Winter is nearly over, and the advent of spring offers up a chance at renewal. Just as nature signals the change of seasons, spring is a great time for us to signal change in our own lives by clearing out clutter that’s collected in our offices, homes, and beyond. The typical thought behind spring cleaning of this sort is that we do it only in our physical space – which is, of course, a great place to start. Beyond the obvious, I encourage you to take a good look at the clutter in your digital domain – the disorganized files on your computer, the unread and unprocessed email, the thousands of never-categorized photos, and so on – and look for ways to clear out your digital detritus. Here are a few ways to get started:

Keep the treasures, dump the rest. It’s easy to collect documents, files, photos, media, and just about everything else on your computer and never clear things out. Unlike paper files or other types of clutter, it’s much easier to hide unorganized files on the computer – so we have to be deliberate about keeping our hard drives clean. Deleting unneeded files on our computer can help free up hard drive space, which can make finding the documents we’re actually looking for a bit easier. Start by looking for the largest files on your computer – you can use the built-in search tools in most operating systems to search by file size. Look for the biggest space hogs, and if you don’t need those large files, consider deleting them. Also look for duplicate copies, multiple unnecessary versions, and out-of-date documents. These are all good candidates for the recycle bin or trash.

Freshen up your file system. Your computer can become a giant repository of valuable documents, an enormous virtual junk drawer, and everything in between. Make it more of the former rather than the latter by setting up document folders organized by categories that make sense for you. If you’re making changes, you can even mirror your paper filing system’s folder names and structure to maintain consistency across your systems. Delete or archive old folders that no longer are relevant or make sense for your current needs.

What’s in a name? On the computer, it’s essential to name your files with descriptive titles, including a description of the content of the document, version, date of relevance, and so on (for instance “Profit and Loss Statement, 2010-02-31, v1.xls”), instead of a short but unclear name (“P&Lstat.xls”). Choose what elements you’ll have in your file names, and make that a standard moving forward. You’ll save yourself lots of time by having truly descriptive names – that way, you won’t have to open and close a bunch of confusingly-named files in a folder trying to find the one that you’re looking for. I don’t expect you to go and rename thousands of old files right now. Instead, as you go through your existing folders and files, start renaming the ones you use all the time with this new format, and as you create new files, name them in this manner as well.

Of course, you can’t do all of these computer-cleanup projects at once. Instead, pick a topic to start with, and devote just 15 minutes a day to working on it. In no time, your computer will have space to spare!

Author's Bio: 

Joshua Zerkel, CPO® is the founder of Custom Living Solutions, a San Francisco-based productivity and organizing consulting firm. Joshua specializes in helping busy entrepreneurs save time, be more productive and make more money by getting organized at home and at work. Visit for your FREE copy of “The Top 12 Mistakes to Avoid when Getting Organized”.