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How to Declutter Your Mac: 12 Best Ways

Organize and free up space with easy Mac decluttering tips.

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Last updated: December 19, 2023

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TL;DR

To declutter your Mac, follow one of these steps:

  1. Remove unneeded files, folders, and apps from the desktop or use Stacks for organization.
  2. Delete duplicate files using MacKeeper.
  3. Clear your Downloads folder and regularly delete large files.
  4. Remove outdated bookmarks and manage your startup items.
  5. Uninstall unused apps and clean cache, log, and temporary files.

The struggle of a slow, cluttered Mac is real! I’ve been dealing with a mess of files slowing down my Mac and thought it was time to clean up my system. Over the years, I’ve gathered a few tips to declutter MacBook to improve its performance and make it easy to find things. I thought it’d be helpful to put these tips together in an easy guide. So, here’s what I’ve learned about decluttering your Mac and making it more efficient.

Before We Begin

Duplicate files are the biggest contributor to a cluttered Mac. Finding and deleting duplicate files manually is time-consuming and not as thorough. So, download MacKeeper and use its Duplicates Finder to identify and remove duplicate files on your Mac quickly.

12 Best Ways to Declutter Your Mac

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If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the clutter on your Mac, there are plenty of ways to declutter and optimize your system. Below, I’ve shared the 12 best ways to declutter your Mac.

1. Clean Up Your Desktop on Mac

Cleaning up your desktop on a Mac is a quick first step in decluttering. A cluttered desktop not only makes it hard to find what you need but can also slow down your Mac. Here’s how I clean up my desktop on Mac:

  1. 🗑️ Start with a Clean Slate: Delete files and folders you no longer need. Start by removing unnecessary icons, like apps, files, or folders, from your desktop. Drag them to the Bin or right-click them and select Move to Bin.
right click folders and select move to bin
  1. 📁 Create a Folder System: Make folders for your remaining desktop items. Right-click your desktop and select New Folder. Name the folder something descriptive, like Work or Photos.
right click the desktop and select new folder
  1. 💻 Sort and Simplify: Drag your desktop items into the appropriate folder. Only keep the files and folders you use frequently on your desktop.
  2. 🗃️ Arrange Everything: Once you’ve organized your desktop items into folders, arrange the folders in a way that makes sense. You can drag them around to different parts of your desktop and arrange them in a grid, list, or fan view.
organized folders on mac desktop
  1. 🌄 Set a Clean Wallpaper: Finally, set a desktop background that isn’t too cluttered or busy. This will help you focus on your work and keep your desktop looking organized.

2. Declutter Your Desktop Using Stacks

If you prefer an automated approach to decluttering your Mac desktop, use Stacks – a built-in macOS feature. It automatically organizes files on your desktop into stacks based on file types. You can use Stacks to organize similar files, like images, documents, and downloads.

To enable Stacks, follow these steps:

  1. Right-click your desktop and select Use Stacks.
right click the desktop and select use stacks
  1. This will sort your individual files automatically into stacks.
stack of screenshots on mac desktop
  1. You can click each stack to see what’s inside.
click a stack and view all files
  1. To close a stack, click the Stack Title.

3. Remove Duplicate Files Using MacKeeper

Duplicate files take up unnecessary space on your Mac, but identifying and deleting duplicates manually is tedious. So, I always use MacKeeper. With MacKeeper’s Duplicates Finder, you can easily find and delete duplicate files to declutter your Mac and free up valuable storage space.

To remove duplicate files on Mac using MacKeeper, follow these steps:

  1. Download and install MacKeeper on your Mac.
  2. Open MacKeeper and click the Duplicates Finder feature.
click duplicates finder in mackeeper under cleaning
  1. Click Start Scan to scan your Mac for duplicate files. This may take a few minutes, depending on the size of your Mac’s storage.
click start scan in duplicates finder
  1. Once the scan is complete, select an item from the list of categories on the left-hand side to review duplicate files.
click a folder in duplicates finder
  1. Review the list of duplicate files. Select individual files to view them in more detail or click Check All to choose all duplicates. Then, click Remove Selected.
click check all and tap remove selected
  1. Click Remove on the pop-up window.
click remove on the pop up window in duplicates finder
  1. This will delete the selected files, and you can click Continue to complete the process.
click finish in duplicates finder to complete the process

MacKeeper’s Duplicates Finder is thorough. But it’s always a good idea to review the files to ensure you don’t accidentally delete important files or versions of files you actually want to keep.

4. Clear Out Your Downloads Folder

The Downloads folder on your Mac can quickly become cluttered with files you don’t need or no longer use. Regularly clearing out your Downloads folder and organizing your files on Mac can prevent clutter from building up over time.

Here’s how to delete downloads on your Mac:

  1. Open the Downloads folder by opening a Finder window and selecting Downloads from the sidebar.
open a finder window and select downloads from the sidebar
  1. Go through each file and decide whether you need it or not.
  2. Move the files you want to keep to a more organized location, like a folder within your Documents folder.
  3. Delete unnecessary files by dragging them to the Bin or right-clicking them and selecting Move to Bin.
right click a file and select move to bin
  1. Once you’ve deleted unnecessary files and moved important files to a new location, empty the Bin to permanently delete the files from your Mac.
right click the bin and select empty bin
  1. If you want to automatically empty the Bin, go to System Settings > General > Storage and tap the Turn On button next to Empty Bin automatically.
click the turn on button next to empty bin automatically

5. Remove Large and Old Files

Large files can take up valuable storage space on your Mac and make it difficult to find the files you actually need. By regularly removing large and old files, you can declutter your Mac and help it run more smoothly.

Here’s how to remove large and old files on your Mac:

  1. Open Finder and go to your home folder. You can do this by clicking the Finder icon in the Dock or pressing Command ⌘ + Shift ⇧ + H on your keyboard.
click finder in your dock
  1. Click the search icon in the top right corner and type something.
click the small magnifying glass icon in the finder window
  1. A small plus icon will appear under the search bar. Tap the little + icon.
click the small plus button in the top right corner of finder
  1. In the first field, select File Size from the drop-down menu.
select file size in the first field
  1. Select is greater than in the second field.
select is greater than in the second field
  1. Type your desired file size range in the third field.
type a file size range
  1. Select a file size from KB, MB, and GB in the fourth field.
select a file size
  1. Press Enter to run the search. Review the files that appear in the search results. Identify any unneeded files or the ones taking up a lot of space.
  2. To delete a file, select it and drag it to the Bin, or right-click it and select Move to Bin.
select move to bin in the drop down menu

6. Uninstall Unused Apps

Unused apps take up space on your Mac and slow down its performance. Even if you’re not actively using them, they can consume system resources and affect your Mac’s speed and responsiveness.

Uninstalling unused apps on your Mac can declutter your system and improve its performance. Here’s how to uninstall apps on Mac:

  1. Open Finder and go to Applications.
click applications in the left sidebar of finder
  1. Drag the app you want to uninstall to the Bin or right-click and select Move to Bin.
right click an application and select move to bin
  1. Empty Bin to delete the app permanently.
right click the bin and select empty bin

You can also use MacKeeper’s Smart Uninstaller to remove unwanted files and declutter your Mac. Here’s how:

  1. Download and install MacKeeper on your Mac.
  2. Open MacKeeper and click Smart Uninstaller in the left sidebar under Cleaning.
click smart uninstaller in the left sidebar
  1. Click Start Scan.
click start scan in smart uninstaller
  1. When the scan completes, Applications in the left sidebar, select the unused apps, and click Remove Selected.
select the applications you want to remove and click remove selected
  1. Tap Remove on the pop-up window.
click remove on the pop up window in smart uninstaller
  1. This will delete the selected apps from your Mac, and you’ll get a Removal Completed notification. Click Rescan to start the scan again.
click rescan in smart uninstaller

7. Use macOS Storage Management

Using macOS storage management is a smart way to keep track of and manage the storage on your Mac. It gives you a detailed view of what’s taking up space and offers tools to help you free up space efficiently.

Here’s how to use the storage management tool on Mac:

  1. Click the Apple logo and select System Settings.
click the apple icon and select system settings
  1. Click General and select Storage.
click general and select storage
  1. Here, you’ll get a quick overview of how your storage is being used.
mac storage consumption
  1. Below that, you’ll see personalized recommendations for freeing up space. These include enabling iCloud Photo Library and emptying the Bin automatically.
storage optimization recommendtaions in system settings
  1. Explore each section (Applications, Documents, iCloud Drive, etc.) to see specific files and their sizes. This detailed view makes it easier to identify large files or apps you no longer need.
click the i button next to categories in storage
  1. Then, delete files directly from Storage Management by clicking them and selecting Delete.
select an app in the storage management options and click delete

8. Store Files in iCloud

Storing files in iCloud is another effective way to free up space on your Mac while keeping your documents accessible and secure. Here’s how to use iCloud on Mac:

  1. First, set up your iCloud on your Mac. To do this, go to System Settings, click Apple ID, and select iCloud. Then, sign in with your Apple ID if you haven’t already.
click your apple id and select icloud
  1. In the iCloud settings, choose which types of data to sync and store, like Photos, Documents, and Desktop folders. This automatically uploads these files to iCloud, making them accessible across all your Apple devices.
apps syncing to icloud
  1. Toggle on the Optimize Mac Storage switch. It will keep less frequently used files in iCloud, downloading them only when needed.
click optimize storage

9. Review and Delete Bookmarks

If you’re like me, you must have a large number of bookmarks in your web browser. However, everything you bookmark doesn’t stay useful or relevant forever. Unnecessary bookmarks take up valuable space and make it difficult to find the bookmarks you actually need. So, its best to review and remove the bookmarks you don’t need anymore.

Here’s how to review and delete browser bookmarks on your Mac:

  1. Open your web browser and go to bookmarks. In Safari, click Bookmarks in the sidebar or press Command ⌘ + Option ⌥ + B on your keyboard.
click bookmarks at the bottom of the sidebar
  1. Review the list of bookmarks and identify the ones you no longer need or find relevant.
  2. To delete a bookmark, right-click it and select Delete, or click it and press the Delete key on your keyboard.
right click the bookmarks you aim to remove and click delete
  1. You can also organize your bookmarks into folders to make them easier to navigate. To do this, right-click a bookmark and select New Folder.
right click a bookmark and select new folder

10. Clean Junk Files

Cleaning junk files is an important part of decluttering your Mac. Over time, your Mac can accumulate a lot of cache, log, and temporary files. They take up valuable storage space and slow down your Mac’s performance, causing system crashes and errors.

You can clean cache files manually but I find it time-consuming and risky. So, I use MacKeeper to get rid of junk files. Here’s how to clean junk files on your Mac using MacKeeper:

  1. Download and install MacKeeper on your Mac.
  2. Open MacKeeper and click Safe Cleanup in the left sidebar.
click safe cleanup under the cleaning section
  1. Click Start Scan.
click start scan in safe cleanup
  1. Wait for the scan to complete, and select the junk files you want to delete. You can also click Check All to select all.
select junk files to remove or click check all
  1. Click Clean Junk Files.
tap clean junk files
  1. A Cleaning Completed notification will appear with the size of junk files removed. Click Rescan to run the scan again.
click rescan to scan the system again

11. Remove Login Items

Login items are apps that open automatically when you log in to your Mac. While some login items may be necessary, you don’t want all apps to start up when you boot your Mac. They can slow down your Mac’s startup time and reduce performance. So, it’s best to remove unnecessary login items.

Here’s how to remove login items on your Mac:

  1. Go to the Apple menu and select System Settings.
click the apple icon and select system settings
  1. Click General and select Login Items.
click general and select the login items tab
  1. Select the application you want to remove and click the button below the list.
select an item and click the minus icon to delete it
  1. Repeat this process for all the applications you want to remove.

Removing login items can reduce your Mac’s startup time and improve performance. But remember that some login items are necessary for applications or services to function properly. So, before removing any login items, ensure you don’t need them for important functions.

Alternatively, you can use MacKeeper to change startup programs on Mac. Here’s how it works:

  1. Download MacKeeper and install it on your Mac.
  2. Open Login Items under Performance in MacKeeper.
tap login items under performance
  1. Click Start Scan.
tap start scan
  1. Select unnecessary items from the list and click Remove Selected Items.
select the login items you want to delete and tap remove selected items
  1. Tap the Remove button on the pop-up.
tap remove on the pop up
  1. It will remove your selected items from the system startup list. You can click Rescan to repeat the process.
tap rescan

What Else Can MacKeeper Do?

Besides cleaning login items, clearing the cache, uninstalling apps, and removing duplicate files, MacKeeper offers many other features. You can use it to check your Mac for malware, remove browser extensions, and block ads on your Mac. Check out my detailed MacKeeper review to learn more about its features.

12. Empty the Trash

Despite deleting the files, they remain in your Mac’s Bin, occupying significant storage space. To reclaim your valuable hard drive space, it’s necessary to empty the Bin on your Mac.

Follow these steps to empty the Trash on your Mac:

  1. Open the Bin from the Dock.
click trash bin in dock
  1. When you open the Bin, you’ll see a small Empty button in the top-right corner. Click it.
click the empty button in bin
  1. Click Empty Bin on the prompt, and it will delete everything from your Trash.
click empty bin on the prompt

Declutter Mac and Enhance Productivity

Now that you know how to declutter your Mac, you may want to learn more about improving its performance to increase your productivity. Here are some tips to keep your Mac in tip-top shape and use it to its fullest:

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. How do I declutter my Mac hard drive?

    To declutter your Mac hard drive, delete unnecessary files and uninstall unused apps. Use Mac’s built-in Storage Management or third-party apps to identify and delete large and duplicate files. Regularly empty the Trash on Mac and move unused files to external storage or iCloud.

  2. Will decluttering my Mac really improve its performance?

    Yes, decluttering your Mac will really improve its performance. When you have a lot of files and apps on your Mac, it can slow down its performance. By decluttering your Mac, you can free up space and resources, which will improve its speed and responsiveness.

  3. How often should I declutter my Mac?

    You should declutter your Mac at least once a month. However, the frequency of decluttering your Mac depends on how often you use it and how much data you store. If you use it frequently and store a lot of data, declutter it more often to stop your MacBook from overheating or slowing down.

  4. Is it safe to use third-party apps like MacKeeper to declutter my Mac?

    Yes, it is safe to use third-party apps like MacKeeper to declutter your Mac. However, not all third-party apps are safe. While some apps are helpful, others may be harmful. Before using any app, do your research and read reviews from other users.

Hashir Ibrahim

Author

I'm Hashir, a tech journalist with a decade of experience. My work has been featured in some of the top tech publications like MakeUseOf and MakeTechEasier. I have a bachelor's degree in IT, a master's in cybersecurity, and extensive knowledge of Apple hardware, specifically MacBooks. As the senior writer at MacBook Journal, I write in depth guides that help you solve any issues you have with your mac and unbiased reviews that help you make the right buying decisions.

Ojash

Reviewer

Hi there! I'm Ojash, a tech journalist with over a decade of experience in the industry. I've had the privilege of contributing to some of the world's largest tech publications, making my mark as a respected Mac expert. My passion lies in exploring, using, and writing about MacBooks, and I enjoy sharing my expertise to help others make informed decisions and get the most out of their MacBook experience. Join me as we delve into the fascinating world of MacBooks together!

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