version 1.0 (18 Oct 2017)
I’ve spent a great amount of my life organizing and helping people get organized and be more productive. Marie Kondo’s book “The life changing magic of tidying up” came at a very important time for me and helped making lots of changed in our household.
In my work, helping people be more productive and organized, lots of time is spent in the digital world, and less and less with papers, books, drawers and filling systems.
I thought it would be helpful to write a bit of my experience crossing these two worlds, as it can be useful for a lot of you out there too 🙂
How to apply the KonMari method in your computer
Let’s start with the basics. Marie Kondo suggests we always ask the question “does this item spark joy?”. Or, in other words, is this something we feel good in using? In your professional life and environment, you can’t always get rid of things just because they don’t spark joy. So keep in mind you might need to rephrase that to “is this needed/useful for my work?”
The step by step procedure as laid out by Marie goes as follows:
- Clothes (things we use)
- Books (things we read)
- Papers and documents (things we might need)
- Miscellaneous / emotional items (other stuff)
Ok, now let’s translate these steps to the digital world:
- Applications (things we use)
- Ebooks, bookmarks, rss feeds, documentation (things we read)
- Downloads, less important docs, other files (things we might need)
- Photos, music, videos (emotional items)
She also points out several small tips, one of which is particularly useful for tidying up our digital environments: reducing noise. I’ll write a section on that in the end.
Step 1 – Applications
Most people tend to download, install and try lots of applications and forget to remove them when not needed. Like clothes, they also tend to occupy lots of space.
Remember to apply the same thought process as when you KonMari your clothes. Don’t cling to things just because you think one day you “might need”. In the digital world it’s even easier to get it back later.
If you haven’t used an application in the last 2 months, chances are you don’t need it. In doubt, remove it.
- Start button → Control Panel → Programs → Programs and Features
- Scroll through the whole list, and uninstall applications you no longer need
- Open your Applications folder via the Finder
- Scroll through the whole list, and move to the trash applications you no longer need
- Using your distribution’s package manager might be an overload since there is no way to filter “apps” from all the other packages (some exceptions apply). So you might want to browse them using a simple menu like those found in desktop environments like KDE, GNOME or Xfce.
- Use the package manager or the command line to remove applications you no longer need.
Step 2 – Ebooks, bookmarks, feeds, docs
Marie Kondo wants you to be realistic about the books you really need and will read, and get rid of the rest. There’s a lot in this category so let’s go step by step.
If you have an ebook reader, keep in storage the books you are reading, the ones you want to read next. There’s really no reason to keep your device (and screen) filled with stuff you don’t need. Besides, with the widespread of wifi networks, you can easily connect and download older books again.
Keeping books because you took notes or highlighted certain parts of it? Perhaps you can move those parts to a better place to hold, manipulate and share text (think evernote, pocket, your own doc in google drive, etc)
No ebook reader but lots of ebooks in pdf or other formats? First have a folder to hold all your ebooks in a centralized place. You can create subfolders to keep it more organized if you feel like it (barely needed). So, things like “tech”, “cooking”, “diy”, etc.
You can also use an ebook manager(Calibre is free) to help you manage and syncronize ebooks with your devices (or read in your pc if you don’t have an ereader)
Bookmarks tend to polarize people into two extremes. On one side, there’s just so much new content everyday that people have given up bookmarking. On the other side, some people like to bookmark everything and end up with a very messy browser toolbar or bookmark menu.
If you use a bookmark bar in your browser, my suggestion is to keep it very simple, and only with the bookmarks that you need to access on a daily/regular basis. Examples: email, blog backoffice, company login, document you are working on, online documentation you are reading.
Everything else, can be moved to the bookmark menus in a structured way. Come up with an hierarchy of folders that make sense for you, and then one-by-one, move the bookmarks to the respective places.
I also suggest that rename some of them, as most of the times the bookmarks are not easy to understand with just a quick glance. Example: “Inbox – email@example.com ” to “Email”
Here are a few suggested folders, but your mileage may vary
- Great portfolios
- Online shops
Create an healthy habit: when you bookmark a new website, take 5 seconds to immediately put it in the right folder and give it an easy to recognize title. Most browser will allow you to do this when bookmarking.
Much like for bookmarks, I recommend organizing your feeds in an hierarchical structure of folders (I hope your reader supports this). You can use the suggested list above in the exact same way.
As you organize, just remember to ask yourself if that feed is really worth having. When I see that I skip many articles of the same feed, I unsubscribe. This is because I read my feeds daily, so I’m very selective of what goes in through that channel. If I feel it has some good content once in a while and I don’t want to loose it completely, I bookmark the website instead.
We are currently in level 2 (thins we read), so read “documents” as “files I need to read/use very regularly”.
For this, I recommend having a simple “Documents” folder, with logical subfolders:
- My company
- My blog
- Project X
This “Documents” folder should not have many things in it, remember it is for things which you use regularly. Everything else will come in the next category
Step 3 – Downloads, other docs and files
I do a lot of downloads every day: small files, audio samples, photos, zips, software to try. As you can imagine my download folder ends up growing at a very fast pace. But that’s ok, because it’s all centralized and so it is easier to clean up.
I’ve seen people who download things to different places all the time, that’s a big mistake. Make sure your browser always downloads to the same folder (which should be called “Downloads” and live in your main home folder).
After downloading, you can rename/move/extract the file to its final place. Believe me, it’s 5 extra seconds that are worth it.
I usually have my download folder in a “list view” mode, sorted by modification date. So all my new downloads are always at the top, and very easy to find. It’s also very easy to go to the bottom of the list to find the old stuff and clean it out. Don’t let temporary junk (downloads) bleed into the rest of your file system.
Other docs and files
Although this might seem strange to some, in my experience this is what worked best for me: replicating a paper archive in a digital format.
For that, I have a main folder called “Archive”. I then populate that folder with a folder for each letter “A”, “B”, “C”, and one “#s” for numbers.
All of my misc files, documents and other stuff that I want to keep, find their way into this archive. Just ask the question “if I need this file again, what will be the title/word I’ll be thinking of?”, and move it into that folder. Also, make sure to rename the file if it’s name is not completely obvious.
You can also create subfolders inside the letter folders, for a more precise archival. For instance, “contracts” inside letter “C”.
I can guarantee that you’ll find what you need quite fast. Besides, with today’s search engines built-in in all operating systems, it’s super easy to find files. Having them neatly organized in folders like this really simplifies things.
My advice is to keep in this Archive only the files which you do not need to access regularly. Everything else should be in the “Documents” (read the previous section).
It’s also good to once or twice a year(not more) go through it all and get rid of files you no longer need, but tend to forget.
Photos, music, videos
Let’s begin this section by creating (if you don’t have them already) three main folders for “Photos”, “Music” and “Videos”. And make sure you keep things centralized using these folders.
With the advent of digital media services like Spotify and cloud-based storage like iTunes and Google Photos, it becomes less and less relevant to organize things in your computer.
All the major cloud-storage providers offer 5gb for free, and lots of Gb for just a dollar or two a month.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Use “play count” or “last played” filters to delete songs you no longer listen to or care about
- unless you don’t have one, upload all the important photos and videos you take to your cloud storage (like Google Photos or Apple iCloud).
- it’s easy to have gazillions of photos, some of them pretty much the same. Choose the best and delete the rest
- Whatever you store in your computer, keep it hierarchically organized like the Archive in the previous section. Videos can have subcategories like “funny videos”, “music clips”, “camera shots”, “interviews”, “timelapses”, etc.
The Photos folder can have an hierarchy based on albums, year or place. Use whatever is logical to you. I recommend not using more than one criteria because it might be harder to find things out later when you don’t remember where you placed them.
Reduce the noise
In Marie Kondo’s book she only scratches this topic slightly, but I think it has a lot of weight on how we feel and perceive things around us. Most people’s computer tend to have a lot of visual noise which, knowingly or not, doesn’t help in achieving a calm and peaceful environment to work and enjoy the things you want to enjoy.
Here’s what I recommend you to do:
- When you open your computer, your Desktop is the first thing you see, much like when you arrive home. Keep it clean and pleasant. Find a soothing wallpaper, or a picture that sparks joy and/or peace. Keep your desktop clear of useless icons. (absolutely don’t download things to your desktop!). If you use the desktop as a quick-way to reach some files I suggest that you at least create some folders to have those files in. In that manner the desktop will have very few icons and still be useful to you.
- Remove useless shortcuts for your taskbar/dock. Keep it clean.
- Clean the visual noise in your browser too:
- take care of the bookmarks (2nd section)
- remove unneeded toolbars or toolbar buttons
- remove unneeded extensions or plugins that clog the interface with icons and menus
- use an ad-blocker like uBlock origin to help you remove excessive ads and popups from websites
Phew this was longer than I expected.
There are a few more things I’d like to add (like email management), so I’ll probably update this post at a later date (and that’s why I added a post “version” on top).
Feel free to comment and also to give your suggestions on how to improve this guide.
Thanks for reading!