Cleaning Up Your Desk(top)



by Richard White

I’m a physics teacher, so I totally get that whole entropy thing.

You know. The Second Law of Thermodynamics?


The general idea is that the universe is getting increasingly disorganized, always. An chicken egg, which starts out pretty organized (shell on the outside, yolk and albumen and stuff on the inside) gets broken, and can never get put back together again. A teenager’s bedroom gets cleaned at some point, and in a shockingly short period of time turns into complete and utter disarray.

Yes, that Second Law of Thermodynamics.

The desktop on your computer, which is currently showing dozens of little files on it if you’re like everyone else, is in some disarray, and needs some cleaning. You should organize those files, and tuck them into some little folders somewhere in your Documents folder. It won’t take long, and you’ll thank me for it later.

“Why?” you ask—”I’ve survived just fine up to this point, and besides, I know where everything is.”

Well, that may be. And I don’t ordinarily like to preach that whole “my way or the highway” thing, but… look, you wouldn’t invite me over to your house until you had a chance to straighten things up a bit, right? Because living in squalor is nobody’s idea of “pretty.” The grubby state of your house tends to reflect a certain carelessness on your part, and perhaps even a health risk, depending on how long it’s been since you washed those dishes. It may even be hard to find things, and you end up wandering about a bit, looking for where you put the keys, or that can of soda, or that bill that needed to be paid.

In that same way, the desktop on your computer—and yes, I’m preaching now—reflects your approach to managing your digital life. You need to clean up your desktop once in awhile. Get those files that you’ve saved there organized into a folder or three, or tuck them away into the appropriate folder in your Documents. If you’ve got 5-10 folders sitting there on the desktop right now and you’re sort of using them, that’s alright. Don’t freak out about it. But if you haven’t looked at that document in a week or three, put it away some place, because on your desktop, it’s just cluttering things up.

“What do you care?” you ask. Good. I don’t! I don’t care about your desktop as long as I don’t have to help you fix your computer. But if I need to sit down and figure out what’s going on with your broken machine, I don’t want to look at your messy house. I’ll probably need to clear some space there, too, so I can download some system updates, install new software, etc. I’ll probably also be trying to clean your disk up a bit, and that’s harder for me to do if you have boatloads of random crap lying around on your hard drive.

Most importantly, though, (cue disapproving Dad tone of voice here)… If you won’t do it for me, do it for yourself. Developing an organized approach to managing and storing the files on your computer will make it much easier for you to find things when you need them. It’ll improve the efficiency of your workflow.

It’ll make you a better person.

Go clean your room Desktop.

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