Digital Clutter

I must constantly battle clutter. Clutter seems to have a life of its own and seems to spontaneously increase. A small stack of papers soon turns into a large pile that takes more time and effort to organize. “Digital Clutter” has many of the same characteristics as physical clutter and includes digital photos, electronic records, emails, etc.

Some digital clutter, such as an email Inbox, is annoying but not too dangerous. If your computer crashes then those emails are probably stored on a server. Other types of digital clutter are not forgiving. Most people have LOTS of digital images stored in a computer (often in multiple folders), in the device, on memory cards, etc. If the device or computer died or was stolen then those images could be lost forever.

Digital clutter includes:

  • Images still in the camera
  • Images in multiple places on one or more computers
  • Images stored on CDs, memory cards, thumb drives, etc.
  • Duplicate and unsorted images
  • Massive numbers of emails

The problem of digital clutter is curable. Getting digital clutter under control may seem like a daunting task but it is actually many small tasks. Tackle each small task one by one and you will be amazed as how much progress you will make. Just devote a little time each day, stick to it, and soon you will slay the digital clutter monster. Organization of your digital assets is key to eliminating digital clutter. Once your images are organized it easy to keep them organized. Use the S.O.S. method to combat digital clutter:

  • Create a Single “Photo” folder for your images (makes them easier to work with).
  • Organize photos by moving them to a temporary #Todo folder in the Photo folder.
  • Sort your photos by date, event, person, place, type, etc.

Now that the basics are in place take the next steps:

  • Group your images using sub-folders or by renaming them.
  • Delete images that are nearly identical — you do not need multiple copies of the same image. Be brutal and very selective. Deleting images can be very difficult. Start by deleting images that are obviously sub-par. Images usually become less important over time. Revisit folders later and remove more of the less-than-stellar images.
  • Be picky and consider deleting inferior versions of the same image. For example, you might have a folder with pictures of the Seattle Space Needle. As you take new Space Needle photos review the similar images and keep the best ones. This reduces the number of images and your images should get progressively better over time.

Deleting images is difficult. I have seen video cameras that record hours of footage for an event. This very long video will probably never be watched in its entirety but a very short video with the best moments might be watched over and over. The same is true for photos. It is unlikely that you will view hundreds of images from an event. If you carefully selected the best 20-30 images then you are much more likely to view them. When organizing strive for image quality rather than quantity. Periodically review past photos and delete the inferior ones. Images may seem fantasic when shot but they may become uninteresting over time.

This article is a very high-level overview. A professional photo organizer can help get your clutter under control. One huge problem with digital clutter is the risk losing your images if something bad happens. Feel free to contact me for help with digital clutter.