If you’re like me, your desktop probably doesn’t look like this most of the time. In fact, if you’re anything like me, it probably looks more like this.
As part of Operation: Clean Out The Engine Sludge, I recently reorganized my entire computer and put every last file away where it belonged. If you’re thinking, gosh, that sounds like a lot of work, it is. It took me about 2-3 hours and freed up about 10 gigabytes in space, but it was well worth it.
Today I thought I’d share with you how I organize the files on my computer in a way that makes them easy to find again, even if I leave them there and forget about them for months. I call it the “How To Organize Your Computer And Still Remember Where You Put Everything” system, or “The Alphabetical Reference System” for short.
What it looks like
In expanded list view:
In icon view:
How it works
Everything is contained within one folder. In this example, the aforementioned folder is labeled “reference”. Within the reference folder, there are 26 folders, one for each letter of the alphabet. This is the basic structure of this organizational system.
Why this way versus another?
Before I organized my files using this system, I would try to organize my files by relation. For example: If I had a folder full of files related to business cards, I would put it under a file labeled “print work” in My Documents. The path to this file would then look like this:
Chanel > My Documents > Print Work.
But then a problem comes up. If I have an existing folder labeled with my company name (e.g., “XanGo”) and some of these business card templates are for my company, should I put the business card file under “print work” or “XanGo”? Should it be:
Chanel > My Documents > XanGo > Business Cards? What happens if I leave this file alone for several months and forget where I put it—when I go to look for it, where I will look first?
The idea behind this organizational system is to “file away” all your files in the most natural, easy to recall places.
If you’re looking for the file “business cards”, you look under “B” for business cards:
Chanel > Reference > B > Business Cards.
If you save funny things on the internet to your computer, you file it under “F” for funny:
Chanel > Reference > F > Funny internet finds.
You label your files the way you will remember them, in places that seem most nature to find them.
How to make it for yourself
You can make this folder directly in your user account,
For Windows: C:/WINDOWS/Documents & Settings/Chanel/
For Macs: Macbook Pro > Users > Chanel
Or your can use your documents folder as the reference folder:
For Windows: C:/WINDOWS/Documents & Settings/Chanel/My Documents
For Macs: Macbook Pro > Users > Chanel > Documents
Once you have your main folder ready, make sure it is blank and ready for you to create 26 folders, one for each letter of the alphabet. Create a folder, label it “A”. Create a folder, label it “B”. Create a folder, label it “C”, etc. etc. until you have the entire alphabet.
Once these folders are done, you are ready to start filing away all those stray files on your computer.
How to use it
Like any organizational system, it only works if you use it. The idea behind the success of this system is to file files away in the appropriate place when you save them, not when you desktop becomes completely covered in icons.
For example, I take lots of notes on my laptop. I would then file these notes away under “N”, like such:
Chanel > Reference > N > Notes
From there, you can separate further organize the types of notes into different folders: School notes, work notes, seminar notes, etc.
Take lots of pictures? Do this:
Chanel > Reference > P > Photos
Download the photos from your camera to this parent folder, creating a new folder each time you upload a new batch of photos. I’ve organized my original photos by date:
The file path for all the photos I took on December 5, 2008 would then be:
Chanel > Reference > P > Photos > Originals > December 5, 2008
I’ve actually has this organizational system in place since I bought my Macbook Pro—so almost a year now—but I must admit that I haven’t always used it to its full capacity. This was not my original idea; I actually created this organizational system on my computer after googling ways to organize files and stumbling across an article on this alphabetical method. I would give credit where credit is due,
but unfortunately, I cannot for the life of me seem to find that article anywhere. (ETA December 12th, 2009 – I finally came across the website where I first learned about this filing system; the original idea comes from here.)
What kind of system do you use to organize your files on your computer? How is it working?