Is your desktop the digital equivalent of a gigantic stack of unsorted stuff? Perhaps it’s time then to cut through the clutter once and for all and get everything cleaned up. In this article, we’ll help you make it look organized again step by step and advise you on how to keep it that way.

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Step 1: delete files you don’t need
Although this is an obvious step, it is essential to the process of cleaning up your desktop. If you’re a big software downloader, chances are that you’ve piled up quite a bit of installers. Go through all of your files and delete the ones you no longer need. Do the same with your shortcuts. A lot of applications drop a shortcut on your desktop you don’t use anyway. If you find yourself using the Start Menu or the Quick Launch bar instead of clicking shortcuts on your desktop, just get rid of them.

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Step 2: group files that belong together in folders
Try to put files that have something to do with each other in folders as much as you can. You may discover that some of the folders you’ve created can be grouped together in a folder of themselves. Using folders, you can drastically lower the amount of icons on your desktop.

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Step 3: move the folders you’ve just created to My Documents
Storing documents on your desktop is not a good idea if you want to keep the number of icons down. An exception to this rule are temporary documents. In some cases it’s better to leave them on your desktop to remind you that they have yet to be processed. As for the rest of your files: move your newly created folders off your desktop and into My Documents. If you need quick access to some folders, optionally create a shortcut to them but remember to keep the amount of shortcuts to a minimum.

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Step 4: download Fences to create groups of files
Back in February, Ryan wrote about a useful little tool from Stardock that allows you to group files on your desktop together. What’s even cooler about this nifty piece of freeware is that it will let you double-click your desktop (or press Escape) to hide all your icons. My advice is to always have this so-called quick-hide mode enabled, except for one or two essential groups that contain stuff like the Recycle Bin or shortcuts to folders you use often. To prevent Fences from hiding a group you’d like to be visible in quick-hide mode, right-click it, go to View and click ‘Exclude this Fence from quick-hide’.

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There you go, your desktop should look a lot cleaner now. In the future, remember to move or delete files on your desktop asap to keep it as clean as possible. Not only does it give you the chance to rediscover your wallpaper, but your files will be more organized too.