Decluttering and Organizing Your Digital Space

Overwhelmed by your digital life? Take control! Here is my checklist for digital file management and eliminating clutter. This rumination inspired by Doug "Blue Skunk" Johnson's blog post, A Clutter-Free 2015?
Note: I wrote this while listening to Lindsey Sterling's beautiful violin playing!

De-cluttering my environment--physical or digital--remains a long-term goal and to that end, I have come up with my own checklist. It may not be incredibly original, but flows from the needs each of us to organize the digital flotsam and jetsam that washes up on our shores. After all, who wants a bunch of junk crowding around you, imposing on your space, catching dust?

Since I've already written much about how I accomplish these goals I've included links to my "how to" blog entries, hoping you will find them helpful. Since there are many ways to get things done, I've included a few of my favorites. I include my "go-to" tools at the end of the email for daily work in case the list is too overwhelming.

Here's my checklist for getting organized:
  1. Re-organize my digital files, moving them into their appropriate "buckets" such as Work, Photos, Consulting, etc. Tools I've used include the following:
    1. File Commanders: 
      1. Midnight Commander (GNU/Linux), 
      2. FastCommander (Mac), 
      3. FreeCommander (Windows)
    2. Compression Software (e.g. zip, 7z)
      1. PEAZIP (cross-platform)
      2. Keka (Mac)
  2. Backup all my cloud storage sites, dumping the temporary files I typically place online for various creative projects. Tools I've used to make this easier include:
    1. Cloud Backup
      1. CloudHQ - Makes it easy to copy/move content from one Gmail account to another. Use this link if interested, please.
      2. BitTorrent Sync - an easy way to backup all your large videos and photos off your mobile device, as well as have a "private cloud"* backup (*using the term loosely here)
      3. Google Takeout - When you just want to have an "out-of-the-cloud" experience with your data. Saved all my Google Drive data to local hard drive.
  3. Save images/photos to the Cloud. Although Facebook and Instagram are fun image sites for quick sharing with family and friends, I prefer something a little more robust to back images up to. Of course, I keep a copy of all pictures handy on external USB drives, but Flickr is my go-to backup site. I've noticed folks playing around with SmugMug, but to be honest, it's too easy to switch then realize you should have "stuck" with one service. Flickr is easy, widely-supported and most of my content is already there.
  4. Double-check confidential files to make sure they are all encrypted individually and stored on encrypted drives. Tools I used to accomplish this include the following:
    1. - Free, open source tool I use daily.
    2. ParanoiaWorks' Secure Space Encryptor - Cross-platform tool that works great to encrypt individual files AND folders, which is a rarity among encryption tools.
  5. Digitize content and dump paper. I use Evernote for this and it works great! Shred old files using one of the recommended programs:
    1. Windows: File Shredder
    2. Mac: Secure empty trash then erase free space
    3. Linux: Secure-delete
  6. Change and securely store my passwords to critical services, ensuring the email I use for certain accounts is different than my popularly known email account (e.g. "mguhlin at gmail"). Here are six steps to take to protect yourself, as well as a quick list of tools I use for this include the following:
    1. Keepass Password Manager
    2. and/or for encrypted email.
  7. Dump print books, switch to digital, DRM-free ebooks. I have quite an extensive collection of print books (or did since I've been weeding them out over the last few years). Every year, I accumulate some more but try to get rid of all the extraneous books (sorry, authors) and dump them at Half-Price Books for pennies (sigh). I've made great progress and now only have my "special" available in print only books to safeguard. These are books that are gifts and I want to keep for sentimental value.
    1. A great list of Digital Rights Management (DRM) Free ebooks
    2. Five Reasons to Liberate Your DRM eBooks and this provocative post at Operator Beats.
  8. Backup my Blogger blog to Wordpress friendly format: Since Google suspended my Blogger-based blog a few years ago, shortly after I became a Google-Certified-Teacher (GCT) no joke, then re-instated, I have been careful to make frequent backups of my blog and import it into ( Backing up (Go to Settings-->Other-->Export Blog at top of page) is pretty easy these days from Blogger.

My Go-To Tools:
Copying and moving files can get to be a pain using a GUI so I find it easier to use a file manager.
Since I spend most of my time on LubuntuLinux, my file commander of choice is Midnight Commander. It took me awhile to get comfortable with it, but it reminds me of my old DOS days with Directory Freedom. On Mac, I use Fast Commander.

For encrypting confidential data, I rely on SSE for files and folders. It works great and I can always unencrypt content on my phone if needed.

My password manager of choice is Keepass. It's free, open source, and works fine. On Chromebooks, I rely on BrowsePass, a Chrome add-on that lets you open your Keepass2 kdbx files.

For cloud backup, GoogleTakeout is great for GoogleApps, but I rely on CloudHQ for all the other stuff (and Google, too). It works great and I highly recommend it!

Tools I haven't Tried Yet but Want To:
These are tools I'd like to use but haven't had a chance to:
  • VeraCrypt Disk Encryption - This is a possible cross-platform replacement for TrueCrypt, which you may recall went belly-up for unknown reasons.
  • ParanoiaWorks' Text Encryption on iOS - Although I'm a heavy SSE user on Mac, Windows, Linux and Android, I haven't yet tried Text Encryption on my iOS device (e.g. iPad).
  • Some services similar to CloudHQ: Although I've used services like Otixo and MultiCloud, it's important to revisit them from time to time because they have new features! For example, Otixo added Flickr support while I was writing this blog entry!

Something New I Learned While Writing This Post:
I had no idea you can re-color an image in GoogleDraw! What a neat trick to be aware about...pretty cool! You can see I've selected cardboard box (which started out brown, by the way) and can color it. This works with images you insert from anywhere on the web! What a neat way to make an image one's own!!

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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure


doug0077 said…
HI Miguel,

You have a lot more to organize than I do! Good advice. I would only add that a separate back up needs to be made for some of these things as well. I do trust my cloud-based storage services, but I also like having my important stuff on an external hard drive in a desk drawer. Thanks for taking my idyll ramblings and running with them. Have a great new year!


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