Everyone’s computer or laptop looks about the same on the outside. After you turn it on, however, all that changes.
Quick Computer Clutter Quiz (say that 3 times fast!):
- How many emails are in your inbox?
- Do you have folders, or do you dump everything in My Documents?
- Do you have a system for naming files so you can easily find them?
- Do you have a backup system and use it regularly?
- Do you have a temporary folder for downloads you don’t need to keep?
Having a decluttered computer means you will likely work more effectively, play more creatively, and manage your personal files more efficiently.
Managing Email Effectively
If you have hundreds or thousands of emails in your inbox, you will soon reach a maximum and be prevented from receiving or sending. Do you really need all those emails?
Some Resources for Gaining Control of Email:
- Simple Strategies to Clear Email Clutter by Gina Trapani of Lifehacker
- Empty Your Inbox with the Trusted Trio also by Gina Trapani. I use a slight variation of this system to keep my email in check and it works beautifully.
- The Gmail version of the Trusted Trio
Simplifying Files and Folders
Setting up a system for naming your files and folders will save you hours of time in the future. Don’t believe me? I’m a reformed “file dumper” who has used a system for the last 3 years with great success. I came kicking and screaming to this format and now would never go back.
- Make a few folders for your current work and separate specific folders for archive. Your current documents will be easy to access, and when you are done with those projects they will be stored completed in an archive file. Current documents should be easy to access – you can even put them on your desktop. Archive folders are not accessed often and can be filed away more deeply.
- When you move a project from current files to archive, be sure to only save the final versions or essential documents. All the earlier drafts and temp files should be deleted.
- Use a naming convention that helps you locate documents. For pictures you may use Date_Person_Location (2009_Mom_Maui), or for client files LastName_FirstName_Project (Jones_Jack_WebsiteCopy). Your naming convention should make sense to you both now and a year from now.
- Set up a junk file for temporary downloads and files you know you don’t need to keep. You can easily delete this once a week or once a month.
The goal is to keep your computer clutter-free and well organized so you can do your best work.
Rather than do a complete decluttering of your files (which can be mind-numbing and take a whole day or more), I recommend decluttering your current files, setting up the file system and naming convention you want to use, and just start fresh.
Spend an hour a week working on the clutter, but don’t let it get in the way of starting fresh with a new system. You’ll eventually get there and have great habits formed in the meantime.
Even if your computer is “just for home” and you don’t use it for work, think about all those pictures. If your computer crashes without a backup, you will lose them all. Don’t procrastinate about getting a backup. You can get an external hard drive and make it a regular practice to back it up every week, or you can take the smart/lazy route and opt for an automatic online backup like me.
Several sites offer this backup service, and you can schedule it to run every day or every week while you are sleeping. Just remember your login information should anything ever happen to your computer, and you can retrieve all your photos and documents when you replace or fix your computer.
- Carbonite is the service I use
- Mozy is another alternative that gets good reviews.
- iDrive says once you install and log in you can be 2 clicks from protecting your data.
Converting Photographs to Digital Files
If you have a large amount of “old school” pictures from before the digital age, get them professionally scanned now. You will love being able to enjoy them along with your more recent pictures, and you won’t be disappointed at the deterioration of the actual photographs when you know you can reprint them anytime you want.
I had mine scanned for pennies a picture and got a thumb drive with all the pictures loaded in just minutes from a rep at Heritage Cards. I attended a “scanning party” where we all brought photos, drank wine, and laughed at old pictures. Google it to find a rep in your area (I’m pretty sure the hostess gets free scanning). You’ll kill 2 birds with one stone because you can now sort your pictures online and email them to your relatives when you can’t remember the name of that guy in the green bell-bottoms with the mustache. Because these things are important, you know.
To get links to all of this month’s decluttering articles, click here.
Betsy Talbot writes about carving the lifestyle you want out of life you already have. When she’s not writing, she’s paring down, saving up, and getting ready for a year of travel with her husband.