Post-It notes on your desk and computer; papers and books on horizontal surfaces; business cards and freebies from events you have attended: all of these things you can see and touch. They may nag your psyche to deal with them every time you see them but once you handle the stuff, you have a sense of relief. You feel both visual relief and mental relief.
But what about the things you can’t touch? What about those things that are obscured from view in your computer, phone and other digital devices? It’s easy to pretend they are not there or piling up because it’s hard to see them accumulating but they pull on your psyche and put pressure on your hard drive nonetheless.
What’s your plan to handle the digital clutter?How do you handle the files, photos, and emails that build with each click and finger swipe? It’s not so different from paper clutter it involves both the file and the information in the file. You need a way to bring that clutter out of obscurity and into your awareness. Like paper, you also need a way to save the important stuff that can be accessed when needed. And you need a fire safe or back up plan, just in case.
Set a time to handle it. Set a consistent time to work on deleting old files. These things pile up quickly and it is easy to think, with growing storage capabilities that you can keep everything you create or receive. But, device storage is finite and shifting through old computer files to find what you need is not any more fun that sifting through piles of paper. The less you have, the easier it is to find the document you need when you need it. It is also easier and more convenient to backup your files when you have fewer of them. Try deleting 10-20 files every day or having a 1 in 2 out policy from now on.
Create a file organization system. Having a system within your digital files is just as important as having a physical filing system. You have the added benefit with digital files of being able to search for them however, when you want to share documents, back up only certain folders or even delete old files, it is easier when you have structure. You can match your paper filing system, use labels and create naming conventions. There are different tools available depending on where you are storing your files, too. For instance, some applications like iPhoto create the file system for you, others like Evernote have the ability to create folders and groups of folders and Windows Explorer or Apple Finder allow for multiple layers of file folders.
Set up your backup plan. Having a backup plan is like having a fire safe. You want someplace to store the very important files so that when your computer or phone crashes you do not lose all of your data. In the past, you may have stored your files on a CD or other disc that you could put in a fire safe box. More and more you have applications that sync across devices so that your phone backs up to your computer or to cloud storage. Cloud storage is having an instant link to your Stack & Store Unit. You may pay monthly or have an option for free storage as long as it is less than a certain amount of files. This is another reason to keep your file system neat and tidy. You will pay to back up all your files, even the ones of your ex-boyfriend that you haven’t see in twenty years.
For more tools and tips, check out Digital Clutter this Thursday at 7pm EST, available via Zoom or in person at MedStar, Bel Air, MD.
Hi! I'm Nettie Owens, Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization and Productivity Consultant.