Make Work Better with Your Desktop Decor

I was checking out my new desktop wallpaper, which should look familiar to those who have been regularly perusing this here site, and as I laid out my icons accordingly on it I found myself organized and inspired in one fell swoop.

It’s widely accepted that a messy desktop area leads to an unproductive working environment. This holds true not only for your computer’s desktop, but for your physical desktop. The idea of “zenning down” your desk area to the bare essentials is a good idea, but if you go too far towards that route your workmates and superiors may see you not as efficient, but rather wonder if you don’t have enough to do. Silly, yes – but remember that what people often perceive as reality becomes their reality.

Truth is, there’s no happy medium here. Your desktop will go from cluttered to clear on a regular basis. There should, however, be some consistency to your workspace – and that’s where desktop decor comes in. For example, everyone should have certain personal effects on their desk for a variety of reasons. They can include:

  • it keeps them connected to the world outside of work
  • it gives them reason to press forward when work is “not so awesome” (yes, it does happen!)
  • it helps strike a sense of balance between work and play

The bottom line is that a desk without personality can really hamper your work life. Without a little bit of a personal touch, your workspace will be at best drab and boring or at worst, an ineffective place to work. Inspiration to do awesome things at work often come from these little decorative enhancements. It can be more effective than having an office with a window (especially if your window has a less than appealing view).

“If a cluttered desk is the sign of a cluttered mind, what is the significance of a clean desk?” – Dr. Laurence J. Peter

Clutter is the enemy of productivity, to be sure. But clean doesn’t have to be truly empty, does it? With that in mind, here are some items that you can add to your desktop to make your workspace a more personal and balanced place where you can get things done:

A Houseplant

A little greenery adds life to your desk. Literally. But seriously, you can watch it grow and foster the growth of the plant just as you would make daily progress at work. It can serve as a living metaphor for how you’re doing at work. If you’re struggling at work – missing deadlines and generally feeling miserable – the plant will most likely be malnourished, see little light and “dying on the vine,” so to speak.

But if you’re flourishing at work, it’s a safe bet that your plant is as well. That’s because you’re clear enough to take care of yourself, and the plant care simply follows suit. You’re giving it enough light, it’s being watered regularly and is growing like, um, a weed. If your worklife is not so hot, the plant is suffering as a result just as you are. A plant on your desk can be the best litmus test you can have.

A Framed Photograph

It doesn’t have to be a picture of the spouse and kids anymore, either. Make it a photo of your favorite place (and although a picture of your desk with the picture on a desk might look cool visually, that’s not what I’m getting at). It could be a pet – anything that has meaning to you outside of the workplace environment.

Screensavers can do the trick too, but there’s something special about having a framed picture available to you while you’re working – not showing up when you’re not busy typing away at your computer. I framed up a random drawing my daughter did, and then placed one of those mall photo booth shots of my whole family in the bottom corner of it. While i still don’t know what it is she drew, I sure do know what it represents.

A Nic-Nac

I hate the word, too. But any other descriptor might get lost in translation. Whether it be a casino chip you brought back from Vegas or a baseball that you caught when it went into your section of the bleachers, these things have meaning for you. It’s likely that anything of this nature you permanently place on your desk was indirectly obtained thanks to the work you’re doing – at the very least you couldn’t afford to go gambling or to a ball game without the income you earn, right?

Surely there are plenty of other things you can do to dress up your desktop without destroying what it was initially meant for – working on. Like any other area you spruce up, it’s all a matter of personal taste. Take the time today to survey the landscape of your desktop. Decide what can go, what can stay and what you need to do to make it as representative of what makes you, well…you. Taking the time to do that sooner rather than later will make your work experience that much better over the long haul.

Popular search terms for this article:

office desk wallpaper, desktop decor, Desktop Decorations, desk top decor, messy desktop, decorating your desk at work

Mike Vardy an editor on Work Awesome. We could tell you where his personal productivity parody site, Eventualism and all of his other projects reside on the web, but you'd be best served going to and following the trail of virtual bread crumbs from there.


  1. Dave Sparks on the 1st October

    I’ve often had a Rubik cube sat on the desk in various states on completion and occasionally finished.

  2. jason on the 1st October

    leafy vegetation – check
    fruit bowl – partially full – check
    unread beer-of-the day calendar – check
    recently emptied coffee cup – check

    pretty sure my newly setup office shows a bit of my personality – or one of them, anyways!

    great post Mike – hopefully some of your readers will read this and become part of the conversation

  3. Nick on the 1st October

    Great article, I love the site! I had a desk plant at my former job, it withered away and died, much like my soul did while working there! I would also recommend some sort of office/desk toy, whether it be a 70’s era drinking bird, or a trash can basketball hoop, anything to take a little bit of the stress away!

  4. Anne on the 1st October

    A framed picture of a beautiful sunny day might just be what I need to liven up my boring, beige, windowless walls in my inside office!

  5. Mary on the 1st October

    I think I have too many framed (and unframed) pictures and nic-nacs on my desk. A plant may be a little too much. I was thinking of getting those bamboo plants. They have them in all these cool containers and designs..and I wouldn’t kill them as fast!

    Also, I don’t know if this really helps or if it’s just me, but I have nice office supplies as well. Instead of the boring ugly stuff I went out and my own pencil holder and things like that.

    Thanks for the tips!

  6. Luce on the 1st October

    I added eyes to my little fan so I don’t feel so alone when I’ve been working alone at my computer for hours! I also have a houseplant (but the poor thing is missing the sun like I am; I don’t have a window) and I have a lunar rock that catches the light and feels like hope and guidance.

    • jason on the 2nd October

      i’m going to go get a fan, just so I can add eyes to it!

  7. Warren on the 1st October

    God, looking about now, I can see a used plate, a rubber duck, a Bounty wrapper, a chamois cloth, three pens, pile of CDs, a CSS Ref sheet, broken tee peg, Foxs Glacier mint wrapper and my wallet.

    Yep, i am dis-organized.

  8. Web 2.0 on the 1st October

    I also have a board where I put my daily, monthly goals on it…

  9. maureen on the 3rd October

    great ideas! I’ve got so much personal effects at my workspace but it makes it so joyful when I work at my desk. I’ve got a yellow birdcage, a vision board, chalkboard, letter holders, linen pinboard, my favorite snowglobe, photoframes,etc. I’ve been thinking of putting some succulents close by, too!

  10. Oscar on the 6th October

    Haha, a baseball ….. funnly enough I have a baseball always in my hand when I try to concentrate – sometimes as I walk around the office I also grab my baseball bat ……. I tend to put the baseball down before, just in case I get tempted to hit a hommer 😉

  11. Ryan on the 6th October

    Without stuff on my desk I don’t think I’d get anything done. There’s nothing worse than looking at a blank, empty, grey cubicle (which I’m not in, but still).

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