October 21st marks Clean Out Your Virtual Desktop Day… and I’m not ashamed to admit that I needed the nudge from this trivial holiday to help me give my computer the organizational love I give the rest of my home.
After a recent website refresh, my desktop looked like a photo booth threw up on it. I lost count at 68 images and 14 files scattered across the screen. You could barely make out my logo behind the mess. And if you’re like me, after I finish a project, I shut my laptop and don’t give virtual tidiness a second thought. It’s not like our homes where the mess is visible every time we walk into a room or open a closet door. My computer officially became Monica Geller’s secret closet.
But just like any space in our home, if items are disorganized, hard to see, and just plain messy, we’re likely to get frustrated looking for things, we duplicate items we already have… and the more cluttered it gets, the more we feel overwhelmed and put off sprucing it up.
Luckily, streamlining your virtual desktop is a lot less labor intensive than tackling your closet – yay for low cardio organizing. So where do we begin?
1. Start by editing. Just like organizing any space in your home – it’s important to declutter, not just move things around. Same goes with your computer. Delete any files you no longer need. This includes screenshots, outdated documents, downloads, unused apps, and any other images or old notes. Now empty that virtually stinky trash. After this initial cleanup, pick a day once a month to do a quick refresh. If you do this consistently, it shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes.
If you’re about to throw in the towel because the last thing you need is another box to check off on your to-do list, check out the handy little organization app, Hazel. This automated desktop Mary Maid watches whatever folders you tell it to, automatically organizing your files according to the rules you create. Automatically sort your movies or file your bills. It keeps your files off the desktop and puts them where they belong.
2. Categorize your folders. This might seem like a no-brainer, but even if you already have a few categories, creating a few others – or sub-categories – will make it a lot easier to find files. For me the two main categories are personal and business. Within those two categories, I have subcategories such as pictures (broken down by project or year), financial, individual (personal – family member), and project (business). Of course there’s more, but you get the idea. Make it work for what you have on your computer so that it’s easy to retrieve.
3. Streamline your folders. While it’s not as fun as picking out fancy baskets at The Container Store, you can make your folders more visually appealing. Say bye to the basic blue and coordinate colors based on your background. Here’s a great tutorial: How to easily change the color of individual folders in macOS. Super extra, I know.
4. Pick a new background. Just like a fresh coat of paint can totally revive the energy of a room, a new desktop background can provide that little added boost to your day each time you turn on your computer. And as I said above, once you’ve cleaned “house” you’ll want to add the finishing touches. This is the easy and fun part. Here’s my favorite resources for desktop backgrounds:
5. Lastly, it never hurts to give your entire computer a good wipe down. How’s it looking when the screen is black? Fingerprints, smudges and maybe traces of pirates booty? Oh, just me? Still – wipe it down. It’s almost cold season. You’re welcome.