How to Best Organize Your Computer Desktop, According to Pro Organizers

published Sep 25, 2022
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Organization isn’t just about keeping your drawers and closets tidy — it’s a mindset that affects many areas of your life by eliminating what you don’t need and making what you do need easy to find and use. Take your computer, for example. Whether you use yours for work, hobbies, or a bit of both, a simple organizing routine can help eliminate distractions and encourage productivity. 

If your computer desktop needs some TLC but you’re not sure where to begin, we’ve got you covered. Here are some of the best desktop organizing strategies, according to professional organizers. 

First, declutter. 

As with any organizing project, it pays to scrap (in this case, delete) what you don’t need before you do anything else. That way, you’ll only be tasked with organizing the files that are useful or important for your records, says Shannon Krause, a professional organizer with Tidy Nest. Before you implement your organization strategy, parse through all of your existing files and apps, and drag anything outdated or unnecessary to the recycling bin. 

Categorize everything. 

After your clear-out, spend some time categorizing all the files and apps you’re going to keep, either by making specific folders for each category or simply dragging all like-items together on the desktop. Krause suggests using a standardized naming convention for everything to make it easy to find what you need. For example, you could start each file with the date, followed by the description, to help with chronological searching. (For example, June 9 2022_Kitchen_Renovation”). Or, you can start each file with the category name followed by any useful subcategories, such as “Renovation_Kitchen_v1.”

Create file folders. 

Once you’ve landed on a naming convention, group everything into named file folders on your desktop, such as “reference files,” “client projects,” “personal,” and “active projects.” “From there, drag all corresponding files to the appropriate grouping, and presto, an organized desktop,” Krause says.

Choose a pretty background or template.

Just like you would choose organizing bins or baskets that suit your home, pick a customized desktop background that makes your computer more visually appealing (and hopefully, more enjoyable to use). Krause also suggests using the website Canva to find pretty customizable templates — some have specific categories for files, along with a notes and calendar section to enhance productivity. 

Schedule routine maintenance. 

As with your kitchen pantry or bedroom closet, maintenance is key when it comes to your computer desktop. Krause recommends setting a calendar reminder to clean up your desktop at a cadence that works for you, whether once a week, month, or quarter. At that time, clear out anything you don’t regularly use. For example, if you haven’t used an app since your last cleanup, you might want to remove it from your desktop — you can always add it again later. 

Back everything up. 

Anytime you revisit your desktop, check to make sure anything important is backed up elsewhere. “I’m a big fan of putting all your files into Dropbox or Sync so they are always backed up and accessible from wherever you need them,” says intuitive life organizer Jennifer Major