Last Updated on June 23, 2022
I like to think I’m an organized person, but sometimes I let things slide and my computer desktop ends up in disarray. I spend a lot of my time on this electronic box thing, which means it’s easy to let the clutter pile up.
I bet you’ll agree that it’s super frustrating when you have to take precious time out of your day just to find that report you wrote last week or a copy of your license that you KNOW you have somewhere. But we can totally avoid that.
Today, I’m giving you a look at the system I’ve been using to keep my digital documents more organized and less cluttered.
How To Save Your Digital Files
Do you want to know the #1 way to stop losing your computer documents? Switch to the cloud.
Ever since I started saving all of my documents to OneDrive, my life has gotten a whole lot easier. Because I use my laptop at home, a desktop at work, and my iPad on-the-go, I need to be able to access all of my documents from any device I use. That’s where the cloud comes in!
Sure, it takes a little bit of getting used to, but you’ll never have to worry about forgetting your flash drive, and you DEFINITELY won’t have to worry about someone accidentally sitting on your flash drive while it’s IN your laptop (that’s happened to me twice now, don’t ask).
The best thing is that you can sync it to your computer, so you don’t have to physically go in and upload your documents to your Drive every time. Plus, you avoid duplicate documents of the same file this way.
OneDrive vs. Google Drive
You might be wondering why I use OneDrive (Microsoft’s Drive) instead of Google Drive. The simple answer is that my primary email – the one I’ve had for years and years – just so happens to be a Microsft email. That is honestly the only reason.
I don’t think there’s a huge difference between the two besides the interface. Both offer the same amount of storage for free (15 GB) and the same prices to add more storage.
You can also create Word, Excel, and PowerPoint documents straight from either Drive. This is a HUGE time saver for me because I don’t have to worry about remembering to upload my documents – I can create them right there!
If you’re wondering which to go with, just pick whichever system works well with your primary email account.
How To Organize Your Digital Files
Whether you choose to use the cloud or not, it’s best to keep your files organized in specific folders to make finding them super easy. My rule of thumb is no more than 10 folders within each top-level folder.
More than 10 and it gets harder to find what you’re looking for! If you want to get a little more organized or just find these sorts of things interesting, here’s how I organize my digital files and folders:
Three Top-Level Folders
- Personal Documents
1. Personal Documents
In the Personal Documents folder, I file the following documents:
- Auto – Insurance, leasing information
- College – All of the work I’ve kept from college
- Financial – Taxes, budgeting
- Health – Medical information
- Home – Apartment lease agreements, renter’s insurance
- Label & Card Templates – For DIY projects (this folder isn’t really necessary)
- Personal – Journal entries I’ve scanned, family documents
- Resume – Includes job applications and cover letters
- Workbooks & PDFs – Anything I’ve downloaded from other sites that I want to save
This one’s pretty simple:
- College – Sub-folders organized by year
- Family – Photos that aren’t travel-specific (ex. Sister’s graduation, Thanksgiving)
- Friends – Photos that aren’t travel or school-related (ex. Birthday parties)
- High School (yikes!) – Sub-folders organized by year
- Instagram – I use an IFTTT recipe that saves my Instagram uploads to OneDrive
- Travel – Sub-folders organized by name of place & year (ex. France 2011, England 2009)
- Videos – Not organized specifically because I don’t have many
Here’s how I organize everything I need for blogging:
- Analytics – Includes a tracking sheet for monthly analytics (super helpful for tracking growth!)
- Backups – I try to back up my blog regularly because I’m paranoid
- Branding – Design elements like logos and fonts
- In Process – Projects, blog posts, and images to use in blog posts
- Inspiration – Anything I’ve found from other places to inspire future ideas
- Kind Words – Screenshots of comments from you lovely people! They make me happy :D
- Social Media – Images to use for future Instagram or Twitter posts
- Published – Images from my published blog posts
- Organized by: Year > Post Title
How To Avoid Digital Clutter
If you’ve followed my guidelines above and started organizing files into folders that work for you, you’ll probably be feeling a lot less cluttered already. Woohoo! Now all you have to worry about keeping those files organized and uncluttered, but that’s super easy!
How To Avoid Digital Clutter
At the end of the week, go through your folders and quickly check to make sure there are no stray files hanging around. It’ll take less than 5 minutes to clean things up, I promise! Once you’ve got an organization system down, clutter won’t be an issue anymore.
Organizing & Decluttering Your Desktop
Desktops can be the most cluttered area of any computer because they’re a catch-all for files that don’t have a home yet. I know mine always looks like a bomb just went off. In fact, because I want to be totally honest with you (and because I never said I was organized 100% of the time), this is what my desktop looks like right now:
That gives me anxiety just looking at it. Feeling the same way too? Well, I’ve put together a desktop wallpaper that you can use to organize your desktop and make sure it never looks like mine again! I was able to get rid of so much rubbish with this wallpaper, and I hope it helps make your life a little easier too.
I’ve found the best way to organize your desktop files is into three categories: programs, documents to file away, and shortcuts to frequently used or important documents. Happy organizing!
Love this! I’m the worst for digital clutter–I have a date in my calendar where I’m dedicating about 8 hours to actually getting rid of everything I don’t need! (yes, it’ll actually take me that long. I have files from when I was 12. that’s 8 years).
The desktop wallpaper is SO cute! I’m definitely going to use it ;)
Haha I LOVE that you have that scheduled in your calendar. I hope 8 hours of decluttering doesn’t drive you too crazy ;)
Wow! I love that desktop idea! I am also really unsavvy when it comes to digital organization and backing up. It’s really risky, actually, and I’ve just assumed that a big computer crash won’t happen to me! You raise really good solutions and I’ll definitely be pinning this!
Oooh yeah, I guess people can be skeptical about losing their data in the cloud or having someone hack it, but I feel like my computer is on it’s last legs and I wouldn’t want to jeopardize all my stuff if it crashed haha. Thanks for pinning, Daisy! :D
I’m also bad with digital clutter, specially with tabs as you know haha. But about a year ago I discovered One Drive and yes, it’s been a life saver! It has so much stuff that I really need to go through it and organize it, though. And when it comes to my desktop, I try to declutter it quite frequently since it makes me feel even more unorganized – and that’s what I should go do right now :) x
Woo another OneDrive user! I seriously don’t think I could go back to saving stuff to a computer haha. Hope the tab challenge is going well ;)
Yay – I also started with a msn.com email so that’s why I have OneDrive. But it works perfectly for me! Me too! I’m going to be honest, most of the time, I don’t have less than 5 tabs but it’s a LOT better, thank you :) x
Thoughtful post Catherine! This doves well with my research on digital legacy. BTW, on OneDrive vs GoogleDrive, my understanding is Microsoft considers you a client & will not harvest your data, Google considers you an asset & will scrape your data. I’m happy with OneDrive.
I get too stressed out when I have clutter around me. I need to feel productive, and having clutter just stops all productivity. So, fortunately I have always been one to keep clutter away, but my biggest problem are my books – I love my books, the hardbacks and softcover (I do have kindle, but it is not the same). I have a beautiful bookshelf that I keep very organized, so that helps, but sometimes I can’t look at it while I am working, or I find stress creeping up on me.
I like the cloud idea – I do have cloud but never use it. That’s about to change.
Thanks for an excellent article.