5 Ways to Declutter and Organize Digital Files

Do you need to declutter and organize digital files? I do. Like, constantly. I am notorious for saving things that I think I’ll use later, and then forgetting I have them. Bookmarks, Pinterest boards, family photos, blog files, art references… and the list could go on forever.

So how do you tame that gigantic mess? I hate to tell you, but there’s no simple one-trick that’ll get my files in order. Not in, like, ten minutes or so, anyway. No siree. It’s going to ake some good ol’ fashioned butt-in-the-chair, music-playing, kids-occupied-and-out-of-my-hair time to really go through and figure out what the hell to do with all this junk.

You ready? Let’s do this.

5 Ways to Declutter and Organize Digital Files | Mommy is a Nerd


First of all: Backup your stuff. Like, right now.

Think of this as a bonus tip. Going through everything and deleting things will take a long time, but before you ever bother, you should backup everything. All of it. Even stuff you think you’ll get rid of (unless you REALLY are sure right now you don’t want it back ever again). I use an external hard drive as my primary method to store my files, but you should have a secondary way of storing files as well.

But Jess, my pictures are all in the cloud, so no worries… right?

For me, no. I want to say that works for some people, but the truth is, you should really do more than one storage system. For example, what happens if someone hacks into your stuff in the cloud? Or you accidentally delete something permanently? It’s just gone forever if you don’t have a backup storage. So that’s where my external hard drive comes in handy. And then, with the cloud storage, if something happens to your external hard drive, you have the cloud storage too! It’s really a win-win.

To backup your computer in Windows, you just go to the start menu, then select Control Panel > System and Maintenance > Backup and Restore. You can choose your external hard drive from there as your backup place.

As for cloud storage, that’s going to depend on the place you go to, but there’ll likely be a handy little guide. I readily admit that Mike is the one that does all that stuff, as we share an account with whatever cloud storage thing he uses.

1. Organize those family photos, finally.

If you’re anything like us, you have a million photos randomly thrown in different places all over the computer. Most of the more recent photos are either in a gigantic folder called “phone pics”, or neatly sorted by date thanks to my card reader and computer kindly automating that whole business.

My method for sorting is to have folders for each year, and then folders for each month. Then I can sort the pictures by date, and everything is neat and tidy. A good tip is to name each image with the full date in case something messes up somewhere down the line, and then who is in the photo.

Now, I certainly can’t remember exactly when ever picture I’ve ever taken was taken, but my computer remembers that stuff pretty well. To find out when your photos were taken, or uploaded onto your computer (which will have to be good enough in some cases), right click on the picture and go to “properties”. From there, you’ll see this:

5 Ways to Declutter and Organize Digital Files | Mommy is a Nerd

See those dates? Created is when the current file was made on your computer, modified is when the image was last changed (so probably when it was created inside your digital camera’s memory card), and the accessed is irrelevant to this but it’s the last time the file was used in some way, though opening the file doesn’t necessarily count.

Most of the time, modified is going to be when the photo was taken, but that’s not always the case. I did find that in most instances this was true for my photos.

Lastly, I used events and names in the photo titles as well to help aid in searching for particular photos. Works like a charm!

2. Declutter your bookmarks.

This is one I struggle with because I’ve largely begun to ignore bookmarks in favor of Pinterest. However, my Pinterest is another gigantic mess, so let’s worry about THAT crap later…

I have lots of folders already in my bookmarks, but chances are, there’s a lot of things I really don’t need in there, or things I could pin on Pinterest instead.

First, I go through all the things I’ve saved outside of my folders. I usually open up about ten tabs, and then in each tab, I open a bookmark. Next, I go through a couple steps for each link.

  1. Is the link still active? If not, delete it.
  2. Is the link something I am still interested in/can use? If not, delete it.
  3. Is the link something easily pinnable? Is it visual, do I have a board already that it will fit into? If not, put it in a folder in my bookmarks.

I have a lot of genealogy things in my bookmarks, and those are typically the ones I can’t pin very well. If they’re specific to my own family, I just leave them in bookmarks. Most other things, though, I either pitch or I pin. Oh hey, that might be a good idea for a new guide! Pin It or Pitch It: A Guide to Cleaning Your Bookmarks.


3. Sort and declutter your music, even when it kicks you right in the childhood.

Does anyone else have those songs where you like them, but only at specific times and you skip them 99% of the time they pop up? How about those catch popular songs that you loved as a kid, but you have the entire album in your library and you only know the one song? Or even both: those songs you loved as a kid that you’re almost never in the mood for?

I have a lot of variety in the things I like to listen to on occasion, but not most of the time. I decided that, because of that, I’d prefer to use a streaming service for a lot of my music rather than have it on my computer. Mike, on the other hand, has every single CD he’s ever owned uploaded into his iTunes, and he doesn’t ever listen to at least three-quarters of it.

5 Ways to Declutter and Organize Digital Files | Mommy is a Nerd

I actually have a lot more music on my computer than I thought… huh. Guess I need to get to work!

If you want to keep your music on your computer, I recommend using iTunes to keep things tidy. You can sort everything neatly by artist and album. Consider purging songs you don’t care too much about, unless you’re a purist and don’t like having incomplete albums. I’m always torn on that one, but sometimes I really dislike a song by an artist I love and I know I’ll never change my mind. After getting rid of the songs I’ll always skip, I end up enjoying my music on shuffle much more than I used to.

If you’re more the type who needs to listen to a song to decide, do it! Go through every artist, album by album, and listen to each song while you’re working on organizing your photos. Two birds one stone!

4. Files and folders, too, especially on your desktop.

This is probably the one that will take me the longest. I don’t think I know anyone else who has as many little random things saved to their computer. Seriously. It’s bad. And a lot of it happened even after I knew Pinterest was a thing.

In my defense, a lot of the things are artwork related. I have folders and folders of art inspiration and tutorials to aid in my own digital painting, and I use them frequently, but they are a mess.

First things first, you guessed it: purge. Chuck out all that stuff you don’t need. Got a lot of random images? Open them up and delete or sort as you look. Another good idea is to have a folder on your desktop that you save things to, rather than saving things directly to the desktop. I don’t always have time to save things properly, or I’m just lazy. One of the two. So putting everything into a sort of “sort me” folder and then making myself organize it once a week is much better than half my desktop being covered in icons.

Ready to organize digital files on your desktop? Start with broad topic folders to clear up space. Here’s what my desktop looked like:

5 Ways to Declutter and Organize Digital Files | Mommy is a Nerd

Wallpaper by Sakimichan, who is one of my favorite artists.

Not looking too terrible, but there’s certainly a lot that could be improved. Here’s how it looks now:

5 Ways to Declutter and Organize Digital Files | Mommy is a Nerd

Not a huge change, of course, but I pinned all the shortcuts I regularly use down in my taskbar, and then deleted the shortcuts off the desktop. Most of the random little folders got sent to “Misc Crap” (note to self: think of a better name for that folder) and then will be further sorted when I get to that folder. I wanted to have just the one column of folders, and it worked out perfectly for the things I wanted on my desktop.

Here’s where it gets fun: inside each of those folders, I need to sort the contents into subfolders. For example, inside Misc Crap there’s a “My Artwork” folder, which is further divided into In Progress, Digital Painting, Sketches, and Pixel Art.

5. Uninstall programs you don’t use or need.

Before you start this, please be sure to Google anything you don’t know what it is, because it could be important to your computer.

To uninstall programs on Windows 10, go to the start menu, Settings > System > Apps and Features, and there’ll be a list of all the apps and programs you have on your computer. Next, you just scroll through and click on each item you don’t want, and uninstall. Make sure you don’t uninstall something you need or could possibly use!

5 Ways to Declutter and Organize Digital Files | Mommy is a Nerd

As you can see, I had Candy Crush on my computer, although I don’t recall ever downloading it. So I got rid of that, and then went through and picked out more things I never use.

And that’s it!

I have a feeling this is going to take me all week, if not longer. The amount of stuff I have is totally ridiculous. Mike thinks I’m a pack rat when it comes to craft supplies, but if he ever saw my computer files he’d probably have a heart attack.

How messy is your computer? What steps do you take to combat digital clutter?

Mommy is a Nerd


Speak Your Mind