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How to Organize Your Computer Desktop

By Joyce Venezia Suss

It’s logical for your computer screen to be called a “desktop” as it holds the digital equivalent of papers that can accumulate on top of a real desk. But if your screen is cluttered with so many tiny icons or folders that you struggle to find what you’re looking for, then it’s time to drag your mouse and do some organizing.

A real desktop – as in furniture – ideally has space to work on current projects, with a folder organizer for other projects and important papers. Treat your computer desktop the same way, to help your life flow more efficiently.


  1. Throw It Away

If you don’t have a trash can or recycle bin shortcut on your desktop, add one. Then, review each desktop icon. If you rarely use it or forgot it was even there, it’s time to discard it. Take it one step further and uninstall rarely used apps. Periodically check your trash can and your download folder to permanently delete unnecessary items. This will also help your computer run faster.


  1. Save to Hard Drive

All icons should be shortcut links to your “My Documents” folder on your computer’s hard drive. It’s dangerous to keep important documents on your desktop, where they may accidentally get deleted. To create a shortcut, right click on the document or folder, scroll down and select “Create Shortcut.”


  1. Simply the Background

It’s fun to have a desktop background featuring a photo of your children, a fun vacation, your cute puppy, etc. But if the photo makes it difficult to see icons, perhaps switch to a simpler design. Some professional organizers recommend a background of horizontal colored stripes, with icons lined up by topic or importance. Another option is to place desktop folders into themed sections such as Work, Family, Finance, etc.


  1. Contain the Clutter

If you create a variety of new documents each day, consider creating an Inbox folder on your desktop, to contain the clutter. Just be sure to sort and move those documents to their appropriate permanent folders before the end of each day.


  1. Use Keywords

Perhaps you’re afraid of storing documents inside folders, fearing you won’t be able to find them. The key is to rename every document and photo into something searchable. If you can’t quickly locate something inside a folder, do a system search using keywords such as “blueberry” and “muffin” – and you won’t even have to open your Recipe folder.


  1. Organize that Email

Similarly, create folders in your email account, where you can save important emails and links sorted by topics such as Health, Travel, Pets, School, etc.


  1. Categorize Photos

Photos should have their own master shortcut. Sort photos into folders marked by the year, then sort them into subfolders marked with an appropriate subject such as “Aruba vacation” or “Molly’s high school graduation.”


  1. Reduce the Spam

If your email is loaded with unwanted junk mail and spam, take some time each day to unsubscribe, typically found in the fine print at the bottom of each email. Some people use two different email addresses: one exclusively for important emails; the other reserved for online shopping orders, or when you have to provide an email address that will probably lead to unwanted spam.


  1. Set Reminders

Online calendars not only let you organize your days, but also link your events to others, send invites and set reminders to yourself. If you don’t have time to complete the reminder, simply change the time and date to the future.


  1. Identify Downloads

When you download something from the web, rename it immediately to clearly identify what it is, and move it out of the download folder to a topical folder. If you need the downloaded content only once (perhaps to read an article), delete it when done.


  1. Delete Cookies

Help your computer run faster by frequently clearing your web browser. On your online search engine (such as Google Chrome, Internet Explorer, etc.), go to History and delete cookies, cached images and files.


  1. Back Up Files

For complete peace of mind, back up important files and precious photos onto an external hard drive – and take it one step further by storing it in a fire-safe box. You can also use a secure file hosting service like DropBox, Google Drive or Apple iCloud. Keep passwords in a safe app or an offline file.

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