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Cut back on frustration and stress by learning how to organize computer files and other important virtual documents.

how to organize computer files

Have you ever thought about how to organize computer files more productively? With an increasing amount of documents on our computers, having a plan to regularly clean up files and photos is becomingly increasingly important.

Anyone who has lost treasured pictures or important documents would tell you to take the necessary steps now to save yourself potential heartache or frustration down the road. Overly cluttered and disorganized computer files can not only cause frustration, decreased productivity and stress in life, but computer clutter can even slow the computer itself.

I’m a more visual than a technical person. If you are like me, you might feel overwhelmed when trying to figure out how to keep your computer files safe and organized. Here are the best tips I’ve come up with for how to organize computer files. These ideas will help get you started and inspire you to declutter your most important documents.

1. Have a backup plan when organizing computer files.

I highly recommend backing up your photos and files in multiple locations. Most of us upload our pictures to our computer, but if the hard drive crashes, you may lose them all.

Knowing your files are in multiple locations will give you peace of mind and a way to recover them in the event of a computer failure or other disaster. I use an external hard drive to back up my photos (the specific one I use is listed in my online shop under “blogging tools”). It works automatically to save files when it is plugged into my computer.

There are also some online options. I’ve heard many people like to use an online service called Carbonite. I personally use Dropbox, an easy way to store photos or documents online and keep them organized. A great feature of Dropbox is the option to share large image files with others easily. I’m able to create specific folders to store images and then choose which of those folders I want to share. If you are a Mac user, you can have your files automatically shared to iCloud.

2. Declutter and identify computer files as you go.

how to organize computer files

Once you’ve taken the initial time to get your files and photos organized and saved to an external source, start new organizational habits going forward. Figuring out how to organize computer files will be much easier in the future if you regularly delete what you don’t need. This will prevent the clutter before it happens. For example, delete blurry photos or documents you don’t need to save right away.

If you don’t have time to delete as you go, set aside specific times of the year to go through photos, so they don’t become overwhelming. Set a periodic calendar reminder on your phone so you don’t forget.

Each time you import items, take a few minutes to name your documents and photos with short, concise, but useful names. Remember in time that a title like “birthday party” won’t be as useful or easy to locate as “Grandpa’s 80th birthday”.

3. Do a desktop cleanup once a day.

I quickly get overwhelmed if my computer desktop gets filled up with random documents and disorganized folders. It only takes a few minutes each day to look over what has landed on my desktop. Then, I delete unnecessary documents, rename what I want to keep and put them into useful folders.

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I suggest you keep only five or six folders on the desktop with items you may need to use or access regularly. You’ll save time every day by keeping only a few general folders on the desktop rather than dozens of options.

Organize and name your files with easy-to-use general category names according to what you need to access and store. Before you end the day, tidy up the desktop so you can feel organized when you start the new day!

4. Follow current best practices to avoid clutter.

tips for how to organize your computer files

I previously used folders on my computer to store all of my inspiration pictures or documents with links to ideas, sites or recipes that I wanted to remember. But now there is an easier way.

Pinterest is a fun way to find inspiration. I can also categorize and save specific links to inspirational blog posts, recipes or photos I might want to refer to later. I love that I can keep those types of documents organized online without having them clutter up my computer’s storage.

5. Be efficient with computer file management.

When I upload my photos to iPhoto (which comes standard on my Mac), it automatically categorizes pictures by date. I can even set it up to categorize by specific faces it recognizes in each photo. It can also sort by the place the photo was taken. It will save you a lot of time if you let your programs organize photos for you!

Set aside some time to organize your computer, and I think you’ll find your mind and life will feel less cluttered, too.

Did we miss any tips for how to organize computer files? Feel free to share in the comments!

This post originally appeared on the Life Storage blog on 3/26/14 and was revised on 12/2/18 to provide new information.

About the Author

Melissa Michaels

Melissa Michaels is the author and creator of one of the top home decorating blogs on the web, The Inspired Room. She has been featured on such sites and publications as, Apartment Therapy, and Ladies Home Journal.

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