Cluttered computer
Packrats and computers don’t mix
The electronic packrat is here. It had to happen eventually. It’s so tempting to keep everything that you have ever written, received or downloaded because they consume no visible space, can be stored instantly and are hidden from the prying eyes of others. Computers are becoming so cluttered that locating a specific file is like trying to find a postage stamp among a truckload of trivia.
Just because you have an apparently unlimited amount of storage space doesn’t mean you should keep everything. Filing too much has its consequences, the greatest of which is lost time. The more you file, the longer it takes to retrieve something. Time is wasted opening the wrong folders and documents, misfiling, naming and renaming and scrolling through hundreds of titles.
Are you an electronic packrat? Here are a few indicators:

  • Opening folders within folders on your computer reminds you of a bottomless pit.
  • It takes over 5 seconds just to read the titles of all the folders that you have created on your desktop.
  • You spend 5 minutes or more each day searching for documents that you recently created.
  • When filing, your word processing program keeps telling you that there’s already a document by the same name.
  • The list of documents in one folder fills the entire depth of the window.
  • The dates that many documents were created coincide with the year you bought the computer.
  • You can’t remember having written many of the documents that you open.
  • You sometimes open folders to find they are empty or open documents that are blank.
  • You have identical documents with different headings.
  • There are documents that you haven’t opened since you first filed them.

Don’t keep a copy of every e-mail you send or receive. Purge your electronic filing cabinets on a regular basis. Check the dates and delete routine correspondence that is over a year old if you haven’t needed to refer to it in the meantime.
A better idea might be to use the self-destruct method. That’s where you add a delete date to the heading at the time you file it. The best time to make a decision as to how long you will keep something is at the time you create it or receive it. Every 6 months or so you could delete everything whose delete date has expired without even opening it. If you decide to keep something forever, leave off the date.
A packrat is someone who keeps things that are no longer used. If you have never had to access a file in over a year, you are probably safe in deleting it. If in doubt, throw it out. Or more accurately, to keep it neat, delete. Don’t let your computer be a dumping ground for useless, redundant or outdated information.