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monitor with filing cabinets, alarm clock, lamp, milk cup and sheets of paper flying around.  concept of organization, online storage, chaos and work at home.  3d rendering

Here’s how to bring order to your desktop and increase productivity and reduce anxiety. (Photo: Getty)

I hate being the bearer of bad news, but that’s a messy desktop you have. No, not your physical desk. I’m talking about your computer wallpaper.

See for yourself: Just drag this browser window to the side for a moment. Is your screen littered with icons, documents and photos? Is that a bunch of pretty much every attachment you’ve ever received and anything you’ve ever downloaded from the web? If so, it’s time to organize your desktop clutter, then adjust your daily digital habits to keep it that way.

But first, start the process with AOL Desktop Gold, a plug-and-play all-in-one desktop solution that tidies up your online experience. It takes your AOL inbox, search bar, bookmarks, favorites, usernames, passwords, and more and puts them all in one intuitive dashboard. You’ll find links to your favorite sites, advanced filtering options to organize your email, and great ways to customize your desktop design, including free background images.

And it’s all reinforced with premium security features. In fact, AOL Desktop Gold uses two-step verification, so you’ll need to verify your identity via SMS or other secure means. It also uses encryption, which encodes sensitive information so that hackers can’t even read it, never mind stealing it.

Try AOL Desktop Gold free for 30 days *

Young mother meditating on the floor in messy living room

Organize your desktop once, then keep it in the future. It’s a recipe for productivity. (Photo: Getty)

Create a folder system.

The quickest and easiest way to start organizing that cluttered desktop is to start putting everything into folders. It’s not much different from a physical desk in that sense, except digitally, your system can be a little more sophisticated and customizable than a filing cabinet. You can create folders and subfolders, color-code them, and create naming conventions that help you find them with just one click.

Think about how you use your files and how you like to access them. For example, maybe you track your expenses in spreadsheets that you want to update frequently. If so, it might make sense to create a parent folder for the year, then create subfolders within each for months or even weeks.

The same logic applies to photos, videos, invoices, receipts, tax documents, and so on. Focus on as few master folders as possible, then create a logical system of subfolders that keeps everything organized while taking up as little space on the desktop as possible.

Delete what you don’t use or need.

When creating a folder system, use this opportunity to delete. It’s like packing for a move: you go through everything and throw out the trash, then pack the important things. Don’t just download everything into your folders; throw away everything you are clinging to unnecessarily and make room to breathe on your desktop.

Now is an important time to make sure everything is saved in the cloud as well. This way you can trash the documents you don’t need close at hand, like financial information that’s at least 10 years old or long memory-hogging videos that you never watch but want to keep for posterity.

Using a cloud service is critical, so if you’re not using one yet, go ahead. The cloud ensures that all your important documents and media exist forever and never you are deleted, even if the versions saved on your computer are damaged. And of course, saving everything to the cloud gives you the opportunity to delete things locally (on your computer and desktop) but keep them, as the cloud is basically a virtual storage unit.

Try AOL Desktop Gold free for 30 days *

organize your desktop

If that’s a familiar feeling, it’s time to check out your computer’s desktop. (Photo: Getty)

Put all your apps in the system tray.

Here’s an easy way to clean up your desktop: Get all the icons for all your applications in your computer’s taskbar. These icons are shortcuts to access your apps and often reside on the desktop by default. You don’t need to: drag them to the taskbar, which can be at the bottom or side of the screen, or right-click and choose “Pin to Taskbar”, then delete them from the desktop.

You can probably also hide the taskbar, only pulling it out when you need to use it. When you don’t, it’s out of sight, out of mind, which leads to an even more tidy and free desktop.

Alternatively, your computer may allow you to store your applications in the Start menu. Try adding apps directly to the Start menu by right-clicking and selecting “Pin to Start” or by simply dragging the icon to the “Blocked apps” section of the Start menu.

organize your desktop

Make your computer desktop as organized as the house you live in. (Photo: Getty)

Hide desktop icons.

“Out of site, out of mind” is a pretty cool concept when you’re cleaning up, right? You can actually hide all desktop icons if you really want to get minimalist. Yes, you can still access it easily when you need it. You simply won’t see them when you don’t see them. It’s like storing everything in the closet, but in a much less cluttered way.

Here’s what you do: On your PC, right-click on the desktop and select View from the menu. From the submenu, select Show desktop icons and deselect it to hide them. When you want to see them again, follow the same procedure, but select and select Show desktop icons so they appear again.

Schedule routine maintenance.

Just like you book Saturday mornings to clean and vacuum, or Sunday mornings to do laundry, set a schedule for cleaning your desktop and set a reminder for yourself. The time you gain in productivity – and the mental clarity you get – will be worth the little effort of routine maintenance.

Try AOL Desktop Gold free for 30 days *

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