Many of us have let our computer organisation get out of control. It’s often tempting to just save something we’re currently working on as ‘Document 1’ and leave it on the desktop because you’ll need it again soon. All those old files, photos and downloads are easy to ignore because we shut down our machine and we don’t have to look at them. But imagine if your desk was covered in stacks of paper reports, decades’ worth of sunset photos and dozens of office supply catalogues. You’d find it hard to get any real work done amongst all that clutter, right? Although it might be easier to ignore, computer clutter can be just as detrimental to productivity. Most of our work is now completed digitally, so it’s not going to help your sanity or your efficiency if you have the computer equivalent of a landfill sitting on your desktop, or you spend hours of your life clicking through nameless documents searching for that one file your boss needs right now.

Fortunately, there are a few simple steps you can take to tackle the computer clutter and move forward into a clear, streamlined and easy to navigate organisational dream.

1. Delete duplicates, downloads and duds

It’s surprising how often we’ve got two or more copies of the same file if you’ve saved something twice in different locations or made multiple downloads of the same file. You can even track down and delete your duplicates with an app such as Duplicate Detective. Next, check your downloads folder; chances are it’s full of old tickets and PDF brochures you don’t need. Finally, review all your programs and apps. If you haven’t used it for ages, think about whether it’s useful.

2. Create three main folders

This is where we start to tackle the dozens of files clogging up your desktop. Obviously, how you want to organise things depends on your needs and preferences, but one option suggested by is to create three ‘top level’ folders based on things you’ve created (resumes, Word documents), things your friends have made (family photos etc.) and things the rest of the world has made (music, movies, software etc.) You might prefer to have folders for ‘Work’ ‘Personal’ and ‘Entertainment’ but however you choose to do it, try to stick to three main folders.

3. Create smaller sub-folders

Within your three big, main folders, you can break things down further into smaller sub-folders. For instance within a large ‘Work’ folder you might want to create sub-folders for each project or aspect of your job. The organisation will differ depending on the content, but do what makes sense to you and break things down into as many sub-folders as you need until it makes sense.

4. Create a current ‘inbox’ folder

If you’re still concerned that files you’re currently working on will get lost in the new system, play it safe by creating a current work folder for easy access to ongoing tasks. This helps you get out of the habit of dumping everything on the desktop ‘just for now’. But do remember to move your files to the relevant folder once the task is done with.

5. Name your files

Now you’ve got all your folders set up, you need to be able to see at a glance what’s actually in each file, and make them usefully searchable. It’s well worth spending the extra few seconds saving your files with a descriptive name that will mean something to you later rather than wading through hundreds of different ‘document1’s and ‘notes’.

6. Stay on top of your system

Once you’ve decluttered your digital life, you’ll love knowing where everything is and being free of all that useless rubbish. But you need to stick to it; otherwise, before you know it, you’ll be back where you started. It’s much more productive if you spend those extra few seconds placing each new file in the appropriate folder and clear out your downloads regularly to keep your laptop clutter-free and working for you.