7 Steps to Cleaning and Organizing Your Computer Desktop

Your computer desktop is the first thing you see when you log in. Is your password an entry to a desktop that is cluttered with files, folders, photos, apps, zip files, shortcuts, screen shots, and other digital detritus? If so, it could very well have a negative impact on your productivity and your stress level. It’s not hugely different from having an actual desktop that is also cluttered and disorganized. A workspace, onscreen or not, that is a jumbled mess will make you feel distracted, scattered, and anxious. Read on for some tips on getting your computer desktop cleaned and organized—then watch your productivity trend upwards!

1. Make good use of your taskbar to minimize program icons.

Look at each program icon on your desktop and consider how often you use it. The ones you use daily and at least 3x a week, keep on your desktop. The rest should be moved into the Start button on a PC, or the Applications folder in a Mac’s Finder. To neaten up your desktop even more, keep your program icons on your taskbar. On a PC, pin an icon to your Taskbar by right-clicking on it; then select “pin to taskbar.” On a Mac, simply drag and drop the icon onto your Dock. This will help keep your desktop neater and save you the hassle of finding programs because all your apps are in one spot, instead of all over your screen.

2. Create a system of desktop folders.

That being said, don’t go crazy and cover your desktop with two dozen file folders. A file folder system is exactly that: a system. Think of a filing cabinet that has, say, five drawers, and make this your five main desktop folders. Within each drawer/folder, you will have subfolders. A few subfolders may even have their own subfolders. Keep it manageable and don’t go beyond three levels. Remember, you can always use “Search” to find a file.  

3. Have a standard file-naming convention.

Decide on a naming convention for your files and folder system, and use this consistently. Whether you name them by date created, by client name, by child’s team, by task name, etc., use this convention for all your files and folders. It will make filing them and finding them much easier later on. You may even have to rename many files to fit into this new convention. Write up this convention and keep it on a handy notepad nearby, so you will keep using it and not forget.

4. Move the files on your desktop into your folder system.

Now that you’ve done steps 1-3, you can move the files scattered throughout your desktop into your fabulous new filing system! Rename files as you move them, if you need to. Take your time sorting through these files, and do it right. At this point your desktop should be looking pretty cleared of app and file icons. Pat yourself on the back!

5. Use “Download” and “Save” more efficiently.

Most of the files on your desktop are either downloaded or created. Keep your desktop from getting piled up with files again by using “Download” and “Save” in a more efficient manner. When you are downloading or saving, change the Location to the appropriate folder or subfolder so the file is downloaded or saved directly to that location, and not onto your desktop.

6. Use a desktop organization wallpaper.

Realistically, you will still have some folders and files on your desktop. Keep them organized using desktop organization wallpapers. You can download from here, or customize one here. Whichever you choose, it will add some fun and color to your screen, and help keep your screen neat and uncluttered.

7. Schedule a regular desktop clean-up.

You should be feeling pretty good right now—your computer screen is calmer, neater, and more organized! To keep it this way, schedule a recurring time to do some tidying. If you calendar 15-30 minutes once a week to do this task, you’ll keep your desktop looking great.


That wasn’t so bad, was it? As with any organizing project, the time and effort you put into it as you do it will bring about the rewards you’ll continue to reap later. If you are a techie, you could take it up a notch and use a desktop organization tool for your PC or Mac.



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