Must-Have Office Supplies for an Organized Work Space

If you've resolved to improve your organization at work, a trip to your local office supply store is a good first step. If you feel overwhelmed by all of the options, stick with the basics. Just because something is cute and in your favorite color doesn't mean you should automatically buy it.

To make the right choices, take this list of must-have tools and office supplies with you.

Your Basic Writing Tools

Pens, Pencils, Sharpie, and Highlighters
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While you may be tempted to pick a gel pen in fuchsia, don't. A basic ballpoint pen like a medium-point Bic Round Stics in black, blue, and red are great and economical.

Looking for a sturdy mechanical pencil with lead that doesn't break every time you try to write? Give the Pentel Twist-Erase Express Mechanical Pencil with 0.7 mm lead a try. Bonus: It's refillable!

Pick up a five pack of Sharpie Permanent Markers. Keep two or three in your office, one in your kitchen junk drawer, and one in your purse. Use them to write on cardboard boxes, label your food in the company's refrigerator, or label your files. 

Last, get a colorful set of highlighters to organize your action items in the recent meeting notes, errors that need to be corrected, absolute must-dos on your to-do list, and signatures that are needed. 

Self-Stick Notes

business people using sticky notes on a glass wall
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When you stop by someone's desk, and they aren't there, do you look for a post-it note? Yes, you do! We use these to jot down action items as they come to mind, flag a page in a contract, or for a brainstorming session. 

As a matter of fact, self-stick notes are so popular you'll find an entire aisle devoted to them at the office supply store.

Consider keeping pads in these three sizes: 2"x1", 3"x3", and 3"x5".


person writing in a notebook
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Even though we use technology which has been designed to make us paperless, we all still have a need for notepads. We use them in meetings, to list our to-dos, and to write draft memos or letters.

Pick up two fancy notebooks so they stand out in your sea of paperwork. Use a 5 1/2"x8 1/2" for quick notes, to-dos, or for use with a compact-sized daily planner. Also, pick up 8 1/2"x11" for meeting notes, projects, and client appointments. Consider paying a little more for the 3-hole-punched variety. You'll save time if you frequently add meeting or client notes to binders.

Binders and Index Tabs

binders lined up in a row
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As you work to get more organized, consider using a binder for each area of responsibility, project, or ongoing task for which you are responsible.

A good option is a two-inch, economy view binder by Universal with an outside see-through plastic overlay for inserting cover sheets or spine titles. 

Binders are more efficient when used with index tabs.

Index sets can be pricey yet pretty. Universal Table of Contents Dividers or Simon Marketing 30% Recycled Table of Contents Index Tabs are effective and economical and available at most office supply stores.

File Folders and Labels to Organize Paperwork

Label file folders to stay organized
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Elaborate and complicated filing systems don't work. The more complicated the system, the less likely you are to maintain it.

Choose manilla, top-tab, 1/3-cut folders. You can buy a box of 100 for less than $10. You can either write directly on the tab or use basic folder labels. A good option is Avery's white file folder labels for laser or inkjet printers.

Binder Clips to Keep Things Grouped Together

Pick up some binder clips to keep things grouped together
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Binder clips are a very useful organizational tool. You'll want to keep some on hand in small, medium, and large. They're great for keeping project resources all together, organizing materials to be distributed at meetings or training classes, or corralling documents prior to filing them. On a personal note, you can use binder clips to keep bills to be paid all together, or for organizing coupons to be used at the grocery store.

3-Hole Punch

A paper hold punch can organize your notes
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Binders will never be a good organizational tool if all of your papers and notes are simply loose inside. Keeping a 3-hole punch at your desk will ensure documents get punched and filed in the appropriate section of the binder on a regular basis.

This is one tool where investing a little more may pay off. There's nothing worse than papers that are punched unevenly or that don't align with the other papers in the binder.

A good mid-price option is the Swingline LightTouch High Capacity Desktime Punch. Prices range from $15 to $20 each.

A Lamp That Fits Your Style

two business people sitting at a desk chatting
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Office lighting isn't always enough. There are some studies that say the more light you have on your work the better you can concentrate. So pick out a lamp that fits your style and find the right wattage you need in your office setting. 

What good is having an organized desk if you can't see it all well?

Feel Competent With the Right Tools

When you have to ask a co-worker if you can borrow a pen, you're wasting your time and theirs. After you go shopping for these basic office supplies, you'll feel competent, organized, and energized to get in a good day's work.