Four Quick and Painless Techniques That Will Clean Your Messy Desktop

Lives can be full of clutter. One form of digital clutter is the messy desktop. Its so easy to create yet such a pain to deal with. I’ll look at my own desktop some days and always think “oh, I’ll deal with it later..” only later never comes. Then the mess grows and grows.

If you’re also looking at a desktop full of files, folders, downloads, pictures and half written ideas then I’ve got four simple methods for you that work.

The quick “Arrange by”:
The OS X automatic sorting feature works well on desktop files. Not only will it set them into a tidy grid, it can organize them alphabetically. To take advantage of this,

    1. Click on View in the menu bar.
    2. Go down to Arrange by and choose Name.

With grace and speed, OS X will automatically group all files on your desktop in a neat, orderly grid. Choosing “Kind” will sort them alphabetically by filetype.

This is the quickest way to organize a mess of files on your desktop. Especially if you don’t snap-to-grid.

The “New” folder:
Folders are great for grouping together massive amounts of pictures or songs or other files that belong together. But what about the rest of them?

Some people swear by prioritizing. My way is to keep all files that are urgent and needing attention on the desktop and drop everything else into a folder called “New”. I also like to keep the files that need attention in one single column. Each day I try to clear at least one or two files from that column. The key is to not let the attention needing file column to grow any larger than one column. In my desktop’s case, that’s eight files. When they’re cleared, move them into the New folder as well.

The folder is called “New” for backup purposes. If the files are in the New folder, I know they haven’t been backed up yet. (Bonus points if you create a Stack of the New folder into your dock – 10.5 only)

Create more space:
With the latest version of OS X (Leopard), Apple allows you to resize the grid spacing as well as icon size. You can even shrink the font size.

    1. Ctrl-Click on the desktop and choose View Options.
    2. Move the slider called “Grid Spacing” and watch the icons get closer together.
    3. If the filenames are too large, adjust the font size a bit until it looks right.

Now you can cram even more onto your desktop.

Create Stacks:
A brilliant new feature of Leopard (10.5) is the Stacks feature. Its usefulness is that it takes the old method of dragging a folder into the dock one step further. With Stacks, you can take a quick peek and see what’s in the folder without opening it up. What’s best is how easy it is to do. Here’s how to use Stacks to further organize a messy desktop.

    1. Take your “New” folder and drop it into the dock, creating a Stack of it.
    2. Next, move your “New” folder into your Home Folder (The folder with the same name as your username and the house icon next to it).
    3. Drag files from your desktop into the “New” folder’s Stack, in the dock. They will automatically be moved into there.

Now, you’ve not only cleaned the files off your desktop, but you’ve also cleaned the “New” folder off as well.

For those of you that have multiple folders, a la GTD, you can clean those off your desktop as well by moving them somewhere else and creating a Stack for them in the dock.

Bonus – Change your desktop background:
While not technically cleaning, changing desktop backgrounds semi-regularly is a nice wake-up for your subconcious. With time, your brain gets used to seeing the same desktop and all those icons and files start to melt into the background. By changing your desktop every few weeks, your brain receives a refreshing change.

Pick a background that lends itself to icons sitting over it. If its too busy, the icons get in the way. This change of scenery may even jar your brain into noticing that some of those files on your desktop that never get used. Dump them into the “New” folder or delete them if they aren’t necessary.

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