Sunday, December 13, 2009

Cleaning Up the Digital Clutter

7.3 MB of bookmarks

Stuff I need to review/read/watch. That's the name of a bookmarks folder I had on my computer; some of the items had been there since 2007! I've just cleaned that folder up (and eliminated it entirely) as part of my effort to de-clutter my computer before the year end.

It's so easy to accumulate all sorts of digital clutter - and the clutter doesn't cause huge problems. But I noticed the clutter is beginning to make it somewhat harder to find what I want. It makes backups take a bit longer than they should. And the digital clutter also makes me feel a bit weighted down, a bit yucky. Who needs a list of 2-year-old articles hanging around, demanding to be read?

So here are some of the items I intend to deal with:

- Bookmarks for web sites with interesting articles I'll never read again. For example, I'm interested in the future of newspapers, and I've read some wonderful commentary on this subject. But why did I add bookmarks, when the chance I'll re-read any of these articles is so very slim? (You might have favorites instead of bookmarks, depending on your browser.)

- Bookmarks that got added to the wrong folders by mistake.

- Duplicate bookmarks.

- E-mail messages I'll never refer to again. My goodness, what are those 7,006 messages in my "sent" folder? I bet I don't need most of them.

- Photos that got uploaded from my camera - but never got cleaned up to eliminate duplicate shots, never got properly labeled, etc.

- Blog posts I've marked in Google Reader to go back and read later - and still haven't looked at.

- Old versions of applications - when I know the new version works just fine.

I'm not intending to get a perfectly cleaned-up computer; that wouldn't be worth the time and effort. But doing some basic maintenance now will help me be better prepared for everything I want to do (and will need to do) in 2010.


Lawgirl said...

I have been working on this myself. Have you heard of Evernote? It's made my life so much easier!

Jeri Dansky said...

Lawgirl, I have indeed heard of Evernote, and I know many people who rave about it. I'm not sure it's a tool I need, but I have plans to try it out.

Anonymous said...

I would love for someone to explain, in detail, how Evernote has made their life easier. I just can't get the hang of it. I have the Mac version and the iPhone version, but I don't really get it, I guess. Do you have to commit to Evernote, I mean in the sense that you have to put all your to-do lists and notes and everything else into Evernote, or can you use it as an adjunct to other things? For instance, I use SplashShopper, Bento, Stickies and Apple Mail folders to keep myself organized. I would have a hard time giving them up, but if Evernote could fill all those roles I suppose I might try. I just don't completely understand how it can make staying organized that much easier...

Jeri Dansky said...

Anonymous, here are some posts from people who explain how they use Evernote; people are very enthusiastic.

Five Productive Jobs for Evernote

100 Different Evernote Uses

Evernote: Free Software that Knocked My Socks Off

5 Ways to Use Evernote to Organize Your Busy Family Life

9 Ways I Use Evernote

Anonymous said...

thanks for this. I will set aside some time and read all these (I saved them in Evernote!). I sometimes wonder if I'm making more work for myself using all these organizing systems, but I have to say I am learning to love Bento, so if I can get my head around it I'll probably learn to love Evernote too...

Sophie said...

Jeri, Are you sure it was your computer and not mine that inspired this post? Your situation with bookmarks matches mine almost exactly. It's good to know I'm not the only one who has a list of bookmarks that are well-intentioned, and organized but still unwieldy and needing pruning/rethinking. This has been on my to-do list, and now you've inspired me to get it done. Thanks!

Jeri Dansky said...

You're welcome, Sophie! I'm glad I'm not alone.

Besides doing the clean-up, I'm developing new habits. When I go to bookmark a well-written article, I ask myself "Will I REALLY ever look at this again?"

Matthew Cornell said...

I respect the underlying behavior here, Jeri, that of wanting to capture information, ideas, or resources that will help take you where you want to go. The challenge, as you suggest, is keeping up with it. I've found my own process is cyclic - I collect widely, figure out *why* I'm doing it, then create crisper categories for putting them into. Right now I have news items worth commenting on in my newsletter, videos my daughter might enjoy, and folder supporting projects - either active or future.

Treating your bookmarks as a backlog to clear makes sense. Periodic reviews of clutter magnets like this are necessary in these "might be useful" cases, I think.

Good post.

Jeri Dansky said...

Matthew, you've nailed it exactly. I have many bookmarks that serve a real purpose - the largest grouping being those that might feed a blog post, or be useful in working with a client. Others relate things I'd like to do in the future: home improvement, travel, etc. Some just form an online reference library for me.

But why was I keeping articles about the 2004 elections? Why keep articles on "green" countertop materials, when I have no plans to replace mine? I decided I certainly don't need them now (if I ever did), and they are gone.

And yes, I create "crisper categories" when I do the clean-up, too.

SueBK said...

Was looking for something else and came across this add-on for Firefox that reminded me of this post:
"Read It Later allows you to save pages of interest to read later. It eliminates cluttering of bookmarks with sites that are merely of a one-time interest."
Haven't tried it, but thought you might be interested.

Caveman said...

I accumulate lots of files - images pages downloaded (saved in PDF format) from web sites, images, text files and all sorts of clutter.

Often I just back everything up to DVD, catalog the DVD contents using a program I wrote, then deleting the lot. If I _think_ i need something I can search the catalog.

Today I re-organised the contents of some folders I have created on the subject of Australian Law. I created a hierachy of folder/directory names, then moved files into the most logical location. I had to open many of the PDF files to see what they were.

I now have a new "best practice" when ever I save a file to the computer.

1. Decide in which directory the file should be located. If required create a new directory and give it a logical name.

2. When saving the file, change t he file name to include as much meaning as possible. For example, if I was saving an article about the Australian Constitution, I would save it to the "Constitution" folder and give the file a decent name.

Saving everthing to your Documents folder or Desktop with the intention of sorting it out later created clutter.


Jeri Dansky said...

SueBK, I've heard of Read It Later - but I use Safari as my primary browser, not Firefox. It does sounds like a nice idea, though.

Caveman, I've seen a lot of cluttered computer desktops. It sounds like you've now got a process that works for you - congratulations!

Jeri Dansky said...

And I just have to say that I have the best commenters! Thanks to everyone who has joined the discussion.