Starting in second grade, when homework often ramps up, a streamlined environment with clear, uncluttered surfaces makes it easier to buckle down and focus. Think quiet, neutral shades and unified storage sets (folders, boxes) for minimal distraction and maximum concentration.

By Betsy Goldberg and Elizabeth Passarella
Updated August 26, 2015
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Jonny Valiant
Jonny Valiant

1
Put supplies on a pegboard

Clever cure for desk mess: a wall-mounted organizer with adjustable, add-as-you-go pegs. Display clean, serene art—no concert posters or family photos, which “can trigger downshifting and distract from the work,” says Julie Morgenstern, the author of Organizing From the Inside Out.

2
Add task lighting

Even with good overhead lights, a desk lamp is key. It draws attention to the textbook or laptop and keeps it there.

3
Need a shared study area for younger and older kids?

Lining a wall with one long desk and two chairs side by side may look nicer, but it’s smarter to place two desks on opposite walls. Kids tend to focus better in a back-to-back setup, says Morgenstern. Have two desks on the same wall? If you can, space them at least a foot apart to create a barrier.

4
Stock only one kind of pen

Eliminating the eenie meenie to pick out a pen (or a pencil) aids productivity. “Those types of microdecisions can cause kids to lose their train of thought,” says Morgenstern.

5
Create an all-in-one unit

Intersect a desk with shelving for a sleek, storage-friendly workspace. Keep active tasks on top (in folders labeled by subject) and graded pieces below (archived in magazine holders).


To buy (numbered from photo above): 1. Peg-it-All storage panel, from $190, kreisdesign.com. 2. Senga L-Shaped Executive desk (similar), $290, wayfair.com. 3. Riggins USB Desk Lamp (similar), $69, urbanoutfitters.com. 4. Eiffel side chair (similar), $110, wayfair.com. 5. Water-color sheepskin, $249, aelfie.com.