Workspaces of the rich and famous

Today’s first post is a quick one. I simply want to direct you to a fun feature that ran last week over on Lifehacker: “Nine Workspaces Where Famous Folks Get Stuff Done.”

We’ve shown Al Gore‘s piled space here on Unclutterer before, but the others are new to us. I especially love the video of David Allen’s desk — simple and extremely productive:

Now I’m really curious what all of these famous peoples’ assistant’s desks look like …

Go on and check out the article, and then come back here and share your reactions.

12 Comments for “Workspaces of the rich and famous”

  1. posted by Elaine Shannon on

    Thanks for sharing this great find! This is a perfect visual on the organizing philosophy that “Organizing is about how ones space functions and feels and not about how it looks”.

  2. posted by Lose That Girl on

    I can’t help but be suspicious of famous people with really neat desks. I always wonder how much work they *actually* do!

  3. posted by knitwych on

    Interesting. Although I’m not a fan of the GTD book, I do utilize some of the organization techniques he endorses. (Been using them off/on for years, really.) Having folders for projects/topics is kind of a no-brainer, don’t you think?

    Gotta say I admire his sparsely populated In Box. That’s one area that I tend to use as a catch-all, and it frequently gets out of control before I realize it. I need to be better about keeping that cleared out.

    Taking the project/topic folder idea into a larger format has been very helpful to me. I recently organized my office closet, which had become a very scary and totally useless space. I used cardboard file boxes (available at office supply and chain stores) to hold materials for projects (work and hobby), as well as reference materials that I must hold onto for a period of time for my jobs. It is very nice to open the closet door to neatly stacked, labeled boxes, rather than the life-threatening, gravity-defying piles of disorganized stuff.

  4. posted by Tod on

    This was so useful to me, I had to save it. I just wrote a long article on creativity and messiness. I argue in favor of order, although I realize how many people want to justify messes as being helpful to creativity. Looking at some of those photos really makes it clear to me. Messes are ugly distractions, period.

    If anyone is interested, my article is here:

  5. posted by Anita on

    Re: creativity and messiness, I think the point that comes across from this collection is not that messes are helpful to creativity, but that creativity thrives when it’s not bound by any IMPOSED organizing structure. The best example of this is the Pixar office, which is funky and creative without being cluttered. It’s not about having everything ‘just so’, it’s about having the freedom to find what works for you. For example, something like “Dilbert’s Ultimate Cubicle” might be an ideal of organization to some, but it would suck the life out of me.

    Also: I want Martin Amis’s sky light! And Steve Jobs’s place gives me the creeps.

  6. posted by Catherine Cantieri, Sorted on

    How funny; through no deliberate emulation, I seem to have arrived at a system almost identical to David Allen’s. (But, of course, I like mine more. 😉 )

  7. posted by JC on

    I struggle daily at my office and oftentimes do not want to go to work. I work for an boss who strives to run a minimalist, “paperless” office, a good thing. We scan in everything; and then everything, but important originals, goes back to the client. Everything has a place, even the paper feed on the scanner. If I leave a few file folders on my desk (current work to be scanned etc.), they may not always be there when I get back the next day. I have an empty “inbox.” It’s not empty because I am super efficient, it’s empty because my work product is in the back office “out of site.” Unfortunately, my boss also takes this attitude with computer files, and has often deleted files that I have needed. I’ve taken to saving things in more than one place, because who knows if it will have been “decluttered” from the main directory. I am fortunate that I am not stuck in a cubical. There is plenty of natural light and large windows looking out to some trees. However, I think that I could be more productive if I could make my workspace more my own and actually have my current work at hand, rather than in a different room.

  8. posted by WilliamB on

    @Unclutterer: excellent question about their assistants’ desks. I’m sure you’re right, that that’s where a lot of the potential clutter ends up. If you have a minion, you can hand him an invite and say “We’re going.” It’s the minion’s job to respond, put it on the calendar, note appropriate dress, remind the famous person about it. It’s like outsourcing your clutter.

    I want a minion.

    @Lose That Girl: I sometimes suspect they have another office hiding in the in-suite bathroom, that has the person’s *real* desk with all the papers and mess.

  9. posted by Tod on

    Anita, I agree about the Pixar photo. It is fun yet uncluttered. I had to take on messiness because there have been a number of books recently that do not merely defend it, but try to elevate it to a human ideal. I really cannot look at an office like Martin Amis’ without cringing — and his isn’t even that bad.

  10. posted by Steve on

    Anita said it more eloquently above … but I will cut to the chase and just ask where do you get off, I mean how DARE you criticize a man who as successful as Al Gore? Obviously his style works for him. It’s not your desk and you do not have to work there. That should be the end of it.

    You might have a useful tip now and then, but your site’s condescending snark seems designed to make you feel better about your own hangups. It’s sad you need to make money for your “uncluttering” services by mocking other people’s successful styles.

    You seem to think your self-congratulatory mocking is funny … but it’s really just boorish.

    For this, for mocking people’s ideas on Wednesdays (especially your uncultured/untraveled take on the traditional slippers that have kept Swiss farm houses uncluttered and mud free for years), and for your uninformed and holier than though take on Philip Johnson’s glass house I am finished. Unsubscribing.

  11. posted by Sean on

    Bye Steve! You won’t be missed.

    The idea that you can’t critique someone’s desk unless you are more successful than them is just ridiculous. Besides, Bush was President twice. That is rather successful. And people criticize him all the time. Just because someone is successful doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for improvement. Or that they are successful in ALL areas.

    Especially because this site is about clutter, and there is no denying that Mr. Gore’s desk is cluttered. It is an entirely appropriate subject, and I didn’t find anything inappropriate about the way that this site approached this subject.

    So please, take YOUR holier than though attitude and inability to read a site that you sometimes disagree with and go crap on someone else conversation.

    Or you could come up with logical, thoughtful responses to things that you disagree with, and actually join the conversation.

  12. posted by Shalin on

    Please keep these coming! It’s always interesting to know/tour what workspace has been designed to accommodate how they work best and most enjoyably…

    One thing I’ve found interesting is that those in the creative professions like architecture, (product) design, writing, etc. seem to have very little “stuff” in their homes…


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