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  • October 11th, 2009 | 9:50 AM
how would you clean up this computer mess?

Okay, I admit that do not have the best organizational system on my computer. I start off okay, in theory, but then I get sidetracked by years of poor computer habits and I start to feel overwhelmed and I have no idea where to start. So I'm throwing it out there to the Universe to help me get some ideas on how to attack this mess. Warning, some of this will make you organized folks groan in pain. But I hope you'll read it anyway and tell me how YOU handle this organizational situations.

Here's what I have:

1. Way too many folders. I have a really bad habit of storing current things I'm working on, need to do, interesting things I find, all on my desktop. Then when the desktop starts to look cluttered I drag everything into a folder called desktop October or desktop June or whatever. It seemed like a good idea about 4 computers ago but then of course what I end up with is a giant mess each with a different month. Right now they go across several years. And inside each of these folders there may or may not be more folders with more obscure names. And when the desktop gets full of each of these monthly folders I drag them into the junk drawer where the file names get longer and longer because everything is so many folders deep. I don't even know how to begin to sort through them all.

Current plan: Dump everything in one big folder and just start going through piece by piece.

Other suggestions?

2. Photos, gobs and gobs of photos. When I download pictures from my camera, which could be none for a month and then could be a bunch several times a day if I am shooting the garden or an event, I just dump them into a folder on my desktop where they eventually get dragged into the monthly folders and/or the junk drawer. And then of course I start editing them and messing with them and I have those copies in there. I've tried Picassa because I like it for a quick fix of a photo but for some reason I can't navigate the structure as easily as I would like. And I can't easily just navigate to a file and open a single photo. But the latest version has face recognition so I was thinking of using that to help sort in some ways, at least to find all the pics of my grandson. I also think I need some massive photo gallery browse type of program but I'm not sure what to use. The browse/gallery in Fireworks doesn't seem to do it for me. Feels clunky.

Current plan: Dump all the photos into one big folder and just start going through them one by one. How to organize them? By date doesn't seem to work for everything. Great for the garden but not so much for odd pictures here and there. Seems like a topical filing system would be best. One for family, friends, my garden, garden inspiration, etc?

Other suggestions?

3. PDFs and Doc files all over the place. At one time I had the bright idea to just drag all the doc files and text files and PDF files into their own folders and then just slowly start working my way through them, looking at them all to decide if I should keep them, file them, or toss them. I'm not sure if this is good idea to revisit or not. (Note, this does not include my writing which is very well organized in a folder of its own.)

Current plan: Create a folder for each file type, doc, pdf, txt, Excel. Sort through them one by one.

Other suggestions?

4. Idea folders. Places where I keep ideas to write about or blog about or things to buy or places to go. But there are so many of them and all over the place that of course I can't find them when I want to. I wonder how other people keep track of these sorts of things?

Current plan: Create a top level set of folders called,  to do, to blog, to buy, to read, to write. Add items to these folders as I find them. Also need to set up matching tags (and use them religiously) in both Google reader and Delicious as well as in the physical file cabinet so I will always know where to put these things.

Other suggestions?

5. Copies of webpages that had good info I wanted to remember. Tons and tons of saved webpages. Now I know I should use either Delicious or Evernote or just bookmark them in Firefox with tags. So do I revisit each of them and start from scratch? Probably. And probably Evernote so that I can keep a copy of it in case the web page disappears. The pain of going back to each of those. Is there ever a reason when keeping a copy of the webpage on my computer is the best choice?

Current plan: As I find these web pages on my computer I'll revisit the actual page and either Evernote it or tag it in Delicious. Not sure which would be best.

Other suggestions?

I know this isn't going to happen very fast. It takes time to go through each piece of data on the computer but I think it's the only way I'm going to be able to get a handle on it, just like taking all the files out of the physical file cabinet and going through them paper by paper. I need to set up some top level folders that mimic my physical folders. And then I just need to apply myself to it a little bit each day.

I'd love to hear how the rest of the world organizes their computer filing system. Please share. And I'm wide open to any suggestions on how I should attack my own electronic mess.
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There are so many stories only you can tell.Tell them, please.


( 10 comments — Leave comment )
October 11th, 2009 10:51 pm (UTC)
I am pretty disorganized myself, but I don't sort documents, web pages, etc, that I have collected by type but by the subject. That way I have all my stuff in the same place.
Doing it by date sounds pretty confusing. I would not be able to remember what I was interested in this time last year.
One suggestion I have seen is make your categories large and have only a few of them, at least to start with. then you can sort again once they are in some sort of category. Saying this is helping me...
Good luck with it.
October 12th, 2009 05:16 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I think the date thing would be tough. I like the suggestion of broad categories and then drilling down as I need to. The rest of the comments here have some more good suggestions. Thanks!
(Deleted comment)
October 12th, 2009 05:21 pm (UTC)
Good point on separating out the "biz" photos from everything else. I just downloaded Thumbsplus which was a program I used years ago to help me organize all the photos. I'm hoping it is still as useful as I remember it. I think it will allow me to add/edit meta data which would give me database sorting I want. I think. I'll let you know.
October 12th, 2009 11:47 am (UTC)
I also sort by subject/project. I have a big folder for each subject or project: novel 1, novel 2, livejournal, etc. Within those big folders, I have little folders, such as: "Novel 1" ideas, "Novel 1" research, "Novel 1" outlines, "Novel 1" draft, etc.

I also put the date of a file in the title. For example: Novel 1 Draft-2009-10-12. When I type the date, I put the year first, then the month, and then the day. This way, within the project folder all of the 2009 work is together, and all the Oct. 2009 stuff is together too.

I have a big folder for random ideas too. These are ideas or tidbits that don't go with any specific project yet. Every now and then I look through the folder just to see if anything I put there is useful for the project I'm currently working on.

Good luck with your organizing!
October 12th, 2009 05:22 pm (UTC)
Thanks for sharing how you handle this huge task! So much to think about before I dive in.
October 12th, 2009 03:26 pm (UTC)
I use folders and sub folders for documents - so I have a writing folder and then a sub folder for each project. Then I use a naming convention with draft number/date/chapters to sort versions. Other folders include a craft folder for knitting/crochet patterns and other fun ideas, a recipes folder which has both recipes and menus from various parties/dinners we've hosted, a jobs folder with my resume and then subfolders for work, a conference folder with subfolders by conference...

I archive material periodically, so all of the curriculum I created from my teaching job is saved both at home on our back up server and offsite. I don't want to lose it, but I don't need the clutter (and distraction!) on my drive.

For bookmarks, I do the same sort of folder sorting, and try to overlap between folders whenever I can.

For photos, I use Flickr, which I like because I can both tag photos and create sets and collections, and the same photo can go in multiple sets and a set can go in multiple collections. So I have a set of dog photos, a collection of "Events" and another collection of "Family" but there may be overlap between these - a set of doggy birthday photos could go in both "Events" and "Family" but I wouldn't have to include ALL of Marisol's pics.

Oh, and for my to do list, I use ToodleDo, and have (you guessed it!) folders for my various items. So there's the home folder with items like "pay bills" and "give Marisol her heartworm meds" and then various work project, conference, and writing folders with lists of tasks. You can set recurring tasks, which is helpful (like the monthly dog med reminder), and I also like the Notes feature, so I can have a running list of things as they occur to me (under "buy groceries" a note of "Halloween candy").

Not sure if this helps... the tough thing about organization is that it's so personal - everyone's brain works differently.
October 12th, 2009 05:27 pm (UTC)
I love hearing how other people do things because it makes me start thinking outside of my own normal parameters so thank you for sharing all this.

I would like to use Flickr more, I know I will for the garden, but for raw files? I just mentioned in a previous post that I downloaded Thumbsplus to see if it could help me at least find and group all the photos on my computer.

I think I checked out ToodleDo before but now that you brought it up I'm going to go back and check it again. Do you find it easier than using the calendar or just different? Right now I use Outlook and put those sorts of things on the calendar there with reminder. Hmmm...must add buy Halloween candy. LOL
October 20th, 2009 03:47 am (UTC)
You know, I mostly browse my photos and albums online. iphoto sorts my images somehow, but I don't follow those collections nearly as much, and usually end up searching for specific images through Spotlight.

Toodledo's different than a calendar for me... it's a list that I can sort in multiple ways - by folder, by due date, etc. When it comes to getting through a stack of things, calendars don't work nearly as well for me as lists. Calendars = schedules, and my husband and I have multiple, shared Google calendars to track our personal and professional commitments, but that thing's so crazed, I don't want to add my tasks to it, as well!

Oy. Sometimes just thinking about organizing things makes my brain hurt ;)
October 12th, 2009 03:51 pm (UTC)
I also have about a thousand folders! The only ones that are really organized away from my desktop are my photo folders. I name each group according to subject matter when I put the pictures onto my computer, and then put the subject folders into larger season folders, which get put into year folders at the end of the year. I find it's much easier for me to remember what season or year a photo was when I look for it later than just the month. I'd suggest doing what you were thinking - topic folders, like family, friends, places, things to spark the muse. Then you can have the computer automatically sort those by date if you want, or you can sort them further into events like holidays and random get-togethers.
For idea folders, I have one large folder for each project, and one large folder for projects yet to come.
For webpages, I don't really keep tabs on those, because I figure that most of the addresses will change. Every few months, when my favorites tab gets too full, I just start deleting.
Good luck!
October 12th, 2009 05:29 pm (UTC)
oh, I love that you sort some things by season. Fascinating the different ways our minds all work. Thank you!
( 10 comments — Leave comment )

Who am I?I was born on the Cancer/Leo cusp and share a birthday with Ernest Hemingway and Robin Williams. The similarities don't stop there as I can go from depressed to ecstatic without ever passing go. I feel scared most of the time though my friends call me brave and I find it easier to believe in my friends than to believe in my own abilities to make what I want out of my life.

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