Decluttering your Digital World
Creating order in your computer
By Klaus Fuechsel
Working on organizing and decluttering your home can make you feel great and truly transform your living space. But, in the twenty-first century, that is not everything. It seems that half our life is not actually in our physical surroundings; we spend a lot of time in the digital world. So having a cluttered, disorganized computer, no matter how pristine and minimalistic your office is, may make you just as anxious and stressed. Psychologically, it can be just as frustrating not being able to locate a certain file on your computer as it is to not be able to find your shoes.
Dok’s best practices for keeping your digital life organized and functioning smoothly.
The first thing you see after logging into your computer is your desktop screen, so let’s start there. While you’re working, it’s easy to fill your screen with all kinds of icons, photos, and other stuff, which means locating what you need more difficult. If you really prefer to open a certain file by clicking on a desktop icon, you should create a “shortcut.” This means that the actual file is still stored in its folder on your hard drive, but the icon on the desktop acts as a link and gives you a quick way to locate and open it. Your desktop should consist mainly of shortcuts grouped by file type, importance or subject.
Another way to locate a file quickly is to search for it using the computer’s search feature. So think ahead when you are naming your documents: short, memorable, and easily searchable names are ideal. Avoid using special characters, which may confuse some programs, with the exception of the underline (“_”).
Photos can be a nightmare to organize. Some clients have over 100,000 photos on their computer. With this volume, creating folders for each year is not sufficient. It might be better to organize them by events within a year. So your Photos folder will have subfolders for years, and then subfolders with the year folder for each event. Programs like ADSee and other Photo Manager softwares might come in handy. Some allow you to “metatag” photos, making them searchable. Some metatags are already created by your camera/phone, such as when and where it was taken.
It’s just a fact in the twenty-first century that you will have many usernames and passwords to remember to access all your online accounts. Many people save their logins and passwords in their browser, enabling them one-click access to their accounts. While handy, it makes the information very easy to forget. But problems can arise: your computer system may crash, your browser may have a glitch, you may purchase a new computer, or you may need to use another computer while traveling. At some point you may need tech support to rebuild or fix something. Then, forgotten logins become a very large problem. So be extremely vigilant in recording and updating your login information (including the answers to the security questions) in a safe place (not on your computer or in online storage accounts!) So, yes, write them down on an actual piece of paper. With a pen. And update them constantly. This will also enable family members to access accounts in an emergency.
You can save money by checking your subscriptions often. Keep track of them and check your credit card statements every month. I often see cases where someone is still paying for an Antivirus subscription they haven’t used for years through auto renewal. I’ve seen people who still pay for AOL dial-up services to maintain their email address without realizing that it’s actually free. Companies bank on (and make a lot of money) on you forgetting about the auto renewal.
Trash and Downloads
The “recycling” or “trash bin” is a place on your hard drive where deleted files are stored. Once in a while you should check the recycling bin and empty it, because those files are still taking up space on your hard drive. Also, whenever you download files/programs, they are stored in your “Downloads” directory. Make it a habit to organize and save downloaded files right away. Then empty your downloads folder periodically, because those files are also taking up space on your computer. If you have made a habit of filing important files right away, you can then do this without being afraid of accidentally deleting something you need.
Periodically you should also remove temporary files created by your operating system or browsers. Even after they are no longer needed, they remain in your system. But that is a big subject that needs another article to explain fully.
And, as always, backup, backup, backup.