Is your hard drive a cluster-free kingdom of order, or a dark realm of chaos? If the mere thought of searching your desktop for a specific file incites strong feelings of anger and anxiety, than we need to get you to a better place – STAT!
Let me get this out of the way – there is no futuristic system nor automated application capable of organizing all your various documents and media files precisely the way you would like. Just as every person is unique, every organizational system is different. No two people have the same files, the same needs, the same search tendencies…it’s just not the case.Instead, this post is to help you jump-start your file purge with good habits and organizational hacks that will get your file library back on track.
01. Create a folder hierarchy with direction. Do you create a “2014” folder inside of the “Projects” folder, or create a “Projects” folder inside of the “2014” folder? The answer depends on how you instinctively browse your folder structure, and how often new folders need to be created. Try to think about everything on your computer in the most general-sense. If you’re like me than you probably have an assortment of files that seem to have come from every which way. A good approach is to determine the first two, three, or four levels in the hierarchy and then let yourself create subfolders for the lower levels. For example, you could have a folder called “Projects” and create project-specific subfolders as needed.
02. Define what files are active and what should be archived. There is a large number of people incapable of viewing their desktop background, and that is equal-parts scary and sad. It’s common to save things to the desktop for easy access, but on an already-cluttered screen, specific files will be too trying to locate. It’s time to put those documents that haven’t been modified in months to rest – you will not be needing them so readily. Put them in the subfolders where they belong. (Note: this step also applies to the “Documents” folder.) What’s left on your screen should be the direct files that you’re actively using. Now you have your to-do, list!
03. Don’t be a hoarder – consume & kill. In the physical world, the signs of a hoarder would be obvious: dusty cases piled high to the ceiling with junk, scattered papers engulfing rooms, a seemingly infinite number of photos, etc. But in the virtual world, the clues aren’t as obvious. If you use something and you no longer need it, there’s no reason to continue holding on to it. Allow yourself to detox – get rid of those screen grabs that are no longer useful; and that meme on your desktop that you’re planning to use when the opportunity (finally) presents itself? You know what to do – use it and then lose it!
04. Actively purge your downloads folder. This is a point that cannot be reiterated enough. We download things a LOT! Average tech users are saving things from the Internet, downloading free fonts from dafont, even managing to save a web page on the accidental occasion. And those compressed folders requiring you to unzip them? Forget it! This default-save location is regularly flooded with a wild assortment of files, and is a known source of discouragement for those starting out with their cleanse.
05. Be consistent in your labeling.
Speaking as part of the majority, it is time to admit that we frequently skip the labeling prompt for the files that we save. Actually, many times we don’t even receive that prompt. If you’re a person who saves images by way of the click-and-drag, you’re left at the little mercy of whatever the host has chosen to name the particular selection. lt’s time to break this nasty habit. Every person needs to find a naming system that works for them and stick to it. There are plenty of guides out that provide suggestions of how
to begin your file labeling system, like this one here from Stanford University.
If you plan to go for more humanistic, descriptive-labeling as opposed to a series of letters and numbers, use CamelCase character formatting
as it makes it easier to read file names quickly.