Simplify: 7 Guiding Principles to Help Anyone Declutter Their Home and Life

Organizing Computer Files: Knowing What to Send to the Recycle Bin

source: risky ridzkee

source: risky ridzkee

One of the biggest obstacles to organizing digital files is simply deciding what should be kept and what should be deleted. Unlike paper files, digital files don’t take up physical space in your home, and it’s tempting to keep more for that reason.

To be honest, I’m not sure I’ve found the perfect balance in this area. I have plenty of documents on my computer that I haven’t accessed in years but that I’m not ready to toss because of the hard work I put into them. These include preschool lesson plans, printables and projects.

Investment of Time and Money Versus Cost of Storage

My general feeling is if I’ve invested time, energy or money into a file — and if the document only takes up a small amount of space and is organized so that it doesn’t make it harder to find the things I really do need access to — then it’s worth keeping. However, I still go through and clean out my files every 6 to 12 months to purge any that I no longer want to keep.

On the other hand, there are plenty of files that can be sent to the recycle bin, including email archives, receipts on smaller purchases (because, truly, that ebay seller is not going to refund your money on the lot of clothes you bought your 2 year old eight months ago, no matter what happens to them at this point!), clip art you used once but no longer need, drafts of files you’ve since completed, notes and lists, etc.

What About Pictures?

The biggest area for me is pictures. I’ll admit I’m a bit of a packrat when it comes to photos of my children, which can be an issue because of the amount of space they take up. I currently have about 5GBs of pictures for 2009 stored on my hard drive, and the older pictures are all stored on Flickr as well as on DVDs in my parent’s fire-safe box. I know that I can’t keep all of the pictures since my oldest was born five years ago on my hard drive, especially as cameras improve and pictures take up more space. However, I love being able to access them all, and the $25 a year I pay for a Flickr Pro account (currently home to over 10,000 photos) has been well worth it.

Getting Started

We’ll talk more about backing up files tomorrow, but today, take some time to go through your files. Don’t worry about sorting them into folders just yet, but focus on purging those files that you no longer need. I sort through my photos when I unload them from my computer, deleting those that aren’t worth keeping, but if you don’t, take some time to go through your photos as well.

Quick tip: If you have to open a file to figure out what it is, take a minute or two to rename it so that you’re able to quickly identify it just from the title. I encourage you to use proper title case titles, such as “Letter to Homeowner’s Association” or “Report Card for Suzie — Fall, 1st Grade”. Having clear titles is an important part of maintaining an easy to use file system!

Tomorrow we’ll look at backup solutions for digital files. It’s an area that many, many people neglect (myself included!), but there are inexpensive and easy solutions available to make sure you don’t lose everything.

How do you decide which files to keep and which to send to the recycle bin? When was the last time you cleaned out your digital files?

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About the Author

Mandi Ehman

Hi. My name is Mandi and I’m an organizing junkie. I’m also a wife, and Momma to four little girls (5.5, 4, 2.5 and a baby!). I've worked at home since our oldest was a baby, and like a lot of other moms, my life is a constant balancing act of caring for my family and my home, meeting my obligations and finding time for hobbies in there somewhere. Oh, yeah, in the interest of full disclosure, I’m somewhat of a kitchen dunce and I only like to pretend that I’m crafty. Read more here!

One Response to “ Organizing Computer Files: Knowing What to Send to the Recycle Bin ”

  1. Great post Mandi! I agree with everything you’ve said about computer files. It’s so easy to forget they’re building up when you can’t physically see them. I go through my files a few times a year too to try and send some unused things to the rubbish bin but for me, it’s emails that I have trouble with. I need to be more organized with systematically dealing with or deleting emails more frequently.


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