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.

Sunday, October 11, 2009|Categories: Random|Tags: |12 Comments

Email – save, trash, organize?

One good thing happens when you are offline and not able to go check things out on the Internet – you engage your brain in other useful pursuits, like cleaning and writing and getting organized. We were offline for much of the weekend due to router issues and while I did do some writing I did more thinking and planning and trying to get my act together in a couple of areas long overdue – files and emails.

Let me just say this straight  off – I am not a natural organizer. I love the IDEA of being organized. I love looking at pictures of beautiful organized offices and workspaces and computers. But it doesn’t come easy to me and it isn’t my natural state. I need a certain amount of clutter around me to feel comfortable but one place I dont need clutter is online. I am tied of feeling weighed down by so many copies of emails and documents and who knows what I have saved to my virtual "junk drawer." (Yes, that’s the name of the folder.)

I decided to start with email. I use Outlook because I do like the integration with the various other MS products and the calendar/reminder system. But a few years ago I was still using Eudora and so when I set Outlook up I just ported over all my old emails. Let me say that again in case you didn’t hear me. ALL. My. Old. Emails. Oh my. I had email going back to 1997. Why? I have no idea. I am slowly, year by year, folder by folder, throwing them away. What a relief! It has been easier to do that than it has been to tackle my overwhelming In-box which, at the beginning of the weekend had about 800 emails in it because I had either read it and not deleted it, read it and had to do something with it or not read it yet. I’m now down to 87. Working my way toward single digits.

One of the tricks I remembered and started to implement again is to take off the setting to have it fetch mail for me every so often. When I was at the dayjob I had it set to grab new mail every ten minutes because you could never tell when something needed handling. I realize I don’t need to do that at home. I can grab the mail when I know I will have to to process it, at least a first pass (delete the junk that made it past the filters, etc) Huge sigh of relief there. Less stress than seeing the little Outlook notification that would float over the bottom right hand of my screen as every email came in.

While I use Gmail as a first line filter for most of my mail (and when I had the day job it was nice to be able to check my mail if I was waiting for something important) I like being able to sort my mails into folders. But I have been saving way too much and mostly because I was too lazy to process email correctly the first time. There are some mails to save, interesting conversations between friends, usually about the process of writing or brainstorming a project. Those aren’t things I’m not going to find online when I want them. But the internet has changes from way back in my early days of Delphi and bulletin boards. Thanks to our friend Google it is easier than every to find book lists and reviews and a lot even archives from various listservs.

So what I am trying to figure out is how to process mail going forward. I am reducing the number of folders I have for starters. I am making better use of Outlooks FLAG and CATEGORY features. (Would love to hear if any of you use those and how.) I have set up "rules" in Outlook to automatically file some mail in specifi folders so that I don’t have to move it myself later. It comes in and stays in my "unread" search until I read it. Then if I don’t delete it, it is already filed. What I have to remember is that if I read it and don’t need to keep it or do anything with it I need to delete it right after reading. That’s probably the biggest new habit I have to develop.

The hardest thing for me to figure out what to do with is the outbox of sent mail. My husband (also an Outlook user for work) just lets Outlook archive it all but he doesn’t send as much mail as I do. There are a lot of mails that I don’t need to keep a copy of but trying to remember to clean out the sent mail box is tough.

So what do you do? How to you process/handle/save/organize/trash your email? What’s your system?

I really want to know.


Monday, June 15, 2009|Categories: Random|Tags: |18 Comments

organizing electronic/digital stuff

I have a new computer coming in a few weeks and each time I get a new computer I think I am going to get a little bit better organized. Mostly it works just never as much as I want it to.

This time I am trying to clean up some of the electronic noise I have around me. I am curious as to what habits other people use for some of these things.

1. Email.

Are you a tosser or a keeper?  I’ve got mail going back 10 years, which is really bad. Most of it did not need to be saved. I’m in the process now of going through a few old email boxes every night and tossing all the old stuff that really shouldn’t be saved.

I do have the habit of using my email boxes as a file system so I try to have the same names on mailbox folders as I do on the folders in my documents folder or in my physical file cabinets.

I use Outlook for my email and I am learning how to leverage that program for better time management. For instance, the journal function within Outlook will automatically record each time I open and close a file. Which means I can write a book and know how many hours/weeks/months/years I spent on that part of the project. Which may or may not be a good thing.

2. Documents folder on my computer.

As I said, I have the file names here mimic my mailbox folders and my physical file cabinet. One trouble I seem to be having is that I have way too many folders. I don’t know any way around that.

3. Digital photos.

I am always afraid of losing a photo and as a result I sometimes end up with 2 or 3 three copies of the same picture. This happens a lot when I am saving inspiration pictures for the house or garden.

I have to clean up the mess from the past so I have started just dumping things into general folders (house, yard, family, etc) and will have to slowly sort through them and get rid of the duplicates. But I am not sure how to keep myself from getting into the same mess in the future.

How do you organize and keep track of your digital photos?


Thursday, October 2, 2008|Categories: Writing Life|Tags: , |16 Comments

what's your system? File this under paperwork

Okay, I was trying to be all organized and ahead of the game before tax season but then we moved and my new office has a completely different set-up than the old office and I can’t believe we’ve been 8 months and haven’t set up a system for certain things. Like, gulp, receipts. (It’s a sad story that I won’t go into here.)

I will admit that I am a disorganized crazy person when it comes to setting up a new system. I am not dedicated to recording something in Excel as soon as I get home from buying it. This, of course, means that I have mad dashes before deadlines for things like paying income taxes. It also means the occasional sad story based on my own stupidity. (Like checks that I have to have re-issued because they have, gulp, expired.)

Since it is not next year yet I figure I have time to implement SOMETHING that will work for next year.

So what’s your system? I mean exactly. In detail enough for a crazy person like me to follow. Do you hit the office supply store and carefully note on your receipt what you bought and the go home and go right to your office and enter it in Quicken or a spreadsheet? Does the scrap of paper ride along with you in your car for months until its time to have the car detailed and you save it (just barely) from being tossed with all the empty water bottles that have rolled under the seat? Is there a basket on your desk where everything lives untl the last Sunday of the month (unless there’s a full moon) and then you suffer through hours of matching things up and filing them in folders and then ???

I know the basics of organization – everything needs a home. For some reason there are a few things, the most important things, in our new place that still don’t have a home. I don’t know why. It probably says something horrible about my psyche but oh well. I am what I am. And that’s what scares me. The thought that I am not going to be able to change myself into even a fake organized person.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007|Categories: Random|Tags: , |4 Comments