering lights that can strain your eyes and cause headaches or fatigue. Opt for adjustable desk lamps or lighting fixtures that allow you to control the brightness and direction of the light. By creating an optimal lighting environment, you enhance your focus and overall well-being in the workplace.

In conclusion, maintaining a clean, organized, and comfortable work desk is essential for productivity, well-being, and creating a positive work environment. By avoiding clutter, offensive or controversial items, strong-smelling or messy foods, excessive cords, and other distractions, you can create an environment that promotes efficiency and harmony. By being mindful of your surroundings and considering the impact of your choices on your colleagues, you contribute to a cohesive and enjoyable workplace for everyone.

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About the Author: Jake Scott