It's a new year, with new resolutions, and for so many, that means promising to finally get organized. Yet, why should tidying be restricted to only the physical world? Instead of solely focusing on clutter around the house, get your digital organization groove on and clean up your virtual space too!
Clear off your desktop
Your desk might be spotless, but what about your desktop? If you can hardly see your computer's background image through a forest of icons, it's time for a fresh start. The desktop is there to make frequently used programs easily accessible, and sorting through a page filled with tiny icons to locate your internet browser isn't all that easy. Start by making a list of programs you use every day, like an internet browser, IM client, and games, and then add in utilities that you need access to on a regular basis, such as your recycling bin, control panel, or a set of folders. These are the things which should be on your desktop, and everything else can be neatly put away into folders.
Don't fear the subfolders
What do all of the files in your My Pictures folder have in common? They're all pictures, of course, and if you're like most people, they're dumped in one place haphazardly, or half-heartedly sorted into generic folders like ‘vacation' and ‘kids'. Instead of wasting time going through image after image, looking for the right one, resolve to make your life easier by creating subfolders.
A subfolder system breaks down a large category into smaller, more specific ones with different layers, allowing you to quickly and easily find what you're looking for. For example, the first layer of folders under ‘vacation' could be the year that vacation took place. In each year folder, you put a folder for every place you went on vacation, then place the photos of that vacation there. You can get even more specific by creating more folders with the day or location a photo was taken as well. If you need more categorization, don't be afraid to create more file layers. In the end, they'll help you!
Change that name
Many files, especially those you download, aren't named in a way which tells you what they are at a glance. Instead, they're obscure strings of letters, numbers, and symbols, which makes it impossible to tell if that mysterious item is a photo of your dog or a vital piece of a program. Odd, unmemorable names make it hard to find what you need and create clutter. Instead of letting your files get lost because you don't remember what it was called, change the name to something which will tell you what it is, like "Fidos Birthday 01". This also helps you know what's safe to delete and what you should leave alone.
If you can't delete it, put it away
Many of us have a near-pathological avoidance to deleting old files. "But I might need that!" is an all too common exclamation when organizing in the digital world as well as the real one. Logically, how likely is it that you'll ever pull up a report from high school after college, or review sales figures from a job you left five years ago? If you're still afraid to get rid of a file, put it away by creating a compressed folder.
Similar to packing items away in storage, compressed folders take up less room on your computer than the items inside normally would, and can be created on Windows, Apple, and Linux devices. Best of all, they can contain multiple layers of subfolders, so it's easy to organize everything you're putting inside. That way, if you ever do need to fish out a science report from 8th grade, you'll be able to find it quickly and easily.
Photo: Agent Driven Tech
Have a back-up plan
Anyone who has experienced a computer crash knows exactly how painful it is to lose files. Years of work, pictures, music, and games all can vanish in an instant. Fortunately, it's not hard to keep your files safe by using backup and recovery software. These programs create copies of the files you specify, or of your entire computer. In case of a crash, virus, or lost file, users can pull a copy of anything they need from the program. The backup can be stored on your hard drive, or for improved safety, on a USB drive, cloud server, or network drive. With prices typically between $40 and $60, backup software can save your sanity, and keep your computer from becoming just an expensive paper weight or fish bowl.
Keep everything running smoothly
Computers pick up a lot of gunk as you use them, both physical and digital, which can cause them to run more slowly than you'd like. Between all that folder creation and file deletion, make time to clean up. A good place to start is at the recycling bin, where all of your deleted files go. Like any trashcan, this needs to be emptied every once in a while to remove old files for good. You'll also want to ensure that you're using an antivirus program to protect from malicious programs which could slow you down or steal your information. There are many available for free online, and offer the same level of protection as paid versions.
Lastly, computers collect dust and other debris from the air around them, which can cause them to overheat and affect performance. This is especially true if people smoke or use aerosol products around them. If you're familiar with the inside workings of your computer, remember to dust it out every once in a while with some canned air. If you're not so sure about opening the case up, there are plenty of computer stores which can perform this service for you.
Don't forget about your virtual closet
Outside of your computer's files and programs, you may still have piles of virtual ‘stuff' which could use organizing, especially if you play massively multiplayer RPGs like World of Warcraft or Second Life. Do you really need extra quest items from a storyline you completed twenty levels ago, or a dress your character hasn't worn in years? Take the time to go through your character's bank account or inventory and clean your old items out. Depending on the game, you might be able to sell those items to other players or give them away. Don't let yourself run out of room for more important items later just because you couldn't part with that level 1 newbie sword!