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The Simple Manifesto #15 – Declutter your digital packrattery

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This is part of our series on The Simple Living Manifesto. We invite you to join us on the journey.

The 15th idea in the manifesto is:

Declutter your digital packrattery. If you are a digital packrat, and cannot seem to control your digital clutter, there is still hope for you. Read this guide to curing yourself of this clutter.

While clutter can creep in anywhere at anytime, I’ve found that how I process my files helps me avoid a lot of the “digital packrat creep”.

To start off, I store all my working documents in one folder with sub-folders for each project (My Documents on my PC).

Keep them off your desktop!

While in the past I used to keep lots and lots of folders and files on my desktop — it ultimately doesn’t make sense. So keep your files in one folder (and sub-folders if needed). There’s really no reason not to keep all your working files in one folder.

Process the clutter…

As for me, at least once a month, I process my files asking questions similar to how I process my clutter elsewhere…

  • Is this a file I need for a project I’m currently working on?
  • Is this a file I’m going to need in the next month or so?
  • Is this a file I’m going to need ever again?

If it’s something I know I won’t use again — even for another project — the file goes in the trash. This is a good practice to do daily if possible.

If the file’s one I’m currently working on/with — leave it be.

If I plan on using it in the future but not necessarily in the next month — it goes on my back up hard drive (keeping the files organized by project).

If it’s something I’m not quite sure about — it goes on my back up hard drive as well.

The nice thing about the back up hard drive is it pulls the files off my computer (so they doesn’t bog it down) but keeps them safe and ultimately accessible in case I need to refer back to the file at a later date.

Also, in the process of moving files to my back up hard drive I look over the folders of projects already saved there and decide if the files are still really needed — if the folders (and/or files) have out lived their usefulness — trash.

A few other things I do to keep files from overwhelming me…

  • MOVE files, don’t simply copy them (especially with photos). A quick way to start the digital packrat creep is to double up on files by keeping multiple copies of them. Whether your putting files on your back up hard drive, or getting photos off your camera — be sure you’re moving the files rather than just a simple copy and paste.
  • When working with Photoshop or Illustrator I often have to export the file to several different formats depending on how I’ll ultimately use the graphic (.jpg, .png, .pdf, etc., etc.) — however I only keep the original Photoshop or Illustrator file when the project is done. Rather than keeping loads of exported graphics, I can spend the minute or two to re-export the file if needed. Same for most video projects.
  • Find a SIMPLE organization plan that works for you. I organize by project (makes it easy to delete in bulk when the project is complete). But do what works best for you.
  • Trash all the old revisions of your files. Keep the latest and greatest revision of your file and possibly one older one (if absolutely necessary). You don’t need to hold on to 20 different versions of the same document. Just keep the latest and greatest and stop worrying about the rest.

Of course, these are things that have helped me. What about you? Am I missing anything?

Join us!

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  1. The Simple Manifesto #16 – Create a simplicity statement 08 03 10

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