Share your clutter-cutting tips

I’ve never been a particularly organized person. In fact, the state of my 8-by-8-foot cubicle has been the source of numerous jokes (and a few interventions) over the years. But never have I felt more like an organizational failure than when working on an article about controlling digital clutter—files, e-mail, snippets, and the like—for our soon-to-be-shipping March issue.

While brainstorming ideas with the writer (the fabulously organized Joe Kissell), I let it slip that I had more than 37,000 e-mails in my Entourage inbox. Yes, 37,000 messages . In my inbox.

Now, since we were conversing through e-mail, I couldn’t actually see Joe’s reaction to that news. But I like to imagine him falling out of his chair. You see, Joe keeps nothing in his inbox. Nada. Everything gets filed away immediately.

I did get treated to Joe’s response to my super-sized inbox: “Sounds like you could benefit from a story about organizing your data.”

Ha. Ha.

And maybe he’s right. But here’s the thing: my system (if not doing anything can be called a “system”) really works for me. I get several hundred legitimate messages a week—after discounting spam. By keeping everything in one place, I don’t waste any time trying to finding a home for every one of those messages. And I can find anything in my inbox with just a quick search.

But that’s not to say that I don’t put in any effort at all. To help me keep track of what type of e-mail is coming in, I color-code my contacts when adding them to Entourage’s address book. Anything from a e-mail address automatically shows up as green. Any contacts that I’ve categorized as an “author” shows up as purple. Friends and family members are pink. And so on. When I come back from a particularly long meeting, I know to answer my green and purple messages first, as they’re probably the most pressing.

Is it a perfect system? Probably not. But it’s mine and I’m sticking with it.

What strategies have you developed for dealing with clutter—e-mail or otherwise? Share your wisdom.

To comment on this article and other Macworld content, visit our Facebook page or our Twitter feed.
Shop Tech Products at Amazon
Notice to our Readers
We're now using social media to take your comments and feedback. Learn more about this here.