How to organize your computer desktop

You’ll thank me later.

If there’s one thing that my previous self often took for granted, it was leaving my computer desktop messy. It was fine to begin with when I got my first computer: write a paper here, receive a file there…my engagement with my giant Microsoft computer (which ran on Windows XP) was moderate.

As I got older, it started to become a challenge to find documents. Sometimes I’d accidentally recycle them thinking I wouldn’t need them any more. (Wrong.) Another favourite terrible excuse of mine: “it’s so much faster to just retype everything, and deleting the document frees up space.” (Yeah, I know, I didn’t get my logic there either.) I’d put things onto discs and the discs would disappear. This system wasn’t working.

By university I ended up just leaving documents on my computer desktop. Every paper, copy of scanned notes, power point, and pretty much everything I’d emailed to myself (or received via email from other people) was on that desktop. When there wasn’t room for even one more icon, I’d start a new folder and throw everything that was on the desktop into it…and then repeat the process. It was probably in third year where I decided to open the dozens of “new folders” that I’d just been shipping my documents into…and yes, it was a nightmare.

I think we take our digital space for granted. There are far less strings attached when getting rid of a document on your computer than it is to put that 300-level paper on youth and self-esteem (an actual paper I wrote, needed to submit for a scholarship, mistakenly destroyed, and had to search for on my incredibly disorganized computer) — through the shredder. That’s why I don’t want you to make the same mistakes I did — so, I’m offering my two cents on the subject.

Start with broad categories

I have four main categories I like to depend on when organizing my files: work, blog, home and misc. I try not to rely on the misc category so much, but if I can’t think of a spot to put the document I’m looking at in that very moment, I can sort through it later. I make it a point of sorting through my misc folder as much as possible; I try not to leave it for more than two weeks at a time. (I will up that to three weeks at a time during the summer, since I don’t usually have as many projects to work on in the warmer months.)

This is actually the desktop on my laptop. I always dump old files as much as I can because there isn’t much room on this computer as there is on our home PC.

Sort by date

I personally like to sort within those categories by date because I keep track of projects in my bullet journal, so it’s the easiest for me to find a project I previously worked on based on the time frame. As long as you find a system that works for you — you’ll be a-okay!

Then, sort by project name

I always have a name for each project. Sometimes if I don’t really have a specific name for a project, I’ll take the opportunity to name it something funny — as long as it’s for my eyes only and I’m not sharing it with other coworkers. (In that case, I’ll usually leave the funny naming conventions to my personal blog projects.)

Once enough time has passed, move (or back things up) to another drive

I won’t really have to worry about this now as my husband has graciously offered me more than a TB of space on the computer he built, but it’s actually a smart idea to move things over to a pocket drive if you need to access it down the road. I was almost hooped when I applied for my current job because I needed to find older videos I’d worked on and I hadn’t back them up. Luckily, I did elsewhere…so phew!

How do you keep your computer desktop clean? Let me know in the comments section!

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