Why are you hanging on to all the digital debris?

Is your life cluttered with digital chaos? Can’t remember where you put that file? Are you constantly sorting through thousands of photos looking for that one you took on vacation five years ago or maybe eight? Even if you’ve decluttered the rest of your life by following the Marie Kondo method, I’m betting you’re digital life is in just as much chaos as your closet was before Marie stepped in.

The rapid advance of technology has changed the way we deal with our data. Gone are the days of conserving film and only snapping 24 photos on vacation, then meticulous placing only the “good” photos in albums. Now we snap 24 pics per second and hang on to all of them. Just in case. In case of what I’m not sure?

You might argue the photos make you happy, or you’re keeping them to pass on to your kids someday. But the reality is you probably can’t remember where your favorites are anyway and your kids don’t want to sort through 10,000 photos of the animals at the zoo and pretty flowers when you’re dead. The kids will have their own mountain of clutter to deal with some day.

So what do you do with all the photos?

First, let’s talk about how you store them. You need a system. img_233.jpg makes sense to no one. But naming all the photos takes time. Instead, I recommend filing your photos. Systematically.

Create a folder named 2019. Within that folder create a subfolder named for the year and the month and the main subject of the photos… 2019_01 Europe. Put all your photos from your January Europe trip in that folder. If you go somewhere else in January, make another folder 2019_01 Disneyland. Put all your Disneyland photos in that folder.

Make the folder names descriptive enough that you know what’s in them. In this way, you simply need to glance at each year to find the Disney vacation and the exact photo you were looking for.

Why lead with the year when labeling folders?

If you don’t lead with the year, the order will get all messed up when you hit October and your list will end up looking like this…

 — 1
 — 10
 — 11
 — 12
 — 2

You might accidentally drag 10 into another year. But by prefacing with the year, you can get that folder right back where it belongs. Leading with the year and using a double-digit month, your list will end up looking like this…

 — 2019_01 Disneyland
 — 2019_01 Europe
 — 2019_02 Dad’s birthday
 — 2019_04 Easter

Neat and tidy, just the way Marie would appreciate.

Does it really matter that you went to Europe before Disneyland in January? Maybe it does right now for all you perfectionists out there, but in five years no one will care.

Alternatively, if you have all the time in the world to sift through your photos, look at each one and ask yourself if it still sparks joy in your life. My guess is after a few hundred the answer will be “no.”

See Also: Digital Declutter – Email

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