If you are anything like me your desk probably occasionally (okay, often if you want to be picky) looks like a tragic paper-and-junk landslide has swept down from somewhere above and buried it and everything that´s on it. I sometimes wish I had a mini St. Bernard who could dig among the rubble for survivors. When it gets completely out of hand, there´s a trick I use to free up space and naturally sort out what´s important and what isn´t. If you live in a paper-slide zone, you might want to try it.
Find yourself a nice big, sturdy box. Now dump everything on your desktop that isn´t attached to something into the box. That means all the papers and various junk, but not things like your keyboard and mouse. You now have a clean desk. And the box? Just ignore it. Until you need something out of it, that is. If there is something in there you need, dig it out, use it, and then put it in a better place when you are done (not your desktop again!)
After a couple of weeks you will have removed the things you need from the box and you will be left with a box full of stuff that you don´t need and that was just taking up valuable desk top real estate. You can store the box, burn it, throw it out, recycle it, use it as scrap paper, or whatever else makes you happy.
Will this make you instantly more productive? Of course not. It will do a couple of things, though. First of all, it will help you break your attachment to paper. So often we keep things around because we think we might need them at some point. We almost certainly won´t in most cases. We collect things and those things inhibit our productivity. Second, it doesn´t take much time. If we were to sit down and tackle the task of organizing our space we would inevitably get bored and frustrated and sidetracked and it would more than likely not get done well. Even if it did, it would eat up a lot of time. This process makes it easier and more painless.
You don´t have to limit this to your physical desktop, either. I like to store things on my PC desktop so that they are easy to find when I need them. As I go along I file away the files relating to different projects in their appropriate folders as I am done with them, but there are always a bunch of icons that don´t really fit anywhere. I´ll create a folder called "Junk — June 2006´ or something like that and stick everything in it. After a few weeks that folder gets a one-way ticket to the recycle bin.