After I read Marie Kondo’s books The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up and Spark Joy and tidied my home last year, my next step was digital files. Kondo’s books don’t explain how to tidy digital files, but her methods can still be incorporated–here are some tips for tidying your digital files with the KonMari method.
Commit to tidying
The first rule of tidying is that you need to commit to tidying and get it all done without giving up.
I’ll be the first to admit I am guilty of not following this for digital files, but it’s a good idea. I was able to tidy my digital documents within a day or two, but since I have so many photos (50,000+), the thought of tidying them was daunting, and I lost momentum and gave up on my digital files after documents. I wish I had just started though, because I’m working on my photos now (a year later)…and if I wouldn’t have put it off, I’d be done by now!
Imagine your ideal hard drive
The second rule of tidying is to imagine your ideal lifestyle–or in this case, your ideal hard drive. For me, this meant imagining having everything organized on a single hard drive, so that I can then back-up that hard drive consistently and ensure that all of my files are protected. I also imagined a life without the stress of wondering if my near death laptop and old hard drives contain any important documents or photos that I could end up losing any day. Imaging an organized digital file system can help you get motivated to tidy.
Tidy your files by category (not location)
As with physical objects, digital files should be tidied by category–documents, photos, videos, etc. I decided to start with documents because they are less sentimental and easier to deal with.
Within each category, such as documents, you should again tidy by category, not location. This means all of your resumes or business documents should be gathered and tidied, for example, rather than trying to tidy based on file location such as documents on your PC hard drive, documents on an old laptop, documents on various flash drives, etc. If you gather everything from one category together first, you can easily eliminate duplicates and won’t waste time deleting things twice.
To do this, consolidate all of your digital documents into one place/hard drive in a master folder, gathering them from old hard drives, flash drives, Dropbox/online storage or anywhere you have documents saved. Then quickly sort them into categories like resumes, financial documents, creative writing etc. so that you can start going through them by category, but don’t spend much time organizing them, as you’ll get to that after deleting files. Put documents that don’t have an obvious category in a miscellaneous folder.
Once you have the files roughly sorted, work through each category–see how many files you have (probably too many) and decide which files to keep and which to discard. There aren’t guidelines as to what order to work through categories (and it depends on what you have), but I recommend starting with business type documents first and save more sentimental things for last.
Since most documents don’t spark joy, focus on deleting outdated documents, anything you don’t need anymore, duplicates, etc. When going through my files, I realized I had many outdated resumes and only kept the more recent ones, for example. Obviously keep anything you will need like tax documents and current business documents.
When it comes to more sentimental documents–which for me was old college essays, poems, and stories I’ve written, you can perform the joy check by quickly reading or looking over the documents to see if they spark joy. I found that most of my poems still spark joy for me and discarded few of these, but I discarded many school assignments and less creative writing. I also got rid of various file duplicates and chose the best or more recent version of poems and stories when I had multiple drafts.
Organize after deleting
Once you’ve deleted the files you don’t need or want to keep anymore, you can better organize the files you’re left with. I recommend keeping all of your files organized on one hard drive, and then backing that up somewhere else, like another hard drive, cloud storage. etc. Ideally you should have a third off-location back-up as well if possible. Try to delete files you don’t need anymore frequently so they don’t pile up again, and only save documents you really need.
Once you’ve tidied your documents, you can move on to photos. Stay tuned for part two for tips on how to tidy digital photos using the KonMari method!