I revamped my gaming desk to improve my mental health – and it really helped

Freshly organised gaming desk at the ready
(Image credit: Future / Josephine Watson)

Be it how I’m wired or a lazy trait I’ve yet to defeat, I struggle with messiness at the best of times - as my mother would surely agree after years of dealing with the cesspit that was my teenage bedroom. 

But, across multiple lockdowns, several house moves and the mental health rollercoaster I’ve experienced since 2019, I fell into particularly bad habits with my desk in particular.

I got my Nitro Concepts D16M Gaming Desk during the pandemic so I could comfortably work from home and finally rejoin the PC gaming master race after years of living in the console-only abyss, and while it's not one of the best gaming desks, it was one of the best choices I’ve made.

It’s where I game, where I do my art and where I work - and until recently, it’s also been the bane of my existence. Until last week, I could barely move my mouse amongst the mess that completely ruled my workspace, so I decided to see in the New Year with a comprehensive desk overhaul, maximizing the surface area and ensuring everything had a home. 

But something interesting happened to my mental health throughout the process of my re-organization, and it’s made me think a little differently about how my brain functions when I’m sitting down at my workspace.

So fresh, so clean

First off, here’s how I tackled the behemoth task in front of me. Perhaps I took my childhood obsession with Disney’s ‘the Little Mermaid’ a little too much to heart, but either way, one thing was clear; the first step had to be a good old-fashioned throwout.

Between my dual-monitor setup and a laptop stand, an outdated, wire-heavy sound system and all of my peripherals, it was already a battle for real estate, but I knew I needed to start small - my desk looked like a tech hoarder had a field day in their local office supply store (which is basically what had happened... just over a few years).

“I’ve got gadgets and gizmos aplenty, I’ve got whosits and whatsits galore… you want thingamabobs? I’ve got 20.”

Ariel, The Little Mermaid

So it began; do I really need four of the same type of micro-USB cables in 2023? No. I probably didn’t in any year prior, either. The same goes for the other wires I’ve been holding hostage for years, the random broken gadgets I’d sworn to fix and ended up replacing, the half-filled notepads I scarcely use and the various small portable speakers that are given out as freebies at events which sound like a bee in a tin can. 

After a few days of procrastinating and chipping away at the critical mass of junk I’d acquired, I knew it was time for the big job - wiping the slate clean. Over Black Friday, I’d made a number of purchases to help me sort my desk Marie Kondo style, making the most out of the available space and ensuring I could always access the things I need - though I did end up needing to buy a fair few more bits after the fact.

I set aside a day and, with the help of my boyfriend, cleared the decks and built my new kit, including a keyboard tray, two monitor risers and a shelving unit for underneath the desk. 

Keyboard tray with keyboard and mouse

The keyboard tray has been a real godsend, even if it's a little wide for the midsection of my desk. Now, I can use the main surface for writing and testing drawing tablets. (Image credit: Future / Josephine Watson)

Once these were in place, I played around a while with the layout of the desk, which needs to be pretty dynamic and flexible to accommodate my varying needs. I switch around a lot between my work laptop and gaming PC, so the trickiest job here was sorting my keyboard and mouse, which needed to reach both my new USB extension hub and my USB dock for work from my keyboard tray without traipsing hanging cables everywhere. To help, I used self-adhesive wire clips on the underside of my desk. 

Lastly, I began the arduous task of sorting the rest of my wires, feeding them through the desk’s three cable holes. Once they had all been mapped, I began to group them by destination and zip them into my new dust and waterproof cable tidies. It’s still a bit of a jungle down there, but at least now it’s easier to maneuver the wires around when I need to clean.

All that was left to do was bring back the essentials to fit on and around the key components of my setup; my stationery, frequently used gadgets, and a couple of corgi plushies to keep away the grumpies.

I can see clearly now the wires have gone

With a great sigh of relief, I reclined at last in front of my glorious, optimized desk space and, for the first time in months, felt at peace when I turned on my PC to work the next day.

Over the next few days, I noticed the process did more than just improve my experience while I was at my desk. You might have heard of the phrase “tidy home, tidy mind”, or its desk-based derivative “a cluttered desk is the sign of a cluttered mind”, and in my case, there’s definitely truth to the old adage. 

My desk clean-up has genuinely changed some of my habits already. For one thing, I’m now being a lot more conscious of what gets stored on and around my desk, and I’m instinctively throwing things away instantaneously instead of setting them aside to inevitably be scooped up and stashed somewhere. 

A large black desk workspace with two stand risers - one with two levels, the other one, as well as other desk peripherals. The risers are being used to store stationary

The monitor risers have served a dual purpose - improving my desk ergonomics and providing more storage and surface area for my ample corgi collection.  (Image credit: Future / Josephine Watson)

More than that, even some of my work-life habits are starting to change. Generally, my concentration has improved significantly. I’m working at my desk all day, instead of moving to the couch to curl up in a ball and work there when I’m feeling low and unproductive. 

It’s even improved my sleeping habits. I’m going to bed earlier because I don’t view tidying my desk as a task to procrastinate as the day ends. Previously, the mess was so bad I’d commit to cleaning it up before I slept, then stay awake until I was bleary-eyed in my unending self-flagellating cycle of chaos.

I’m not eating so many snacks at my desk, and if I do, they’re healthier - which I hadn’t thought much of until I saw this Huffpost article suggesting tidier desks can lead to healthier life choices

One thing I also found interesting in this piece was the suggestion that mess facilitates more creative, out-of-the-box thinking, and I certainly notice that during creative tasks my desk becomes (and stays) a lot messier. That’s why the organizing part of this project is just as, if not more, important as the tidying to me; now, at least, there’s space to put everything away and a much more manageable baseline to build from.

Can I guarantee that it’s always going to stay as clear as it is right now? No. I’m neurodiverse, prone to depressive periods and basically live at my workspace. However, I’ve definitely seen the benefits of a more organized desk so far, and know that it’s going to be a lot easier to keep it that way.

Josephine Watson
Managing Editor, Lifestyle

Josephine Watson (@JosieWatson) is TechRadar's Managing Editor - Lifestyle. Josephine has previously written on a variety of topics, from pop culture to gaming and even the energy industry, joining TechRadar to support general site management. She is a smart home nerd, as well as an advocate for internet safety and education, and has also made a point of using her position to fight for progression in the treatment of diversity and inclusion, mental health, and neurodiversity in corporate settings. Generally, you'll find her watching Disney movies, playing on her Switch, or showing people pictures of her cats, Mr. Smith and Heady.