Last Monday I introduced my project for this month: paper & digital clutter. I spent last week looking for ways to conquer paper and digital clutter so that I could start spending my time more productively in other ways.
Some of these ideas that I'm going to post about may seem obvious, but as obvious as they are, it's not something I did until this week. I needed the focus to actually follow through with these "ideas" and that's what this month long project is doing for me. It's giving me accountability and focus by blogging about it, and I really hope I'm inspiring you to do the same.
I started off by looking at the list I made last week of where the clutter is coming in. Then I made a plan/researched of how I can take care of it.
Today I'm talking about conquering computer digital clutter. Yesterday I shared about conquering internet digital clutter and Monday I shared about conquering paper clutter.
Back up computer files on a regular basis.
- I own an external hard drive. It's really easy to use and backs up all of my pictures, documents, videos, music, etc. I don't keep it hooked up to my PC at all times like most people do because I can remember to back things up from time to time and feel safer with it in a safe when not in use. That way if anything were to ever happen, I have a copy of everything in my fire/waterproof safe.
- If you don't want to go the external hard drive route, there are now lots of internet "cloud drives" that you can use. Some are free up to a certain data limit. Others require a yearly fee, but give you a lot more space to work with. The nice thing about cloud drives is you can access you files from anywhere you have an internet connection. Here are a couple options I've read good things about, or use myself:
- Amazon Cloud Drive :: free for up to 5 GB of online storage
I love Amazon and would absolutely trust them with my docs. I personally haven't used this yet, but I'm planning on looking into it more this month. This whole cloud drive thing is still new, so I'm not really signed up with any of them right now.
- Windows Live SkyDrive :: free for up to 25 GB of online storage
I've tried this in the past and it was really easy to use. I don't use it anymore because I don't use Hotmail anymore. I'm now fully a Google-lover.
- Google Docs :: free for up to 1 GB - I pay $5 a year for 20 GB which extends over all Google products, like Picasa (web photo album)
I use Google Docs for everything. I store my inventories with GD so I can access it from my smartphone. I upload my free printables with GD. I store my resume/placement file docs here as well. I like that with GD I can edit the docs, as well as download them anywhere if I need to.
Organize computer files in a way that makes sense and is easy to use.
- I have organized my document files in a way that makes sense to me. Chris thinks it's a bit much, but with the amount of documents I need to keep organized, I have a bunch of files nested inside other files...and so on. It's really starting to get out of hand though with the more I create and save on my computer. I need a new system. I absolutely love the way I have things organized now, I just need to make it easier to find things. Perhaps not so many files nested...that does seem to take up a lot of time double-clicking files over and over to get inside.
- I often save a lot of PDF documents from blogs (printables, list templates, etc.) and those can get messy to keep track of. I started categorizing them by type then source. This made it so much easier for me to find everything, especially since I had 5 versions of a to-do list downloaded that were all different because the source was different.
- There's a great article by Microsoft at Work called File Organization Tips: 9 Ideas for Managing Files and Folders. The title is so obvious that every time I start to write something about what the article is, I'm writing the same thing...so I suggest reading it. lol
- Oh, and change the file name when you're download and saving documents from the internet. Nothing is worse than realizing you've saved 50 different PDFs that have been horribly named with no spaced or no real description of what the file is. Just take the time to change the name while saving. You'll be so glad you did later.
Organize digital photos by date and event.
- I don't take a ton of photos anymore because I don't leave the house very often unfortunately. But when I was taking a lot of pictures, I always made sure to sort and file them so I could easily find them later.
- All of my files are sorted by year and the folders they're in (inside the year folder) are labeled by event name and date. Having a system like this will make your life so much easier when you create a calendar for family at Christmas time. You won't have to sort through picture from the last 5 years to find this year's pictures.
Stop saving every single PDF file I find...just because it's free.
- Guilty, guilty, guilty...and it's getting worse. One thing that's helping though is Pinterest. I have a board categorized as "printables" which allows me to visually save printables I find and not have to download them on to my hard drive, just because they're free. I've come up with questions to ask myself as well before saving everything I come across:
- Why am I saving this?
- What is its purpose?
- When would I ever use it?
- Will I actually ever use it?
- And I'm using all of these questions to sort through and delete documents that I don't really need. So smart.
Uninstall software I don't use, run PC cleaning and antivirus software once a week, and clear internet files once a week.
- I'll admit it. I'm kind of a computer nerd. I absolutely love computers (and all technology really). I've had my hands on one since I was 12. I've always been curious about how a computer works and what I can do to tweak settings to make things run better. I have a few tips for you.
- Uninstall the junk that comes preinstalled on your computer. (On a PC, go to the start menu, then control panel, then uninstall programs or it may say add/remove programs.) Most of it is free trials of software because they're hoping you'll purchased the full version. If it's a trial, get rid of it. If you don't know what something is, but it sounds like something you don't need then Google it before you uninstall. You don't want to get rid of your sound card drivers or antivirus software (unless it is a trial that came on your PC). If you're unsure if something's a trial, find it in your start menu (under programs) and open it. If it is a trial then it will tell you when it's opened. The more you uninstall, the more memory you'll acquire and the faster your computer will be.
- You can use PC cleaning and antivirus software to keep your PC safe and running smoothly. My favorite junk cleaners are System Mechanic 10.5 ($50 for one year subscription - and when you renew you always get a super low rate, usually around $20 for a year) and CCleaner (free).
- System Mechanic is awesome because automatically analyzes my PC for me and shows me what I need to clean up or fix. Then I can just click the "repair" button and it will do it for me. It takes care of cleaning up junk and registry files, will suggest programs for you to uninstall or pause at startup to allow your PC to run faster, and will backup your registry for you automatically (the registry is like the brain of your computer). I love that it now allows unlimited downloads so that you can installed it on all of your family's PCs.
- CCleaner (stands for crap cleaner lol) cleans up internet and PC junk files. Plain and simple, but effective.
- Also available on a PC (comes installed already) is Disc Cleanup (in Windows 7: start menu -> programs -> accessories -> system tools -> disc cleanup). This pretty much does the same thing as CCleaner, but doesn't do a great job.
- As for antivirus software, my faves are AVG for a free option and Norton Internet Security for a paid option ($70 for one year on 3 PCs). I personally would recommend always going with a paid version if you use the internet a lot. I've been able to fix computers in the past that have had viruses, but it's really difficult to do. Since purchasing Norton, I haven't ever had any issues. My parents, who don't use the internet other than for eBay and email, are good with AVG. There isn't much risk for them with their lack of internet use.
- Usually you can get really good deals on paid antivirus software from Staples or any other office store. Just watch their ads - especially at the beginning of the year. I've been lucky enough to sign up for test groups to use and review the software, providing me with a free one year subscription. If you would have asked me three years ago to buy Norton software, I would have told you to hit the road. The old Norton was super slow and a system hog, using a lot of PC memory. Now it runs so much better and isn't a hog anymore.
- I've recently taken part in a test/review for Trend Micro Titanium Maximum Security 2012 through BzzAgent. I have it installed on Chris' computer and I'd recommend that one as well. It runs quietly in the background and hasn't slowed down his computer. It's on sale online right now for $55.95 for one year on 3 PCs. You can use coupon code BZZ30 through October 18 for $30 off your purchase. (Disclosure: I'm a BzzAgent, I received a free copy of this product, this is my 100% honest opinion.)
- Clearing out internet junk files will make your internet browser run faster. It's completely safe to do - it just deletes temporary files stored on your computer by websites. I would tell you how to do it, but of course, every browser is different and also every version of each browser is different too. I have Firefox 7 -> click "firefox" in the top left corner -> history -> clear recent history -> select "everything" for your time range. In Google Chrome 15 -> click the wrench icon on the right hand side of the toolbar -> history -> "edit items..." link on the right -> clear all browsing data -> clear browsing data. And in Internet Explorer 9 -> click the gear icon on the right hand side of the toolbar -> safety -> delete browsing history -> select all check boxes -> delete.