Digital clutter is a perennial problem for anyone looking to ‘get organised’  & can lead to distraction, in some cases even a slower computer. Here’s how you can fix the problem.

Photo Credit: iloveui

Photo Credit: iloveui

Digital files, the life blood of your computer, are often beyond number. The average user now downloads hundreds (if not thousands) of files every month. Most of the time, despite the best of intentions, a lot of it is simply not going to be sorted away properly.

While for some this isn’t such a big deal, digital clutter of the desktop can be a distraction, both aesthetically and practically, with many users reporting less productivity and in some cases, a slower computer. It seems that for your virtual desktop, like your real one, the cleaner it is, the more likely you are to get stuff done.

So, how can you fix the problem? You can do it the hard way (manually) or you can do it the easier way, with an app. Both of these have pros and cons which are worth considering.

The Manual Clean

Yes. This method is a pain. Depending on how much random junk you’ve left scattered across your virtual desk it can take you anywhere from minutes to hours of your life. Alas, there are no shortcuts. The one strategy that can help you start, however, is the sort and file.

The Sort and File Method

It’s time to divide and conquer. Without going into a long and painful process of sorting through each file individually, you can get the random stuff on your desktop into some workable categories.

– First, you’ll want to right click on your desktop and select order by type. This will divide your files into categories of images, doc files, pdfs and others.

– Once done, it’s a simple process of selecting and copying or simply dragging documents into folders. Images to your pictures folders, docs to your documents etc.

– When you’ve got them off your desktop, and no longer slowing down your computer or distracting you, you can take the time to sort through them.

If all of this sounds too much like a pain, there are some automated solutions, though they will cost you.

Auto-Sorting Apps

My file organiser of choice is Hazel for Mac OSX. It is one of the better solutions for dealing with file clutter. For windows users, see File Juggler at the bottom of this post.

Hazel is an app that can identity, label, rename and sort any and all files on your computer. The best part is, of course, that it does it all in the background. With Hazel, you create a few rules and then let it go to work.

For instance, I download a lot of research papers which I like to sync on my Google Drive, without having to manually move them every time I’m researching. So, I set up some rules for my main Downloads folder. In this case I tell Hazel to move .pdf files containing the word ‘journal’, into folder Uni > Downloads.

This means I always have access to my research no matter where I am, without having to sort through my files every time. Hazel can also rename pdfs, add finder tags or colours, or sort into a new folder based on the date. These are but a few of the features.

It’s a flexible program which is very, very useful for dealing with digital clutter. The one downside is the cost, which currently stands at $28 US. However, you can download a free trial and check it out before committing to purchase it.

If you’re a windows user, the nearest equivalent to hazel is File Juggler, which has many of the same features including file sorting and the capacity to scan document content for keywords.



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