Organizing your computer

Today I am welcoming my friend Marcia to the blog.  Marcia and I share a passion for organizing and became friends not too long after I started my blog.  Marcia is a time management and organizing coach in South Africa (which explains why her spelling is a little different than ours :)) and she really is an inspiration to me.  I’m so happy she has come by today to talk about the various ways we can declutter our computers.  Since our computers are such a big part of our home offices this is an area we definitely do not want to neglect.

Welcome Marcia!


Declutter your computer

Today I want to talk about an area of the office that may just be one of my favourite things to organise – your computer!

Because we can’t SEE computer clutter as obviously as we can see physical clutter, we often don’t realise it’s there but believe me, it’s still affecting you.

When you open your Inbox, you feel drained at the sight of all those emails, your computer runs slow because there’s so many photos on there (well, hello, they’ve been there for the last 3 years!) and when you click into your Google Reader, you can’t BELIEVE how much some people post because you went through your blogs for 3 hours yesterday and now there are 127 unread items yet again!

Sound familiar?

Let’s look at 4 places where you can declutter electronically:


How many blogs are you following in your Google Reader, Bloglines or other feed reader? Do you know how long you take to read all of those blogs every day?

Take some time to go through and declutter those you tend to skim over. Get to know your comfort number. Mine is around 42 – 45 and I know when I start adding more and more blogs without deleting any, I start feeling more and more overwhelmed at the sight of all those unread items!

Free downloads

We women like free things, don’t we? As a result, we download anything and everything we can find that’s for free. If it’s free, it’s got to be good, right? Right?

No, actually, it’s not all good. Not only are you cluttering up your computer but you can’t possibly use all the things that are out there because we’re living in an information overload society.

At one point I had about 6 different grocery shopping lists on my computer (all free downloads). None of them quite worked for me so I made my own 🙂


Mmmm, email. My clients need help with email more than any other thing in their office, and paper’s a close second. That’s because email’s so fast and because we don’t use it correctly.

Get familiar with the delete key (my favourite key on the keyboard) and start deleting. Delete immediately once you’ve replied to an email and don’t file unless you absolutely have to.

Disable all the notifications from social networking sites like Facebook. I only get friend requests, messages and notes on my wall in my inbox. The rest I’ll see when I log on.

Here again, decide on your comfort level for emails and make sure you process until you can breathe again.

I set a daily goal of deleting at least 50 items so once I’m done with my inbox, I go through my Sent Items and delete, delete, delete 😉

As a matter of interest, how many emails are in your inbox right now? Please comment 🙂


Now that we’ve all gone digital, it’s so easy to snap, snap, snap and then snap some more. Download pictures regularly, delete the bad ones there and then, and save to CD or DVD regularly.

I only print gorgeous shots (because printing is so expensive) so if I wouldn’t want to print it, I don’t keep it on my computer. If I want to use pics on the blog, I compress them immediately so that they take up 50KB as opposed to 1MB.

My coaching challenge to you

Print out this post.

Tackle one of these sections every week until they’re all done.

Let me know when you do them.

Happy organising!

Marcia Francois is a time management and organising coach who works with small business owners and other busy professionals who want to make the most of their time. Marcia shares practical organising and decluttering tips on her Organising Queen blog and anything else that takes her fancy like photos, recipes, etc. on Marcia’s take charge blog.


Sponsored by The Organize It Mom!

Filed under: Guest Bloggers, Office


51 Responses to Organizing your computer

  1. 1
    Naomi says

    Wow, I just de-cluttered my inbox…I had 427 emails there 277 of which were unread. Thanks for the reminder, now I’m off to tackle my google reader!

  2. 2
    Janelle says

    There are 27 messages in my inbox. I work diligently to keep it under 50 (all on one page).

    If my Google reader gets too cluttered I give up and mark everything as read. If only I could do this on my kitchen countertops.

    Thanks for the ideas!

  3. 3
    Sylvia says

    Well depends which inbox. On our main e-mail over 1300! I started cleaning them up a couple weeks ago and need to continue!

  4. 4
    Kansas A says

    Oh I’m embarrassed to say how many emails I had… but I did a quick run through them and deleted over 700! (thanks to your post) 🙂
    As for my google reader, I’m at 793 unread and see no hope in site 🙁 Time to hit the “mark all read” button, and then go through and remove some 🙂
    Thanks for giving me a kick in the right direction 🙂

  5. 5
    Marcia "HDMac" says


    Thanks for having Marcia over to interview. She is an inspiration for me also.

    She talked about decluttering our email and wow! That is what I have been doing. Kansas, don’t worry, I think I had you outnumbered with email… I had over 1700 and I am down to 1300… ridiculous… is just my main email! I catagorize some as I have some craft scans and recipes that I don’t want to lose.. so I can label them and put into a folder in gmail.. but I had/have a LOT of junk.. really cleaning up there.

    At work, I keep my email down to very little…. but afraid that my personal email is another story. Sigh… But glad for the push from Marcia to get it done.

    Again, thanks for having this interview with Marcia. I do follow your blog!

    The “other” Marcia

  6. 6
    *mindi* says

    well, i have 2 e-mail accounts that i use regularly, and i completely decluttered my gmail account down to 5!
    i archived a lot, but in an organized way so that I could find them again if i needed to. gmail is great!)

    now i can see exactly what needs my attention, and will delete or archive those when i am done.

    i’m working on my hotmail account. i have a whole mess of stuff in there.

    i just deleted a ton of blogs from my google reader, and do so periodically, but i’m embarrassed to admit that i have 224 blogs that I’m subscribed to. i also read about 10 blogs that don’t have RSS feeds.

    in my defense, a lot of those bloggers are friends that almost never update, but still…that’s a lot of blogs. 😉

  7. 7
    Laura says

    I’ve had a few emails that this post wasn’t displaying properly. I’ve made some changes and so I hope it’s coming through okay now. Let me know if it isn’t, thanks.

  8. 8
    tiffanie says

    i backup all my photos at the end of a year onto a cd and label it with the year and file it in my fireproof safe.

  9. 9
    Cassandra Stafford says

    230 ish read emails. 0 unread. I also get few facebook notifications. How to compress photos?

  10. 10
    Creative Triplet Mom says

    I declutter my inbox every time I sit at my computer so that’s not my problem. I do have a problem with downloading freebies though. I tend to download everything I like which can slow down my computer. I’m constantly backing up to my external harddrive (which of course is now full) and making backup disks. Photos is another thing I like to take tons of. But I’ve been good at organizing them with dates and event names and deleting as I go now. Great post today. Will need to work on my google reader though as I just haven’t had a chance to keep up with everything I have there. Right now I have 1,000 entries to read! YIKES!

  11. 11
    Oh2122 says

    My computer so desperately needs this.

    My reader had 91 pending posts this morning alone! Yikes!

  12. 12
    ~Amy says

    159 are in my INBOX right now.

    6849 are in my SENTBOX.


  13. 13
    se7en says

    I love your blog and won’t take you off my feeds! You have so inspired me and I am doing a tisket/tasket series on my site. And here is what I will be tackling this weekend: 3500 mails in my inbox, blimey I had no idea how bad it had become! Thanks for the encouragement – I might need it!!!

  14. 15
    Becca says

    This is going to sound awful. But…

    On my work email, I have 3 unread messages and… 2386 read messages. ACK. Oh wait, it gets better. On my personal email… I have 1567 unread messages (most are those stupid website notifications from facebook, etc) and 3179 messages total. While my physical surroundings may be relatively clutter-free, clearly my inboxes are not!

    I will definitely be following ALL of the suggestions in this post. Thanks so much for posting this information, it sounds super helpful. 😀

  15. 16
    Organising Queen says

    Wow, I’m so glad this post resonated with so many of you.

    It’s my mission in life to get offices organised 🙂

    Cassandra, about the photo compressing…open the photo in Microsoft Office Picture Manager (under Microsoft Tools), click on Edit Picture, and then on Compress. If you select “for webpages” it will compress to about 50KB.

  16. 17
    Angela says

    This is a great post, I’m so bad about computer clutter. These were some great tips!


  17. 18
    darci says

    Only 13 emails in my inbox!

  18. 19
    Forgetfulone says

    I love Marcia! You and she teamed together has got to be fabulous!

  19. 20
    Gracia says

    Now I feel bad… and I feel the urge to do something!
    I have three different readers, all with over 200 unread items. 3 email accounts, one with no mails in the inbox (ehem… I created yesterday for my new blog… ehem), one with over 100 and the other with over 1,000 emails. How embarrassing.

  20. 21
    Harmony says

    I checked my email and I have 50 messages in my inbox and many of them can be deleted but that’s not bad I guess. I do really need to go through the pictures on my computer though and start putting them on CD’s and printing my favourites. Thanks for the tips!

  21. 22
    Coco says

    I just did this last week. I finally am up on my photos (printed 561) and I think I deleted about 4,000 items from my computer. *as all of your jaws drop*
    I love the idea of keeping the computer organized. It amazing!

  22. 23
    Misty says

    I think I top the cake…

    5642 Inbox emails

    I need some serious computer decluttering!

  23. 24
    Thea @ I'm a Drama Mama says

    Right now, I have 16 messages in my inbox…and that’s a lot for me. I like to be able to see all my messages on my screen without scrolling. As soon as I’m done with something, I delete it!

    I subscribe to 55 blogs…and that’s about my limit!

  24. 25
    trish says

    Thanks for the great tips, Marcia! I love the delete key too, though sometimes I do get a bit carried away with it and end up deleting something I actually needed. I think this is because I associate an uncluttered hard drive with a faster-running computer, but the truth is I am running WinXP on a computer designed for 98, and there’s really not much you can do for that. But I will continue to delete anyway, because I’m much more productive without all that extra stuff cluttering up my digital space.

  25. 26
    Penny Raine says

    Ok, confession time, i hope i at least win an award or something, I always have in excess of 25 THOUSAND items in my inbox, and (shame) that does not include subfolders of which there are about 20, I try to keep each of those under 2000 each, but one does have about 12,000. Am I an e-packrat? is there a place to go for help?
    but hey I operate several websites and have lots of email addresses, so maybe I have a little bit of an excuse? no? ok. So what is the number for e-anon?

    blessings, Penny Raine

  26. 27
    Organising Queen says

    LOL Penny – you win the prize for the most emails ever!

    I thought my friend from Clutter Control Freak was bad with 14 000 emails 🙂

    I am just itching to get my “virtual hands” on your inbox.

    Marcia, Organising Queen

  27. 28
    Jessica says

    You forgot to mention one alternative to help keep the inbox clean if you *dont* want to unsubscribe from all those notifications that you have new messages on your social networking sites or if you get notifications that your cellphone bill is now available online or an update on your credit card balance or what have you.

    I set up a folder in my email client called “notifications” and created some rules to move anything with sender including (for example) to folder notifications. Make sure you check the box to “run this rule on messages already in the inbox” to help clean out the inbox. Then periodically, I just do a select-all on the messages in the notifications folder and press delete. I find it a lot more efficicient than manually deleting such messages from the inbox every single time they arrive.

    I only have about four or five folders off my inbox… bulk-mail (mailing lists, things that are not so important, don’t require a reply, and can be deleted unread if I don’t have time), notifications (from social networking sites, the bank, bills that are available online, confirmation of ebay bids, etc–emails that are redundant to information I could find by logging onto a specific website), save (important emails to hang onto), contact-information (emails with addresses, phone numbers, etc that need to be filed, time permitting) and orders (things you might want to hang onto for a while but not indefinitely, such as the order-number for your last online purchase should you need to follow up on why its not arriving on time)

    Organizing email is a good subject, I should write a blog post about it 🙂

  28. 29
    Jocelyn says

    I have 6 emails in my Inbox right now (that’s at work, I think I have about 4 at home) and they are ones where I still have to do something with them, or with the info they contain.

    Here’s how I organise my emails at work – at home it’s very similar but on a smaller scale.
    I have sub-folders set up in Saved messages – one for each company I correspond with.
    As I have finished with an email, either by replying to it, or by using the info it contains, I decide whether or not it must be kept “forever”. Some emails are in that category – I may need to refer to them again in a couple of year’s time, and if so I simply move it to the relevant sub-folder.

    If it’s one that is temporary, I right click and choose Categories. I have set up a category called “Delete after 1 year”. So after setting that as the category I move that email to the relevant sub-folder as well.

    Then every month I can just delete all those temporary emails that are a year old. )Of course, I have changed the Column View on all folders so that I can see the Categories.

    Emails in my Sent Box get treated the same way of course.

    The other thing that I find is invaluable, is that I change the subject of incoming emails so that they actually mean something and I can see what the email is about without having to open it. It’s astounding how many people send emails with a meaningless subject!

  29. 30
    Keri says

    I only have 1 item in my inbox – I’m a nut about cleaning it out. I am ruthless when it comes to saving emails. Photos, well, that’s another thing altogether. I have a really hard time deleting photos on my computer. I really need to get over it, but at least they are all in folders, labeled so I can retrieve them. Thanks for all of the tips.

  30. 31
    List Mama says

    Email is so tricky because it can be the black hole of time. It is not easy to balance the reading with the cleaning up with all of the other tasks that are required in day. I keep persevering, though.


  31. 32
    Sarah S. Chicken says

    I like to keep my inbox under 50 and my reader under 50 as well. I don’t have much of a problem with it. I find that gmail’s search function is so good that I can usually find an email without having to have filed it in a particular folder. There are some I file purposefully. With gmail also I just archive everything and it’s all out of sight but not unavailable.

    Pictures? Another story. Working on getting them all on Flickr and not my computer…

  32. 33
    Jennifer says

    I just weeded through 94 unread posts in Google Reader. I am working on the number of actual blogs that I subscribe to… I started with 79. I am down to 71 of which only 14 are personal friends & family. I made a chart for the remaining blogs so I can track which ones I actually read & those I just “scroll through”. I have no idea anymore.

    As for my e-mail… I keep a separate e-mail that I only give to friends & family so it doesn’t usually get too backed up. The e-mail that I use for all my online stuff is a different story & one that I hope to tackle tomorrow. I just checked & I have 137 unread e-mails since yesterday. Thankfully I use an email filter so I can delete massive amounts of junk with just one click.

    I am obsessive when it comes to my pictures. I have had a computer crash on me twice & lost a good many pictures that I had saved. I sort them & upload them as soon as I take them so that doesn’t happen again.

  33. 34
    Rebecca says

    I feel good. I just deleted about 3000 emails (junk and others) from my work computer and I feel good about it. Like a weight has been lifted. Almost seems silly. But now I need to do it to my home computer.

    But I am going to work on going through my personal files on my work computer and organizing those, as well as organizing blogs. They are addictive and can pile up quickly.

  34. 35
    Sarah says

    Eeep! I have 98 e-mails in my inbox, many of which I intend to reply to, but realistically, I probably won’t get around to. *blushing* It’s my dirty little disorganized secret. I clear out my inbox to 15 or fewer once or twice a year, then I swear I’ll never let it happen again.

  35. 36
    Katie @ 3Blondes&... says

    I love the delete button on email. I currently have 35 in there, but it’s getting to be too many. If it gets over 50, I start to panic. The other day I got it down to 5, but it only lasted about a day. Curse the email!!!

  36. 37
    Amy says

    I just went through my inbox last night. It was so nice to do that. I do need to go through all my pictures and get them off the hard drive!

  37. 38
    SheilaG says

    I try to keep my inbox under 50! I know that still sounds like a lot, but I have tasks in there that I’m still waiting to complete, or things I need to get back to people about. Fifty is manageable; anything more is not!

    And I agree with deleting the Sent items! At one point I had 3500. Then I started deleting 50 a day, and filing the ones I needed to keep, and now I can find everything again!

    When you write for a living like I do, your email is your life!

    Visit To Love, Honor and Vacuum today!

  38. 39
    Elaine H says

    Well after reading the part about blog readers I went and deleted several blogs that I really don’t read, the author has deleted the blog or it has been months since the author has posted anything.

  39. 40
    Jen says

    I just checked my email … 27,782 unread. Y+That’s just one account. It takes forever to delete them, and I don’t have the time!

  40. 41
    Lindsay says

    I don’t know what has happened, because I’m usually a 30 emails in my inbox kind of gal, and now I have over 100! People comment on my blog (not a bad problem to have), so I get those emails and sometimes I just have a hard time getting to reply to them. You’re right – it is very overwhelming. I need to set that goal for 50/day starting NOW!! Thank you for all your suggestions.

  41. 43
    Eva Wallace says

    What? Someone beat my 14,000 email record!

    🙂 Eva

  42. 44
    Leigh Anne says

    Great post and ideas – I definitely have computer clutter. My desk stays a lot cleaner and organized these days but my computer can get out of control!! I’m off to clean out that inbox!! I have switched to gmail and it has really helped me to find things in my email.

  43. 45
    Lanne says

    Oh yeah. my computer needs cleaning..LOL

    I have about 5500+ emails in my inbox, and another 2000 – 4000 per account.

    I actually thought this was OK. My old job meant about 700 emails a day.. and i was used to large email amounts. I do deal with every email everyday – even if it is read and move on. anything requiring a response gets one 🙂

  44. 46
    Organising Queen says

    Oh, I am LOVING all the comments!

    And yes, Eva, someone beat your 14 000 emails LOL

  45. 47
    Dense J. Hart says

    I just finished implementing the tips for photos!! Whoa! thanks for such marvelous tips Marcia, and Laura for having her as a guest. I’m sure my readers will benefit just as much from these great tips. I’ve always been good with email, but hadn’t even considered the photo issue.

    Keep the organizational magic coming!

    Denise Hart
    The Motivation Mama!
    Words to Live By Tees

  46. 48
    Sara says

    My computer desperately needs organizing! Especially with the hundreds of cluttered photos I have.. I searched the net for physical organizers and I’ve come across an amazing software I absolutely fell in love with!
    Nerxy File Organizer; you can organize your photos using your own rules and it will automatically scan the folders you select and organize into specified folders. Finally, my photos are all placed in folders and organized by date just the way I love them and can easily find whatever picture I want anytime I need it! 🙂

  47. 49
    desktop hard drive says

    I completely agree with Marcia about organizing the mailbox. I am a staunch believer of diligently removing unnecessary stuffs and have no aches to do it.


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