Taking care of physical clutter is easy. You look around, see the mess, you can plan out where it should go and what should be tossed, sold, or donated…and you just do it. It’s time-consuming and laborious, and we have all been burned by a buyer in an online yard sale group, but it’s not really that difficult to solve the problem.
Digital clutter can be more of a challenge. It’s not always obvious that you even have a problem! You might realize it when you go to look for a file and can’t find it, or you have part of what you need but you forgot to move the other part to the correct folder after you downloaded it. You’ve got multiple copies of certain files, files with names that don’t make sense, and no logical organization to speak of.
It’s time to stop groaning about the digital clutter and focus on a solution! Let’s tackle this problem one step at a time. The good thing is that once you realize this is an issue, getting rid of unwanted clutter is as simple as hitting the delete button.
This article was written by yours truly as part of the Ready, set, homeschool! blog party series.
First you need to get everything into one place. Any documents in cloud storage you’re currently using need to be downloaded. If you purchased homeschool curriculum from the Build Your Bundle sale, download all of those files. SchoolhouseTeachers.com resources you wanted to download ahead of time? Do that now.
Check your Google Drive, Dropbox, Amazon (yep, they have a cloud storage service with your Prime membership), and similar. Did you buy anything from bloggers or digital publishers (such as Home School in the Woods) that you didn’t download yet? Check your email to search for those. Any Teachers Pay Teachers purchases or freebies – grab ’em.
Side note: Teachers Pay Teachers can be a great place to find low-cost homeschooling resources! It just takes time to wade through and find what you need. It seems like more and more homeschool sellers are jumping on board, so keep that site in your toolkit! I may or may not have downloaded over 200 files when I went through this process myself. 🤦🏻♀️ Sandra from R.E.A.L.-World Learners has some TPT shopping tips for you!
Make a folder on your desktop called “School,” then create a sub folder for each site you’re downloading from. Download e.ver.y.thing from each site to one folder and don’t worry about sub folders based on subject or age for now. This will help you identify doubles and jog your memory of what each file contains. Let’s be honest, some creators aren’t very good at naming their files to show what that resource contains.
Find All Existing Downloads
The next step is a little harder. You need to track down everything you’ve already downloaded. Check every nook and cranny in your computer and any external hard drives, USB drives, etc. Leave no folder unopened!
If it’s obvious where it came from, go ahead and put these files into the sub folders based on website. This is the easiest way of identifying duplicates.
There will be some you have NO idea where they came from. Slap those into the School folder and not into any of the site-based subfolders.
Sort Your Digital Homeschooling Files
Once you have scoured every drive you own, and downloaded everything from cloud storage, you should have a main folder that has multiple sub folders and also random files which have unknown origins. Alright, you’re ready to get down to business.
Start with the main generic School folder. Sort those contents by file name. Scan down the list and see if you have any duplicates. If so, select them all using Control + click, and then hit the delete button on your keyboard. Poof! Gone.
Repeat this for each of your sub folders.
Open Unknown Files
This is probably the worst step. You’ll have to go through each folder and see what everything is. If you can look at it and say, “Oh, I know exactly what that is,” keep moving. If you aren’t sure (or in some cases, you’ll have no earthly idea), open ‘er up.
Extract all files from zip folders at this time as well. Save this for after you’ve done the regular files you don’t recognize since it does create a little more clutter temporarily. Keep the contents of the zip file in the folder they get extracted into for now, then delete the original zip file. I suggest working these one at a time, then deleting all the zip files in that sub folder before moving on to the next.
It will help you a lot if you rename any files that are not aptly named right after you look to see what they are.
If you have files that go together, consider creating a folder for those to go into together. For example, I purchased an audio file with a corresponding lap book from the Build Your Bundle sale. They were not actually from the same publisher but it makes more sense to keep those together. Don’t move these to another folder, though. This folder stayed in my BYB2018 folder.
If you run across any additional duplicates you didn’t catch before – you know what to do!
Making a Judgment Call
You don’t want to be too delete-happy but you’ll also need to make the call on what to keep or not. If at any point you come across a digital homeschool resource that you know you absolutely will not use, delete it!
If you’re unsure, create another sub folder and label it “To Trash or Not to Trash.” Okay I’m sort of kidding, name it whatever you want and move any items you’re not sure about. I have more of these than I’d like but my children are so young and I don’t know a lot about their learning styles yet or what their future interests might be, so I did keep a lot in this folder.
Organize Your Digital Homeschool Resources
So far, you should have moved all your files into one main folder and organized them into sub folders based on website.
You’ve deleted duplicates. You’ve opened files to make sure they’re resources you still want to use for your homeschool. You renamed any with file names that don’t give a clear indication of what they are and you have grouped resources that go together into additional sub folders. You’ve extracted files from compressed folders and deleted the original zip files. AND you’ve now made a judgment on if you’d like to keep these items or possibly use them for later.
You’re almost done!
This is the last step and the most fun. We can now choose a system of organization for our digital homeschool materials!
There are many ways you can organize now. I won’t tell you what works best because this will look different for us all. But here are some ideas:
- by age of the child it’s intended for (“Age 7”)
- by intended grade level (“2nd Grade”)
- by the child who will use it next (“Miranda”)
- by subject (“Math”)
- by topic (“Math Facts” or “Hands-On Math”)
- by school year (“All Children 2018-19” or “Ruby 2018-19”)
I really suggest combining several of these ideas. They don’t even all have to be categorized the same way if that doesn’t work for you.
My hierarchies look like this:
- Social Studies
- Unit Studies
- Mom Stuff
- Social Studies
- To Trash or Not to Trash
- Miranda Math
- Ruby Math
- LA Helps
- Unit Studies
As you can see, there is a rhyme and reason to why I’ve named these folders as such, but they don’t all fall into one method of categorization. I will know where to go to look for something if I have a specific resource in mind AND if I need to find an activity for, say, science, I can peruse the TPT science folder and also the hands-on folder to see what might fill a need at that time.
These types of categories are helpful if you just want to pull out resources you will need for the upcoming school year. I have materials to use into the future so I don’t need to worry about those particular things at the moment, but I do want to save them for later (obviously). So I just move what I need for this year into a folder labeled with “2018-19” and leave the rest of my homeschool downloads where they are.
Maintaining Your Digital Organization For the Future
At some point stop, we have to stop collecting information and start using it! With the sheer number of free digital homeschool resources available, it can be hard to keep up.
My suggestion to you is to really consider what you’re downloading in the first place. Consider what needs it might fill and not just be headed for your To Trash or Not to Trash folder.
As a creator of helpful homeschool materials myself, going through this process was sort of eye opening. My homeschool blogger colleagues have some excellent and well-done resources, but do we really need them all? We’ve gotten into this mindset of collecting all these freebies and that’s great to have these things so widely available, but do YOU really need THAT item? Or is it a case of “must have the shiny new freebie” syndrome
[click_to_tweet tweet=”‘We’ve gotten into this mindset of collecting all these freebies and that’s great to have these things so widely available, but do YOU really need THAT item?’ – Andrea of @alltheHSthings on the topic of digital #homeschool clutter #readysethomeschool ” quote=”We’ve gotten into this mindset of collecting all these freebies and that’s great to have these things so widely available, but do YOU really need THAT item?”]
I certainly want you to take advantage of free curricula for your homeschool as well as homemaking helps, etc., and I definitely want bloggers, teachers, and other creators to continue doing what they do. However, I urge all of us to really consider what purpose each of these fullfills and if someone will truly benefit from it. That should really be the first and ultimate step to eliminating digital homeschool clutter.
When you do choose to opt-in for a freebie or make a purchase of digital curriculum, make sure you move it IMMEDIATELY to the correct folder. Make a new sub folder if you have to! Don’t let it sit in your Downloads folder in perpetuity.
I would suggest going through monthly to take a look and see if you have anything that needs to be moved or trashed. Once you print something and are entirely done with that resource, including any use for additional children, don’t be afraid to delete it. Or, you can add it to a sub folder entitled “Done 2018-19” or whatever the case may be.
You can click here to learn more about a cheat sheet I’ve created to help you get this done. Place it straight into your “School” folder and leave it there for future reference.
Andrea runs this site, All the Homeschool Things, and homeschools their growing brood of littles. She is passionate about freedom, Jesus, and helping other homeschool moms create their best homeschool. Find her on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter! She welcomes you to join her Facebook community of homeschool moms, and you can use the form below to sign up to be part of her email community!
If you enjoyed this post, please check out the other posts in this series!