Most of us find our desks under a pile of stuff to do. My big tool for cleaning my desk off is a simple yellow legal pad, which becomes my "master list." Just make a pile of everything on the desk and go through it a piece at a time. Every item on the desk can either be trashed, filed, or needs something done to or with it. Obviously, the trash stuff gets thrown out. If something needs to be filed, it goes straight into a file. If no file exists, I make a new one--just a manila folder, with the title written in ink on the tab.
That leaves items requiring action. These get written on the master list. Once the task is on the list, if there are still materials on the desk required to do the task, those can get their own file folder, or can go into a single "pending" or "unfinished business" folder. Nowadays, both the list and the folder can have an electronic twin. But neither my physical nor computer desktop gets strewn with junk anymore.
To be 100% honest, neither my computer, my desk at home, nor my desk at work is completely bare. I have a couple of key desktop folders on the computer, some cubbyholes built-in on my home desk, and a stacking file tray on the corner of my desk at work. But all of these just serve to subdivide the "pending" work within easy reach.
The bigger question comes when I look at the list--what to do with this uncategorized mess? What do I do first? What do I do today? That's tomorrow's blog.