Digital Survival 101: A Clean Desktop

I've been traveling with Tim for work and play recently, which means we've been working side by side in all sorts of cool spaces: on the train, in our little Brussels apartment, in the coolest loft you've ever seen and at Zoku in Amsterdam, on an endless day-flight home, and I am lucky enough to be writing this post in a beautiful house with the most spectacular views just outside Cape Town. Yes my life sucks sometimes.

This nomadic work experience made me realise something. While you would usually be pretty familiar with your partner's level of home tidiness, you don't often witness their work habits. And this is how I discovered that my darling husband and I were on polar opposites on one crucial point.


"Where is all your stuff?" He asks.


Let me rewind to last Saturday. After a long day of riding bicycles around the city, we are back in our state of the art minimalist loft in Amsterdam for a little break, a snack and quick work session before dinner.

The Wifi is fast, the couch is comfortable. We lovingly exchange a knowing look as we raise our wine glasses. A quiet smile. How much better can work get? Then, shortly after hearing the familiar Mac startup tone, I can't help but notice that Tim is frowning at his laptop, as if he was looking for something on his desktop. And it turns out. He was.

"What are you looking for?" I ask. 
"My document." He says. "Can't seem to find it."

Intrigued, I make my way over to him. What could someone possibly be looking for on their desktop?

I look at his screen, and my jaw must have dropped a little. He asks me what's wrong. I'll tell you what's wrong. His desktop is covered in little icons. The entire screen kind of covered. I couldn't make out what the background picture was kind of covered. He casually announces this is the state most people's desktops are in. Could this be true? I, in turn, show him my desktop.

"Where is all your stuff?" He asks.

My desktop has one folder. One. It reads: "to sort".

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Please don't upset the universe.

This was one of those "doesn't everybody else do that?" moments. I felt the Minimalist gods shine a light down on me and whisper to my ear: "You have to do something. Not just for Tim. For the rest of the universe. Just look at that desktop dammit!" I wouldn't want to upset the universe or the minimalist gods in any way, so let me enlighten you with you a few reasons why you may want to rethink your desktop storing habits:

- A crowded desktop feels like someone is shouting at you right as you turn on your computer: "YOU'RE LATE, AGAIN!! LOOK AT THIS PILE OF STUFF! YOU'LL NEVER GET THROUGH IT ALL". It's aggressive, unnecessary and makes you feel inadequate. I don't know about you, but I'm pretty good at making myself feel inadequate. I don't need my computer to join in. No thanks.

- On the other hand, a clean and tidy desktop says: "Oh, you've got this. You rock. You're such a badass. And how pretty does your hair look today!" And that, is music to my ear.

- When, on occasion, you do need to save or download something to your desktop, you can actually find it since it's the only damn thing on your desktop. Funny how that works, hey? You save precious minutes, which rapidly turn into hours. Which gives you more time to do other things that don't involve squinting and frowning. Less frowning, less wrinkles.

- You actually get to enjoy your desktop wallpaper. Whether it's a picture of your hot date, your kids, a rescue dog, a life changing motivational quote, your next holiday or your dream house, they don't need little icons titled "agenda", "budget" "134yu034985nkldfnds.jpg" in the middle of their faces.

- Deceptively harmless on their own, when put together in a highly visible space like your desktop, these little icons become a huge blob of distraction. And distraction is a killer of productivity, ideas and clarity of thoughts.

That being said, I am not a total monster. I still allow myself a little messy corner (my "to sort" folder) because we aren't machines and sometimes I just can't be bothered to file right away. Think of this folder as the bowl in your entrance hall in which you can find flat batteries, mystery keys, a fading yellow highlighter, an overstretched rubber band and an instant cappucino sachet. Although it seems like the only place to keep these items which one day could prove crucial to the survival of the human race, it feels hell of a great to sort it every once in a while.

If my toddler can do it, so can you.

Think you don't have time for that? Well, it turns out, getting started is much easier than you think. As long as you can drag and drop, you're covered. My toddler can drag and drop, so I assume it shouldn't take you too long to figure it out. Here's what you need to do:

- Create a new folder on your desktop and rename it "to sort" or "to file"

- Move every single document that lives on your desktop into that file

- Make sure to actually sort and file that folder at least once a week or every couple of weeks depending how much you use it, otherwise you're merely sweeping the pixels under the carpet. And that would upset Martha Stewart. How many people do you want to upset in one day? Don't upset Martha. Just don't.

- Feel the difference next time you start up your computer. Aaaand... breathe.

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You didn't think I'd leave it at that did you? Because you totally rock for reading this and because I believe that a simpler world is a better world, I've prepared four, no fuss, clean and simple backgrounds with a little kick in the booty inspiration message just for you. You can download them here.

Do you find it difficult to keep a clean desktop? And the million dollar question: what do you keep in the bowl in your entrance hall? Let me know in the comments!