Here it goes.  While I do manage to keep a pretty streamlined workflow in editing and client work, when it comes to managing stuff I’m organizationally challenged.  I love, admire, oogle, yearn for, relish, and lust after organization.  I pin these perfectly organized offices with nothing on the desk other then a pad of paper and a pen.  I have dreams of finding the top of my desk again.  I’m taking on a personal challenge and I invite you to join me.

This was prompted by an article that I saw posted on Facebook, the 40 Day, 40 Bag Challenge.  Basically, you organize one small section of your house each day for 40 days.  The junk drawer, the cabinet of kitchen stuff that you haven’t touched in a year, a shelf in the garage, the clothes in the back of your closet that you are going to wear again, but haven’t since 1995.  After all, flannels just may come back into style and I just might be the size I was in college….doubtful.

While I do want to do this 40 Day 40 Bag challenge for my home, I had a more pressing issue.  My 2TB iMac has started to run more slowly as it’s bogged down by an untold number of RAW files and superfluous stuff.  To make matters even worse, it’s not even remotely organized and I found that I was starting to waste valuable time looking for files and documents.

Here it is…part of my Documents folder.  The catchall of stuff that needs to be removed from my desktop since there was no longer room on my 27-inch screen for more files.  I feel naked now.

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The rest of my computer basically looks like this as well.  It seemed like such an overwhelming and daunting task that I didn’t know where to begin.  Well, the 40 Day 40 Bag Challenge inspired me to start the 40 Day 40 Folder Challenge to clean up the files on my computer….one folder at a time.

I do keep my photography related folders neatly organized thanks to a great tip from an incredible woman and photographer Heather Lahtinen from Weddings by Heather.  Each year is it’s own Lightroom catalog, broken into client work and events and extras with a totally separate Lightroom catalog for my personal images.  Those folders are then broken down further into family vs. pets and now on-location vs. studio within each of those folders.  Essentially, start large and keep breaking it down so that you have a folder structure that you can carry over to all machines and drives….enabling you to find your data quickly and efficiently.

Pardon my denseness for not managing all of my other files that way.  It starts innocently enough.  You have a new machine.  It’s so empty and pretty.  You start saving things without a structure and before you know it your machine looks like mine!  EEK!

So, Day 1 for my 40 Day 40 Folder challenge is to create that structure.  I’ll keep adding folders as needed, but I’m starting with just 3 main folders; Personal, Nicole Begley Photography, and Hair of the Dog.  Pretty much every single thing on my computer fits into one of those three categories!  Within the Nicole Begley Photography folder I will have; Marketing, Pricing, Accounting, etc.  Those broad folders will then be broken down further, and then further still if needed.  I can then carry that same file structure to my Dropbox account and my mirrored RAID system….ahhh.  I can breath easier already.

Once you create your structure it will be easy to manage your data and put your data away at the end of the workday!  Isn’t that how clutter manages to take hold in our home?  Something doesn’t have a spot so it sits on the counter, attracting more crap to join it on the counter.  If everything has a place to go you can take 2 minutes each day to keep it nice and neat.  Insert angelic voices singing here.

If you have great data organization tips I would love to hear them!  Share them in the comments here or on our Facebook page.   I will definitely share my final folder structure once I work it out!