I regularly consume a solid diet of technology. Each new product brings boundless excitement… along with severe bouts of growing pains. Windows 8? If you’re cringing, you know what I mean.
Gone are the days I buy into a salesman’s spiel or an editor’s review of the latest gadget or device. If it ranks below 4 stars and has only a handful of reviews, I move on.
One of my better lessons followed the purchase of a washer and dryer – the latest, greatest energy and water saving set on the market. After rebuilding our home to hurricane standards, I perused the editors’ reviews for a top quality set.
Despite they were front loaders (ugh!), were red (my least favorite), and barely fit our large bathroom, I bought a set. And then, I ran my first load. To say that I felt like a jet was taking off with our house in tow would be an understatement. Even worse, it “ate” all my jeans, fiber by fiber! So on the last day of the return policy, we trucked that 3100 rpm engine and its sister back to the store.
Then came the real quest – how could I ensure I wouldn’t buy another lemon? As I Googled, I found reviews by real people about what they liked and didn’t. I dropped my subscription to Consumer Reports and opted for blogs and reviews by real consumers and found a washer and dryer I still love seven years later.
Fast forward to my recent search for laptops. The myriad (or lack of) of features available will make your head spin. Win8? Win7? I won’t purchase any electronics until the real techies have sufficiently debugged it and I’ve reviewed the pros and cons from real people. I opted for Win7 after learning that top manufacturers are finally listening to consumers and keeping it alive. I also found that most have eliminated the DVD/CD drive. With the digital photos of my kids growing up, I opted for the drive. Purchasing a new device, though, is just the start.
Keeping data organized and in one location makes it easier to back up files, change computers, or during recovery of a failed system. Most software programs store files within the program making it difficult to ensure you’ve located every file. Most applications allow you to change the location. I suggest locating your user files and creating a folder you’ll easily recognize – your first name, last name, or nick name – so you only have to back up one folder to to an external drive (which should be done at least monthly). Below that, create subfolders.
Here are folders I use:
- Banking to store my electronic checkbook.
- Discard for files I don’t need to keep long. I periodically empty the folder.
- Downloads – Most devices have a Downloads folder. Creating a second Downloads folder and moving the files here will ensure you can recover your downloaded applications.
- Email – I’ve heard too many horror stories of files lost in the digital cloud. Keeping email files (.pst, .ost) here ensures I have access to emails if my cloud account disappears or the internet is down.
- Facebook (or other social media) to store photos or files uploaded to or from Facebook. Here I store photos at a lower resolution since original photos often take too long to download. I create subfolders titled by the year.
- Medical is used to store scanned or downloaded medical receipts, medical claims, flexible spending forms, and medical correspondence. At the end of the year, I move the files into the Taxes folder to keep files for the year together.
- Music is where I store all my music so I can easily back it up.
- Phone-Backup – I copy all files from my phone (except photos) to this location.
- Photos is for storing photos from cameras, the internet or my phone. I create subfolders by the year and location.
- Purchases is where I save electronic copies of online purchases to save on paper.
- Taxes is for tax return copies, tax software files, donation receipts, and photographs of donations stored in subfolders by year.
- Weblinks – Saving internet shortcuts here will ensure they won’t be lost when changing computers. I then place only a shortcut to this folder on my desktop to keep it from getting cluttered.
- With the cost of new technology and features changing so fast, check what other consumers have said before buying and be sure to back up your files.
Mary Anne “Mimi” Corwin is a professional organizer and productivity specialist with a B.A. in Business Management from New York Institute of Technology. She has organized many private events, reunions, public conferences and banquets, training workshops, and fundraising auctions. She specializes in document and digital data management, database development, and designing processes to keep tasks on track. She and her husband Todd live in Flanders and have two children, Brianne and Kiersten. Mimi can be reached at AProAtOrganizing.com.