5 Tips to Have a Functional Study Desk

5-tips-for-a-perfect-functional-study-deskFall has officially become a thing down here in the South. It means the weather’s cooled off (finally), the flannel has been pulled, and boots have started making an appearance. But fall also means it’s midterm time and you know that means long hours in front of your desk studying. And the best way to have a good study session, is to have a desk that functions perfectly even if it’s not Instagram worthy. So let me give you some tips to creating the perfect functional study desk.

1// Make it Clean

Even before you get started with re-configuring your space, you should clean it off. Fall is the season for germs and now is not the time to be getting sick. Thus, you should clean off your study space. And more importantly, it gives you a clean slate to work with.

Take everything off your desk, yes everything. Put it on the floor or on your bed or on your futon. And then clean it off with some Lysol wipes or some other cleaning solution. Make sure to get into the little crevices of those desks – they are dirtier than you’d like to think. Then let it dry.

Don’t put your stuff back on it yet. Not everything that was on your desk deserves to be there which leads me to my second tip.

2// Make it Minimal

You’ve probably let your desk pile high with a lot of unnecessary things. They’re probably cute decorations or makeup or papers that you haven’t bothered to throw away (can you tell that I’m speaking from experience?). If that’s you, now is the time to get rid of some stuff.

The things that stay on your desk should be things that you use to study or do homework and the books that you need for class. The other stuff needs to find a new home.

So go through your pile of stuff that you’ve tossed onto your bed when you were cleaning your desk. Throw away those papers that you don’t plan on using and those papers that you do need should go into a binder or some other organizational system.

If you’ve got mugs and other food related items on your desk, try to put those in a drawer or some other storage place. In my dorm, we have these cool sliding-door cabinets above our desks where I keep all of my food related stuff.

The goal here is to cut back on the amount of stuff that’s going to be on your desk, not the stuff that’s going to be in your dorm. The stuff that you still want to be organized should also be sorted into study stuff and other dorm/life related stuff and decorations,

If you still have a lot of things that need to be on your desk but that aren’t going to be used explicitly for studying, my next tip is definitely one you need to pay attention to.

3// Make it Spacious

Space is one these things that is extremely hard to come by in a college dorm but you can get more storage space, I promise.


From what I’ve seen, most desks have some built in drawers to their desks. This is some of the most underutilized storage spaces I’ve seen. If you put things in boxes – which you can get from Target or Walmart – or even old shoe boxes, you can cram a lot of things into these spaces. Make good use of the storage already given to you.

Now if you’re dorm desk doesn’t come with storage underneath it, you’ll be spending a little money. Go out and buy yourself some storage units that’ll fit under your desk. I recommend checking out Walmart to get some pretty sturdy and cheap storage units (I’m using these in my closet but I think these shorter ones would fit under most desks). The Container Store and Target are also good places to look.


So now you’ve got storage under your desk which is great. But you’ll probably still want more storage for those things that can’t you use every day but isn’t study material. Here again I’ve seen a number of dorms that have open storage around the desks. And my advice again is to make good use of the storage already given to you.

In my dorm, we don’t have open storage so I just grabbed a freestanding shelving unit and put it at the edge of my desk. This solution may not work if your desk is really small but for most desks it should work perfectly. The idea here is to use the untapped potential that is vertical space without having to hammer or screw anything into the wall. I already had a shelving unit at my house so my parents just brought it down when I asked but I found a few that were practically identical at Lowes and Target. The Target shelf is adjustable which I recommend because then you can remove the lower tier and have more space underneath the shelf so you can open your laptop which makes it particularly great for smaller desks. More space yay!

4// Make it Functional

Hopefully you’ve got a ton of storage now that you can use. And now it’s time to put stuff on that newly clean and spacious desk. The stuff you’re using for studying should go on the desk first. This includes your pens, pencils, and highlighters that are in a pencil holder (or 3, if you’ve got a lot of pens) and your textbooks, binders, and notebooks. Other school supplies – like notecards, filler paper, unused notebooks – should not be placed on the desk. These can go in one of the drawers under your desk or on your shelf.

The rest of your stuff should find a home that isn’t the desk top itself. For example, I have my toothbrush, toothpaste, and contact solution a box on the first tear of my shelf along with my cute decorations. On the shelf above it I have my reading books and a few of my more frequently used dishes. I’ve raised the first shelf pretty high and am planning on getting a printer to put there (because printing on my campus is pretty expensive). But you should organize your shelves in the way that works best for you.

Don’t forget to use the storage space underneath your desk too. I keep all of my unopened filler paper and infrequently used textbooks in one of the drawers and one of the shallower drawers has my other school supplies like my calculator, staples, stapler, pushpins, extra lead, and sticky notes. Again do what works best for you.

5// Make it Motivational

While you’re making your desk functional, you should also make it somewhere that feel motivated. This was kind of difficult for me to write because I get a lot of my motivation from having a to-do list but I know for some people that’s definitely not enough.

If you are like me and are motivated by just having a list, a dry erase board is a pretty good place to start. I personally don’t have one of these but one of the girls on my hall does and she loves it.

If you’re a quote type of person, then get some great motivational quotes up near your desk.


My roommate loves pictures and she has this really nice collage on the cork board behind her desk. She used ribbon from the dollar store to create a cute diamond pattern that’s held up by pushpins and then put the corners of her pictures under the ribbon so that the pictures don’t have any holes in them. It works really well and looks really cute.

I’m not a big decorator person but I’ve covered my cork board with some green patterned fabric and I’ll pin information to the board with some pushpins. It’s simple and works for me. Again though, do what works best for you so that your desk is a place you don’t completely hate.

You should now have a perfectly functional study desk that’s organized and somewhat cute and motivational. Feel free to add decorations as you want but remember that the goal of the desk is to have a nice place to study. Don’t let it be completely overwhelmed by your desire to have a cute space. And don’t forget to keep it clean and pretty as you continue studying. Happy studying and good luck on your midterms!

What have you done with your desk to make it functional? What other storage tips do you have?