O My Organization: desk makeover and link-up

I know, I know, you are hoping that this is kitchen cabinet v. AllisonO 2.0, and that I finally conquer those bankity blankin Cheerios, but it’s not. Nope, those snapware containers are sitting nicely on my counter as a reminder that I need to go return them to Costco and then track down some containers shorter than 13inches. I have not had time to do so.

If this (O My Organization) week has taught me anything, it’s that organization is hard. It takes a painful amount of effort, and sometimes you fail. I kept thinking to myself “This was not the week to choose to organize.” We are having a garage sale this weekend, are re-landscaping the front yard, had an unfortunate run in with a city ordinance, have an incredibly mobile child, and I’m flying to New York City in less than a week.

But really? When is a good week to organize? It’s always going to be something. Life is going to keep happening and while deciding that you want to completely overhaul your desk area and workspace on the same day that you lay dirt and plant shrubs in your yard might not be the best planning in the world, I have learned and truly believe this:

The effort you put into organization now (even though it sucks) will save you effort later.

I have a testimony of that, and I am going to bear it now.

So, you know how the interwebs used to be the place that my spare time went to die? Well, I had another black hole in my life and it was even more frustrating than my cereal/boxed mixes/nuts/soy sauce/raisin/crouton shelf. It was called my desk.


You don’t have any idea how badly I wish I could tell you that I staged this picture by adding extra stuff to the top of my desk and making the piles all disheveled. Nope. I actually cleaned it up a bit and then realized that I needed to take a before picture. O yea, this is my desk on a good day.

It got to the point that I didn’t even use it as a functional desk. Really I just used it as a paper stopping place or the surface to which we moved all the junk from the dining room table when we had guests for dinner (true statement). I would toss coupons and mail at my desk with no real flow or priority level. It was ugly.

I needed a space to be able to work on my computer, be inspired to write and create, and be organized in storing household stuff such as coupons and receipts. I needed a plan.

(I also needed a themed blogging week to kick me into high motivated gear and tackle this project, so thanks for that!)


Organization Tip: Unlike what AllisonO did with her kitchen cupboard, make a plan. What do you need from the project? What are your guidelines (time line, budget, space constraints, etc.)?

I made a plan by thinking of all the purposes that this space needed to fulfill, then I chose a part of the space that would be dedicated to those purposes, and I set guidelines for myself (time line was to have it done for this week’s posts and budget was $45). And then just for fun I drew it out because I’m a doodler. (You should see my college notebooks.)

Then? The hard part.

My first actual task when organizing (as it was with the cupboards and when I have a week of posts to prepare) is to start with a blank slate. I cleaned off my desk and actually emptied almost every item out of my drawers (because those were unruly, too).


Organization Tip: Empty it all out before you put it back in. Sort, throw away, prioritize, and sort some more.

Then I began putting things back in the drawers according to the plan I had made. At times the plan didn’t fit the reality of what worked, but (unlike in the kitchen) everything worked out with a little problem solving. I now have a drawer just for stationary and cards (I like to have about 394 birthday cards on hand and they take up a lot of room), a drawer for coupons, mailers and receipts (O THE JOY!), and one for paper/crafting supplies/the camera.

Next step was supplies. As with the actual organization, what I had envisioned and put down in the plan didn’t match perfectly with the reality of what was available at the store, but it all worked out in the end. Fabulously in fact. I had several coupons for JoAnn Fabrics, so I started my search there. About 2 seconds after walking in the doors (wearing OBaby in our mei tai of course so that all of the sweet ladies at the cutting counter could flirt with him) I found something that made the whole project come together in my head. This is what ::ahem:: inspired it all:

I know that this isn’t technically about organization, but this word as it relates to my desk area means so much to me. I wanted this work space to inspire me to write, blog, and create, but what really inspires me to write and create is… my desire that somehow this space would (even just once) inspire someone else. I knew I wanted to put this on the shelf above my desk as a reminder to myself of what’s important.

(And it didn’t hurt that it was on sale for 50% off, either.)

On the shelf over was a (also 50% off) white antiqued mirror that I bought to place on my desk as another reminder to myself in this space. We have a cricut cutting machine, with which I am going to (probably right after I return those cereal containers) cut red letters that say “reflect Him” and put them over the mirror.

I still needed a paper sorter, some clipboards, and a way to hang them all on the wall. I decided that, since I was already at JoAnn Fabrics, I would go ahead and buy some fabric that I could use to cover plywood as the backing for the organization station. All it took was 3/4 yards of fabric (with a 40% off coupon), an upholstery stapler (we bought at HomeDepot a few years ago for $10 or so), and a 40×24 piece of plywood (would be about $10 at a hardware store, but my father-in-law had some on hand).


From there I decided on an organized layout for the board, focusing on the placement of the things that needed to get my attention. I doctored up some clip boards to match the theme and hung them front and center to be used for “To Write” and “To Do” lists. I made the paper bin which is used to hold notebooks and frequently accessed papers low and, well, accessible.

Are you ready to see the result?


I have to be honest with you. A huge part of my motivation for this project was decorative. I really did need an inspiring and dedicated work space. But in reality, it’s the cleaning out of the drawers and the organization (as in, actually having a place to put things) that has made all of the difference in the world. As I type this almost exactly a week after finishing it, my desk looks remarkably similar to these staged photos. In other words, it has stayed clean. Why? Because there’s a place for everything and everything is in it’s place (did anyone else’s dad used to recite that to them on “Clean your room.” day? No? Just mine?).

Sure, it’s pretty, but it works because it’s organized.

Organization Tip: Focus on the end goal and what drives you to get there. For me I needed the decorative and inspirational pieces to this big project to motivate me through the sorting drawer after abandoned drawer.


The item breakdown:

Overhead shelf (was there before) – Ikea (Lack series)

Snow Globe – Disney World (it was our honeymoon souvenir)

Two photo frames – both used to be different colors and as a part of a previous project, I sprayed them black. The photos are matted with clear photo corners and I covered the (varying) mat colors with shipping paper (like paper grocery bag material, purchased on a roll at the Dollar Tree)

Large clothespin – JoAnn Fabrics (40% off coupon)

Metal “Inspire” words – JoAnn Fabrics (50% off)

White capital letter A – JoAnn Fabrics

Black small mounted picture frame – previously owned, added red flower stickers (also from JoAnns)

Clipboards – base and list pads of paper from the Dollar Tree, red paper to cover from JoAnns

Metal paper pocket – JoAnn Fabrics (College stuff section, on sale at 50% off)

Metal utensil cup – JoAnn Fabrics (50% off)

Cork board – pack of 4 12″x12″ squares from JoAnn Fabrics (50% off in college section)

Standing mirror – JoAnn Fabrics (50% off)

3/4 of a yard of fabric – JoAnns with a 40% off coupon

Plywood – free from OBaby’s grandpa’s workshop

My sanity – priceless


I will post a (super easy) tutorial on how to make $1 adorable clipboards to match any room in your house (in fact I kind of have an itch to make 3 for my kitchen) tomorrow, so come back and be inspired by that, but right now I have something even more inspiring:

Sharing our organization tips, projects, or attempts (hey, failures are welcome too!) with each other!

I can’t wait to learn from what you have been up to with organizing. Go ahead and add a link below to your blog post about organizing, I only ask that you link back to O My Family somewhere in the post. That’s it! Have fun!

46 Responses to “O My Organization: desk makeover and link-up”

  1. harmskills

    I really need to do something with our desk/entry area. I think we need a new desk with more drawer space. Inspired, but overwhelmed!

  2. Julie

    I seriously need to do something like this! I will definitely be coming back to this post for some help!:-)

  3. Elizabeth

    i absolutely love it!! i also love organizing things and throwing away unneeded crap! my husband on the other hand likes to save every.possible.thing! if i lived closer, i would come by to help you organize!

  4. Heather

    So I recently put a small desk in our bedroom for bill paying and blogging when I didn’t feel like sitting my happy butt on the couch (where I usually blog for at night after the kids are in bed)…and it’s starting to become a collect all. I am totally going to take some of your ideas and do something about it…and soon! My girls’s first birthday party is a week away, that’s the time frame I’m giving myself! Thanks so much…I’ll link up if it’s still open when I’m finished!

  5. Jenn

    This. is. awesome! It looks gorgeous! I haven’t gotten to the decorative part. This really is inspiring. :)

    Also, look at those triceps! Nice.

  6. Amanda

    Have you checked out iheartorganizing.blogspot.com ? She has awesome ideas!

  7. Moriah

    very inspired! this will really help me out when i am thinking of ways to organize my new craft room. great organization posts, allison! :)

  8. mama23bears

    this is AWESOME! i really tried to put together a post to share but when my toy organizer turned out to not be what i wanted and i had to take it apart, i lost my desire!

    i need a desk since i am on a laptop on my lap or at the kitchen table whenever i am on the computer. this is looks so inspiring and just cute! as soon as i find a desk and put it together all cute like, i’ll be sure to share!

    love this!

  9. Melissa

    Allison, it looks great! I LOVE it, wonderful job! I love to clean out stuff, get rid of it and re-organize it!

  10. Gussy

    morning friend! this is awesome! i love the fabric, the red, the clean desk ;]

    how’s your garage sale going??????

  11. Marissa

    Hello Allison, I’m new to following you and I just have to say, your results have me motivated to get my desk organized. I think if y’all were to see my space that I’m supposed to be getting creative at, help would be sent immediately :)

    Happy Friday All!!

  12. Jenny Swan

    Allison that’s AWESOME. You are inspiring me to get some stuff done around here!

  13. Jennifer S.

    Allison – that is FABULOUS! I love it!

    You’ve inspired me to get crackin’ on some lingering projects around the house!!!

  14. Bethany

    Gussy sent me over here to check out your post bc I am in desperate need of organizing my office, as well. I am so glad I found your blog! I will be putting these tips and links to good work!

  15. Lynzie

    OOOOH I love that desk/office/workspace. Can I see the inside of your drawers??? (That sounds so dirty, doesn’t it?) I badly need to do something like this. Thanks for a LOT of ideas.

  16. kristina joy

    Seriously, girl. That before shot. Nothing. In comparison to my desk at this very moment! O the mess! And under the desk? The mess of cords and computer – y appliance things and O my word. It is bad. I wish for a laptop and NO CORDS. please??????

    And your after shot. So. Very. Jealous! :) So cute! Great job!

    I should go clean my desk now. But maybe I’ll just sit down and have some pizza instead. :)

  17. Sara

    O my word! I love the buletin board. I so need to paint &/or cover mine. Thanks for the inspiration!

  18. Grace @ Arms Wide Open

    i love the new look! I think it’s time for me to make my work space more inspiring. Right now it is totally blah. I think it has to do with sharing a space w/ my husband. May need to do something about this… hmmm… :)

  19. april

    i can’t believe you were staple gunning on your pottery barn rug!!!!!!

    the end result was O SO FABULOUS! and i adore the pencil cup/bucket station. too cute!

  20. Jessica

    Love-Love your desk area. It is so stylish and practical. I do not know how you do it with a one year old. Thanks for the post and link up!

  21. Mela Kamin

    Looks amazing! I love it – and your doodles & finished pics remind me of Candice Olson of Divine Design. I used to love her show back when we had cable & time.

  22. amanda

    I love your desk makeover! I don’t have a desk but I’ve been wanting one so now it’s a matter of finding the perfect one and the perfect place for it. Where did you get the desk? I love the size of it and the drawers too!

  23. Shelley

    LOVE the desk makeover. Inspires me to tackle mine soon.
    I’m so bummed- my Internet access is out and I can’t post or link my project for the week. Thank goodness for the iphone or I’d be going nuts! Thanks for the push this week!!!

  24. Rinny

    you inspired me!

    My desk is totally clean right now. I even put away the ironing board I had next to it from the last time I was sewing.

    Now the only thing I need to remember is to keep it that way.

  25. Kathie

    Very cute desk area!!! You have totally inspired me to work on my desk tomorrow! And I love the bullitan board you made! (Just found your blog and am now following you.)

  26. Ashley

    I love your desk and was extremely curious where you got it. If you could get back to me that would be fantastic. Thanks in advance :)


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