Digital Spring Cleaning

In preparation for my daughter coming home from her mission in 2 months (Yay!!!), I'm starting to feel the need for some spring cleaning. I want our house to look it's best and I feel like brightening the place up a bit. A little deep cleaning and decluttering makes a big impact! 

This is also true for my digital life. When I feel the creative doldrums setting in, I find that a little freshing up goes a long way. 

The first thing I always do when it comes time to get organized is to make sure my workspace is neat and tidy. I just can't be creative when I feel like I'm surrounded by chaos. I know that isn't true for everyone, but I do think it is important to have a clear path to your computer and plenty of elbow room around it. If you want more details about my office setup, check out this post.  I did switch to zinc countertops on my desk and I love them. 

Now that it feels good to sit down in front of my computer, it's time to get to some digi cleaning. I'm a bit of a fanatic for a clean desktop screen. I don't like it filled with random icons, I like a nice clean slate to start with. I find that if I have a pretty desktop background, I'm more likely to keep it neat and I also feel more inspired. I found my current wallpaper here but I also love sites like Simple Desktops and I watch Pinterest for other great resources.

The only icon I keep on my desktop is the recycle bin. Everything else is filed in one (or more) of the following places: download folder, documents folder, a folder on an external hard drive, and/or a folder in one of my cloud storage locations such as Dropbox or Google Photos. If you want to take a deep dive into my filing systems, check out my posts on organizing documents, managing dropbox, filing digital scrapbook supplies, organizing photos, and filing layouts. I try to stay organized, but I'll admit that my downloads folder can get out of hand in no time. I have to force myself to unzip kits and put away supplies and documents in their proper folders and make sure they are backed up. I do have a few folders that I automatically sync now with Google Photos and Dropbox just so I don't lose anything. If you want to learn how to use Google Photos, be sure to take the free Photo Fabulous course at Modern Photo Solutions. It is so helpful! 

I'm also quite picky about keeping my bookmark bar in order. I have created shortcuts and folders and I keep the names short or even delete the names and just use icons when possible. I use Google Chrome on Windows 10 and I regularly go to my bookmark manager and export my bookmarks to an html file to keep with my backups. If you haven't noticed, I'm a big fan of folders!

Email is another area that needs deep cleaning once in awhile. I use folders (big surprise) in my email to keep messages that I want to store long term. You would think I would be into the "inbox zero" approach where you don't keep anything in the actual inbox, but I don't roll that way. For me, my inbox is basically the home for my active projects or even a sort of to-do list. Of course, my goal is to get it to empty, but that rarely happens and it doesn't last long when I do get there. I know if my inbox starts getting too full that I better get busy working on the items that are in there!

I have several gmail addresses that I use for my various blogs and a personal email address at I don't think it matters what email service you use as long as it works for you and you have plenty of storage. I also think it's important that you have all of your email end up in one place. All of mine automatically forwards to my outlook account and I can manage it all from there (or in the outlook app on my devices). I can file messages in my folder structure and I can respond from each email account as if I were logged into it whether it be gmail or outlook. Take some time to figure out how to forward your emails and use a central location. Usually you can just Google how to do that. Here's an example of my folder structure and how it works. When I get an email about a sale or coupon I might want to use, I just put it in my coupon folder. Unless it's something I'm going to use right away. Then I keep it in my inbox.

I rarely go in and clean out this folder, but once in awhile when I have a minute or two, I will just browse through and delete the expired offers. Not really even necessary if you have plenty of storage space (which I do). One of the most useful folders I have is the one for orders. Every piece of mail I get about something I order online just gets filed there. You can even set up automatic rules to have this happen, but I like to see the messages come in to keep an eye on things. I go through the folder now and then to be sure all the orders have arrived and delete the correspondence that is no longer needed.

The last tasks I do to make sure my computer is nice and clean is to run a disk cleanup and/or empty my recycle bin. Make sure you are not storing unnecessary items on your hard drive where they take up space and make your computer run slower. If you have a lot of photos and/or digital supplies, you will need an external hard drive. And just a word of caution... computer hard drives fail and external hard drives fail. Make sure you store your photos and documents in more than one place! I like to have them in at least 2 places and I like one of those places to be in the cloud so they are offsite in case of a fire or house catastrophe.

I think you will be surprised at how much more productive you will be with an orderly digital system in place. Not only that, but you will feel happier and more peaceful when you log on to your computer or open up your email. Plus, I think it's a lot more fun to clean out a digital folder than it is to clean a toilet. This is the kind of spring cleaning you can do sitting on the couch!