Graphic: Shep McAllister
5 Neat ThingsJolie Kerr is a cleaning expert, advice columnist and the host of the podcast “[Ask a Clean Person](” Each week, she’ll round up five essential cleaning products, tools and organizational systems to help you live your tidiest lives.   

It’s September, and even if your student days are well behind you, this time of year evokes a back-to-school feeling in many of us. Whether you feel the urge to freshen up your desk set-up, or go shopping for pens and filing folders and binder clips — oh, those beautiful binder clips! — or are just looking for something to keep your computer from getting totally gross, here are the best products to buy for a super organized and tidy desk.

Do you need product recs? Email Jolie or tweet at her with requests or questions!

A Filing System That Keeps You Honest

A very normal human tendency is to put things you’d rather not deal with out of sight, and therefore out of mind. However, when it comes to files, that’s a recipe for amassing an overwhelming — and unnecessary — amount of paper. There are two good things you can do for yourself to keep mountains of papers from taking over your office: The first is to keep files where you can see them, which will serve as a visual reminder that those papers exist in your space. The second is to choose a system that limits the amount of files you can store, so that you have a built-in reminder that it’s time to handle all those papers.


If you’re short on surface space, consider a wall-mounted file organizer; for those who prefer to keep files on their desk or a shelf, a small desktop organizer that can hold hanging file folders is a good choice.

A Printer That Won’t Challenge Your Will to Live

Why are home printers the absolute worst? Why does every home printer drive its user to a madness until they’re frothing at the mouth while rocking themselves and muttering, “It’s 2018, how are we still even using printers?!?” I don’t have any great answers here, but I can offer this advice: It’s worth paying a little more for a home printer that actually works. It’s even better if the printer doesn’t take up a lot of space, and is easy to set up and use.

This one’s not a laser printer, but it’s actually small and lightweight enough to be portable, should you need that feature.

Fancy Binder Clips

Metal Wire Binder Clips
Graphic: Shep McAllister

Everyone has a favorite desk accessory (and I would for sure like to hear what yours is!) Mine is the binder clip. Man, I love a binder clip! They’re so handy, not just for corralling papers, but also for sealing up an open bag of chips to stash in your desk drawer, for on-the-go tailoring (shirt too baggy? Binder clip it. Trousers too long? Binder clip the hem.), and even as a makeshift hair clip. Plus, they come in so many delightful styles!


Would you like pretty floral binder clips? Coming right up. You want deconstructed binder clips? Come this way. Is a stylish black and gold binder clip more your speed? Sure thing. You want a binder clip that will smile at you when no one else in this cruel world will? I gotchu boo. (Also, do you need a hug? I feel like you might need a hug.)

A Cup for Pens That Curbs Pen-Hoarding Tendencies

I know a professional organizer who is full of helpful tips for keeping things and stuff and junk from taking over your life, and my favorite of the lot is this one: There are a finite number of pens a person needs at any given time. It’s so true! And yet! Most of us probably have a huge collection of pens that we don’t use, and those pens are just taking up space, making it harder to find the one or two pens you actually like. Just as with files, using a pen holder that doesn’t allow you to store more than maybe, hmm, 5-10 pens is a good way to curb pen-hoarding tendencies. There are styles for every aesthetic, from this shiny copper number that can pull double duty as a vase (!), to this cool holographic dealie, to this clear acrylic pen holder for the minimalists among us.

Stuff to Keep Your Computer Clean

The dirty secret about cleaning your filthy computer is that you don’t actually need much to clean your filthy computer. Canned air and tech wipes are really are that’s required to keep a keyboard, bezel and screen free of streaks and splatters and crumbs and cat hair. Yup that’s all! But there’s an important order-of-operations thing to know about cleaning a computer and it’s this: Start with the canned air, which will dislodge any debris that’s gotten into the keyboard, first then go over the rest of the computer with the wipes. If you do it the other way around, you’ll just have to do a second pass with the wipe, since the canned air will make a mess of the screen and bezel.