Today I thought I would share my workspace and how I keep it organised. This is important to me. I know most people think of creative types as having untidy workspaces. I’m not like that. I need my workspace to be tidy. If I don’t the mess will distract me from my work.
I have my workspace set up in a way that is functional but also helps me work best. So today I am going to share how I keep my workspace organised and hopefully you will gain some tips on how to keep your workspace organised in the process.
HOW I KEEP MY WORKSPACE ORGANISED
MY ORGANISATION SYSTEM
As a graphic designer, there are certain things I need to work. I use pens, pencils, sketchbooks and other art materials daily. My workspace and the materials I use are organised around how often I use those materials.
This is partially inspired by Adam Savage’s first order retrievability concept. Essentially your most commonly used tools should be somewhere that you can see and easily grab. Your less frequently used tools are kept out of sight but still easy to access without any obstacles.
Now Adam Savage has based this theory around his shop and the tools he uses. But I’ve found it can be easily adapted to my needs and the art materials I commonly use.
So I have all my materials sorted into three categories. First, the things I use all the time, these stay on my desk and are things like pens, pencils and erasers. Then you have the things I use less frequently, these are all stored on a Raskog trolley from IKEA. The trolley makes it easy for me to access these items and move them out of the way when not needed.
Finally, there are the less commonly used art materials. These are things like paint supplies and paper. All of these items are stored away in a cabinet. But organised in a way which makes it easy for me to find and take one specific item if needed.
I’m now going to explain in more depth how I keep these three areas of my workspace organised.
My desk is made up of one solid piece of wood. This tabletop spans across two walls in my office space. Because I have two defined sections to my worktop I’ve sectioned these spaces for specific tasks.
The smaller side of my desk is where I keep my laptop. In this section, I keep items which I might need related to my laptop. So things like computer cables, pen drives and other pieces of technology.
In this smaller section of my desk, I also keep a selection of books and sketchbooks. This isn’t all the books and sketchbooks I own. I will only have the books I am currently using and may need to refer to. This is the same for sketchbooks. I have other spaces to store blank or finished sketchbooks. The only sketchbooks I have out on display are the ones I am currently using.
The other part of my workspace is for messy work. I try to keep this side of the desk clear at all times. I don’t store anything on this part of my worktop. For this part, I have a large sheet of glass. Because I use a lot of paint and ink this sheet of glass is used to stop the wood from getting covered in paint.
The glass is also handy because it doubles as a cutting mat. My scalpel blades aren’t sharp enough to make cuts in the glass. This means I don’t need to have a separate cutting mat on the desk. It also makes things easy to clean up, I can wipe or scrape paint from the glass.
SMALL DESK STORAGE
There are some small items which I keep with me on my desk at all times. These are the materials I use most often. I have my wooden box which I made at university. This is where I put my phone when I’m at my workspace. It also has the advantage of amplifying any sound I’m playing through my phone. I’ve found this is great when I’m listening to podcasts.
I always have a pencil case out on my desk. A few years ago this was the pencil case I took with me to college every day. It was originally a makeup bag which I got from Paperchase. As time has gone on I’ve changed what I take with me to university and don’t need such a large pencil case. So this now contains all of my sewing and bookbinding supplies.
When I first started using this workspace I knew I wanted some sort of shelf. But I couldn’t hang shelves up on the wall. Instead, I started looking at crates and other ways of having some small storage unit on my workspace. However, I couldn’t find anything I liked. So I repurposed a storage unit I made years ago for Copic Markers.
This isn’t something you can buy. I made it with some scrap wood I bought in B&Q. Originally it had shelving inside but I took this out and it now works well as a shelf. I love this because it gives me a specific space for small stationery supplies like sticky notes, washi tape and I keep my business cards in this too.
LARGE STORAGE UNIT
I have a large storage unit. This is where I keep the majority of my art supplies and other stationery items. This unit is for things I use regularly but don’t need within reaching distance.
I also have a large crate where I keep materials I use less often. These are mostly large and bulky items like my screen printing supplies. Though it is also useful to have this crate because some of the materials are light sensitive.
My storage unit is first organised based on the space I need for paper. I tend to work at a large scale, A2 or A3 size. The problem with this is it can be difficult to find storage which will fit this size of paper. Some of this paper can’t be rolled up so it has to be stored flat. The bottom shelf of this cabinet is dedicated to paper.
I try to keep supplies based around one medium or type of work together in a box or basket. This means I have one box which I take out of the cabinet and it contains everything I need. So, for example, all my cards and envelopes are stored together. The same for all my packing supplies. I also organise all my paints based on the medium. So all my watercolour tubes are in one container and gouache in another.
The shelves in my cabinet have a lot of vertical space. I wouldn’t be able to store as much if I didn’t take advantage of this space. And I’ve found a few different methods to do this.
ACRYLIC STORAGE CUBES
I have clear acrylic cubes from Amazon. These drawers were quite expensive but a great investment because you can buy multiple sets of drawers and they will all connect. These hold small items like pens and markers. I prefer to keep smaller items stored together because it would be easy to lose them otherwise.
One of the reasons why I love this set of drawers is because they are removable. So say I want to do some painting using my gouache paints. I have all my paint tubes in one drawer.
This means I can just pull that one drawer out of the unit. This makes it even easier when it comes time to keeping my workspace organised. All the paint tubes go back in that one container and back into the shelving unit.
UNDER SHELF STORAGE
Something else which I bought on Amazon is an under shelf storage basket. This basket is roughly A3 size and has hooks on the top when it can hook onto a shelf. This means I use up some of that vertical space within my cabinets.
This basket was a fantastic buy because its strong enough to hold a decent amount of weight and it means I can store all of my watercolour supplies in their own space. But there is still enough space on the shelf underneath the basket that I can store other boxes.
As I said, I have a lot of paper which needs to be stored. A large part of that paper is loose and I needed some way to stop it from being damaged. This is why I bought a paper organiser.
This unit is just small enough that it fits into my storage unit. It has space for 5 sections within the organiser. The shelves are adjustable so you can change how much space you need. I love this because I can keep all my paper organised. So I can keep mixed media pieces away from magazine scraps and watercolour paper.
IKEA RASKOG TROLLEY
I bought my Raskog trolley from IKEA several years ago and have only recently started using it to store art supplies. The Raskog was originally meant to be a kitchen trolley though has become popular with artists as well. I know Hobbycraft now make their version of the Raskog.
This trolley has wheels which make it handy to move around. On this, I keep items which I use on a fairly regular basis but don’t need to be constantly within reaching distance. I have the trolley currently set up specifically for calligraphy projects. So the bottom tray stores my guillotine, lightbox and some smaller items like tape and envelopes.
The middle tray holds my inks, paintbrushes and other calligraphy supplies. I’ve got small kitchen storage trays which I used to keep all the different supplies separate. So I have space for ink, then a separate tray for nibs and fine paintbrushes.
The top tray is organised using a kitchen utensil organiser. I haven’t gone out and specifically bought these kitchen organisation trays. It’s just things which I’ve found around the house. This utensil organiser is really good for keeping all my pens and pencils together. It’s much better than just using a pencil case because some of my pens can be a weird size. Pens like the Tombow marker or the Kuretake brush pens don’t fit in a normal-sized pencil case.
If you have space I would highly recommend the Raskog trolley. The wheels make it handy to move around a room. My desk isn’t quite tall enough for the trolley to fit under. But because of the wheels, it is easy for me to move the trolley from its storage place to my desk when needed.
I hope that was of some use when it comes to keeping your workspace organised. An easy way to put it would be this. Sort your stuff, art supplies or other into separate piles. The things you use all the time, some of the time and occasionally.
This makes it easy to assess what needs to be where. If you have stationery supplies which you need to keep close to hand. Find somewhere on your workspace that you can store them. Everything else can be put away but still close enough that it is easy for you to reach.
Try to keep similar items together. This means when it’s time to tidy up it’s not a time-consuming process. A huge part of staying organised involves keeping your stuff tidy. It won’t take you as long to find that thing you’ll probably need at some point if there is a specific place for it.
Also, don’t think you need to go out and immediately buy lots of storage bins to keep all your stuff in. I find it’s best to work with what you have before buying more. All the plastic storage I’m using was bought for other uses and I’ve repurposed it.
This is the same for a lot of ceramic jars I use. There is no point spending money if you have something at home which will work just as well. Even though it’s meant to be a plant pot rather than pen storage.