Messy Desk vs Clean Desk: What Does Your Desk Say About You?

Messy Desk vs Clean Desk: What Does Your Desk Say About You?

Read Time: 4 Minutes


10 Mar 2020

Messy desk or clean desk – which one are you?

Looking around at your colleagues’ desks, there’s probably a lot of contrast. But does this actually mean anything? According to well-known psychologist and TV and radio personality Donna Dawson, the answer is yes. Dawson’s work revolves around how our choices and behaviours, at work and otherwise, can define our personalities, and our desks are no exception.

We’ve been exploring Dawson’s work to help you figure out what personality type you are based on how you keep your desk space and what you can do to keep yourself organised and boost productivity


The Five Types of Desks

After turning her attention to the modern-day office, expert Donna has identified five key desks and their inhabitants. These are:

  1. The Minimalist
  2. The Chaotic
  3. The Home from Home
  4. The Trophy
  5. The Tech-Lover


We’re going to go through each different desk type to help you know where you fit in and find out what personality traits are associated with each.


  1. The Minimalist

    There is a wide belief that a tidy desk reveals a tidy mind and the ‘Minimalist’ desk could be an example of this, presenting a person who is highly organised, efficient and self-disciplined. 

    However, Donna challenges the positive judgement in her recent analysis: “This type can also be secretive and lack imagination, and their tidiness can take on an OCD quality. Yet in terms of landing a promotion, a boss who wants things done in an orderly, timely and self-contained fashion would cherish this desk type.

    A tell-tale sign that this is you? If you have this kind of desk, you might find yourself getting annoyed when spillages from your neighbour’s desk start creeping across, or if someone leaves something out of place.
    minimalist desk type diagram with very few items on a work desk

  2. The Chaotic

    Unsurprisingly, the ‘Chaotic’ desk is likely to be piled high with paperwork in random order, it could reveal someone who is disorganised and poor at time-management, or a person who can’t say ‘no,’ or who is afraid to delegate. 

    However, don’t rush to empty your desk too quickly, as Donna claims that all is not what it seems with this snap judgement. 

    This desk could also reveal a creative person bursting with new ideas and working on more than one project at once, who knows exactly where everything is. What the boss thinks of this desk will depend on the nature of the industry: most creative types have chaotic desks.

    If you’re the type of person to describe your desk as organised chaos, this is your category! Although you might know where everything is, colleagues wouldn’t know where to start if they were looking for a shared document.

    diagram of a chaotic desk with files and coffee stains

  3. The Home from Home

    The ‘Home-from-Home’ desk refers to one which contains personal mementoes such as photographs, personalised items, or anything from a spare pair of shoes to emergency snacks and medicine. Donna believes this desk type reveals someone who makes their co-workers and clients feel valued and at ease.

     “Likely to be caring, sociable, compassionate and unselfish, this is a person that others turn to with a problem, or to share gossip with over a cup of tea.

    According to Donna, a boss who values people skills would think highly of this desk type.

    If you’re the first person to offer their supply of painkillers out when someone complains about having a headache, or you’ve personalised your space as much as you can (we’re talking mouse mats, coasters, figurines from your favourite TV show), this is your category!
    diagram of a home from home desk with a personalised mouse matt, tissues and photo frame

  4. The Trophy

    Where does this place the office show off? Donna says: 

    The ‘Trophy’ desk, which contains souvenirs of past work campaigns as well as any cups, medals or certificates of personal achievement, is an obvious statement of naked ambition: ‘Look at me, I’m am achiever’. This desk type is thick-skinned and tunnel-visioned, willing to do most anything to get ahead. In any competitive industry, this person will be valued by the boss.

    A sure sign of confidence, being proud of your achievements is often a fantastic quality to have! And displaying your trophies for all to see means they know who to come to when they need help. 
    diagram of a trophy desk with medals and trophies displayed proudly

  5. The Tech-Lover

    The ‘Tech-Lover” desk reveals a person with a fast, analytic mind, who is up to date with technology.  They are advertising their apparently sharp intellect through all their gadgets, and they are insinuating that they are the ‘go to’ person for any technical problems. For this reason, this person’s boss may come to view them as indispensable.

    If you aren’t them, you’ve definitely seen them – the ones with their own keyboards and mouses (mice?) brought from home, the wireless chargers displayed proudly on their desks. This type of person will definitely be useful for the future of a business in an ever-digital world.
    diagram of a tech lover's desk with USB sticks, memory cards and wires



3 Tips for Keeping Your Desk Organised

Unless you fall under the Minimalist desk type, you might find keeping your desk area tidy a mammoth task – it’s the place where you spend the majority of your waking weekday, after all! Here are three tips to keep the chaos under control.

  1. Dedicate Space for Notes and Stationery

    Tidy desks come down to clever storage, where everything has its place. Using pen pots and desk tidies are excellent ways to make sure your bits and bobs don’t go missing. If you tend to go overboard with post-it notes, get a wall calendar and add your notes to that instead so they’re all in one place!

  2. Only Keep What You Need on Your Desk

    For most jobs, you’ll likely only need a pen, notebook, and your computer for the task – maybe a few sheets or folders with the information you need. As you finish one task, put away the items you no longer need before reaching for your next big file!

  3. Schedule in Regular Clear-Outs

    Once a week (or month, depending on how cluttered you let your desk get), schedule in some time to clean out your desk or drawers and get rid of anything you don’t need anymore.


We hope the research and helpful tips covered in this blog help give you an insight into what your desk says about you. Now you’ve uncovered the best ways to organise your desk, why not learn how to improve your office environment with feng shui?


About the Author

Hi, I’m Craig, instantprint’s Marketing Manager. I have a passion for discovering new and innovative ways small business owners can give their marketing a boost.