I am not a naturally organized person. I think it's because I can be a bit lazy; if putting something away involves extra work, I'm more likely to just leave the thing sitting on a table than actually clean it up.
As a result, I've spent most of my adult life trying to trick myself into being organized. Just got home? The mudroom hooks are a closer spot for my jacket than the chairs three feet away. Don't want to carry the tools back to the basement? There's an upstairs tool organizer for those.
I know myself. If organizing isn't easy, I won't do it.
This desk organizer is my latest attempt to trick myself. I saw a similar monitor riser organizer on Amazon, and thought I'd be more likely to put pens and papers away if their proper home was on top of the desk, and not a drawer that was blocked by my body. But it was more money than I have to blow on an organizer, so I decided to make my own. And since I was making my own, I could customize it to fit exactly what I needed to store.
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I started by writing out a list of what I wanted to store in the organizer. I was aiming for the things I use most often, that I was constantly going to be grabbing throughout the day.
I am obsessed with PaperMate Flair pens – I'm a former teacher, and I got so used to using them back then that I’m almost incapable of writing with anything else. The only other writing utensil I feel comfortable with are pencils, which makes sense, given that I taught math… As a result, one of my primary requirements for this organizer was that it had a spot for my colored pens and a separate spots for pencils. I ultimately decided drawers on either side of one of the levels would be perfect for this.
I also have a wireless keyboard and mouse for my computer. When I’m not using them, I want an easy space for them to go so they’re not just sitting out on the desk looking ugly. I also have two graph-paper notebooks that I use constantly; one for the blog and one for my life. I figured those and my planner could go in one section together. Finally, I want a place for all the random mail and bank statements and such that I have to file. In past lives, these things have just cluttered up my desk for a long time (a really long time- frequently 6 months) until a guest was coming over. Not saying that won’t still happen, but at least they’ll have a home in the meantime.
I finally came up with the following drawing:
It was perfect. It would fit everything I really needed, plus would be pretty easy to make out of a single 1” x 12” x 10’ board.
- 1 1" x 12" x 10' pine board
- 1/4" plywood (optional)
- 1 1/4" Kreg Screws
- 1 1/4" Wood Screws
- Wood Glue
- Brad Nails (I used a nail gun, but this isn't necessary)
- Spade Bit
- Saw (I used a Miter saw, but you could accomplish this with a circular saw as well)
- Nail Gun (Optional)
- Kreg Jig
- Large Clamp (Greater than 24")
A Short Note About Cost:
Most of the materials above are common wood shop supplies (for me at least.) The only thing I had to purchase was the 1" x 12," which cost about $15. I thought that was a steal for this organizer! But if you have more supplies to purchase, that could drive the cost up dramatically, so make sure you know your inventory when considering if this project is monetarily worth it!
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Step 1: Cut Boards to Length
In my drawing, I planned for the organizer to be 25 1/2" long; 24" for the internal boards, plus the 3/4" thickness of each end. I therefore started by cutting three 24" pieces out of my 1" x 12".
Despite being the best piece Home Depot had left, the pine I purchased was a little warped, so I did the best I could to cut the straightest sections for these pieces
I also put three Kreg Jig screw holes on either end of one side of the board. I'll use these to assemble my organizer at the end.
I then cut my dividers. Since I wanted the organizer to be 6" tall, with 2 1/4" reserved for the thickness of the cross pieces, each divider would be 1 7/8" tall. Yes, I'm sorry, that was math. If you want to build the same organizer, you can follow the dimensions in the picture below.
I also cut my sides, which were 6" long each. I ended up with this:
Step 2: Finish the Pieces
I chose to finish my pieces at this point instead of at the end because I thought it would be really difficult to get finish into each of the different layers. I used Deft, which is a lacquer. I think it does a really great job of bringing a little richness to pine boards.
Step 3: Make Drawers (Optional)
While the finish was drying, I decided to make the drawers for my pens and pencils. If you don't plan to store small items like that, you could put your dividers in different spots and skip this step.
Each space I was filling with a drawer would be 5 1/4" long by 1 7/8" high by 11 1/4" deep. As a result, I was aiming for a drawer slightly smaller than this to make sure it would fit. I went with 5 1/8" long by 1 3/4" high by 11" deep. My cuts were therefore as follows:
I used some leftover 1/4" plywood for the sides and bottoms of the box, but if you don't have that sitting around, you could totally use more of the 1 x 12. However, the dimensions would change!! You would need to recalculate what the front and back lengths would be, since the bottom and sides of the drawer would be thicker!
You might notice the front piece has a hole in it. I did that so I didn't need to add a knob to operate the drawer; I could just put my finger through the hole to open the drawer. I drilled the hole with a corded drill and 3/4" spade bit. I had a scrap piece of wood beneath it, so I didn't have to worry about drilling into my workbench.
To assemble the box, I started by nailing the sides to the front and back pieces using my nail gun.
Then I nailed the bottom pieces into place.
And then I had a drawer!
For the record, I did throw a coat of Deft (lacquer) on this before actually using it!
Step 4: Assemble the Organizer
I started by attaching the dividers to base and middle pieces using 1 1/4" screws.
Each divider was placed 6 inches away from the side of the board. Meaning: the further bit of the divider was 6 inches away from the side of the board.
For the bottom layer where there was only one divider, I placed it exactly in the center of the board.
Then I attached each piece to the sides, working from the top down. This allowed me to always be able to access the Kreg Jig holes easily as I assembled. Assembling from the bottom up would make those inaccessible.
In addition to the Kreg screws, I put wood glue in between each of these joints.
I did not do anything to secure the dividers to the higher layer. I figured the three screws securing them to the lower level would be enough to keep them in place.
After attaching the lowest layer, my organizer was done!
The pens and pencils fit perfectly!
And, so far at least, I'm doing a great job of actually putting things away each night before I finish up!
I feel so good about how my desk looks; with this organizer it is never a mess! The warmth it brings to my desk, and my better posture due to a higher monitor are just extra bonuses! And given that I put this organizer together in under 3 hours means it was totally worth the $15 I spent on the board. I consider this project a major win! What do you think? If you loved it, make sure you save it to Pinterest below!