12 Best Practices to Organize Files on Your Mac

Want to organize files on your Mac? It may seem like a daunting task, but if you follow these best practices, you’ll have a clutter-free desktop soon!

So, you’re one of the millions of people who own a Mac computer and have overcrowded their desktop with files and folders. And now every single time you turn on your computer, you almost have an anxiety attack looking at all of the icons on your home screen.

Believe it or not, digital hoarding is a serious problem. But it is one you can solve quickly if you have an hour or two of free time on your hands. And if you take a second to organize files and folders, you can get the very most out of your Mac computer going forward.

So what are some basic tips and tricks you can use to organize your Mac? And how can you clean up that desktop and keep it that way? If you’re asking yourself these kinds of questions, wonder no longer, because we’re here to help!

In this article, we’ll give you a few tips and tricks that you can use to clean up your Mac and organize files, folders, and applications. We’ll throw in some pointers on how you can keep it that way, too!

Now then, let’s get started!

1. Purge on a Regular Basis

Whether it’s downloading a file for a project or accidentally saving a PDF from an email, it’s very easy to build up a collection of items that you don’t need. That’s why one of the best ways to keep your Mac clean and organized is to purge unwanted items on a regular basis.

A pro tip? Schedule some time each month that you can use to clean up and organize your Mac. You can use that time to purge old items, as well as organize anything new that you’ve added over the last few weeks.

That way you don’t wait too long and have a mess that takes a lot of time and effort to clean up.

2. Use Folders and Subfolders

A great way to organize the files that you do want to keep is to use folders and subfolders. By taking the time to organize everything this way, you’ll be able to find things when you need them, and fast, too.

Folders have been around for as long as computers have existed and you probably have a decent idea on how to use them by now. But subfolders, or folders inside of folders, are a little less popular and well known.

So take a second and organize all of your files in a smart way, using both folders and subfolders. That way you can speed up your workflow and eliminate that anxiety you get when you look at your home screen.

3. Name Your Files Correctly

It may seem like naming your folders and files isn’t that important. After all, you know what “document.doc” is, so why do you need to name it something more accurate?

Well, if you label your files with accurate names, not only are they easier to identify, but you can use other features that Mac has better, too.

4. Use the “Sort By” Tool

One of the biggest benefits of naming your folders and files with accurate names is that you can more easily use the “sort by” tool that Mac offers its users. The “sort by” tool allows you to sort files and folders by a variety of different things, like name, kind, and date.

You can even click multiple “sort by” settings and organize your files in a more specific way that suits the way you think. For instance, you can sort files by both name and type, making it easy to find whatever it is you’re looking for inside of a folder.

Pretty awesome, right?

5. Use Mac’s Colors Feature

Another neat feature that Mac offers its users is the ability to assign colors to various files. You can assign a file, and even a folder, a color of your choosing to help you more easily understand what each file is.

A good way to use this is to create a system that you can use to assign colors to files that are similar. For instance, if you’re working on a big project for work, assigning everything related to that project a color makes it easier for you to locate those files. This can even help you get that project done faster, too, which is always a good thing.

6. Don’t Save Lots of Media

Because streaming is so popular nowadays, the need to actually save and store media files on your Mac isn’t as big as it used to be. In fact, it’s a good idea to save little to no media on your Mac to preserve space for other things that aren’t so accessible.

Movies and music files are often some of the larger files on your Mac. So by eliminating those completely, you can save space and prevent your computer from slowing down, too, which is an added bonus.

7. Use an External Harddrive

If you do decide you want to keep media files, consider placing them all on an external hard drive. Large external hard drives aren’t expensive anymore, work great, and are super portable, too.

That means you can carry them with you whenever you go, including when you travel, so you can access your favorite movies and music on the go.

8. Keep Your Desktop Clean

One of the easiest ways to make your Mac feel cluttered is to overcrowd your desktop with tons of file icons. And as we touched on earlier, that’s a great way to make you never want to open your computer again.

The best way to avoid this completely is to avoid storing anything on your desktop completely. A few folders and files are okay, but keep it at a minimum if you can.

9. Use the ‘Stacks” Feature

If you do decide to keep some items on your desktop, consider using the “stacks” feature to organize them better. With “stacks,” you can literally stack files on top of each other based on a few common factors, like date and tags.

This feature works a lot like folders, but instead of open a folder, you click on the stack, spreading all of the files back out on your desktop. It’s a great feature that can keep your desktop clutter-free.

10. Download a Productivity App

If you’re looking for more ways to organize your Mac, and speed up your workflow, consider downloading one of the many productivity apps available in the app store. Depending on what you need, or what you’re looking for, there are a wide variety of apps worth checking out.

The Alfred app, in particular, is a great place to start. With Alfred, you can search and browse your Mac better, as the Finder tool that comes with Mac isn’t the best.

You can also create hotkeys to speed up your workflow, which can be handy if you work on your Mac often.

11. Organize Your Launchpad

If there’s one area on your Mac that you may forget about cleaning up, it’s your Launchpad. So when you’re cleaning up your files and folders, make sure you’re happy with your Launchpad, too.

Remember, you can create folders inside of Launchpad. So use that feature to organize your favorite programs accordingly.

12. Keep Your Dock Minimal

Your Dock, located at the bottom of your screen, is a great tool when used properly. It can help you easily locate and open the programs you use the most, which of course, can speed up your workflow.

But if you put too many items in your Dock, it can get overcrowded and lose its effectiveness. So keep things simple, and only keep what you need in your Dock.

Also, don’t forget you can put files in your Dock, too. So if you have a big paper you’re working on, put it in your Dock until you’re finished so it’s easy to find.

How to Organize Files and Folders on Your Mac

Well, there you have it! Those are a few tips and tricks you can use to organize files and folders on your Mac computer!

Regardless of how messy your Mac computer is currently if you have the time and the energy, you can clean things up in an hour or two. Start by purging files you no longer need or use. Then, organize everything you want to keep in folders and subfolders.

Be sure to name those files and folders accurately so you can locate things with ease, allowing you to work better and faster. Also, consider using Mac’s other organizational features, like colors and Stacks.

Keep your desktop and your Dock clean by not overcrowding either with too much stuff. And if you want a better finder tool, consider downloading and trying Alfred, or a similar app, and seeing if it helps.

Looking for more ways to get the most out of your Mac computer? Check out our blog!