≑ Menu

2 Steps Toward a Minimalist Computer

Logan's simple desk 01

I finally purchased Leo Babauta’s eBook, The Simple Guide to a Minimalist Life and it was worth every penny. I can’t wait to read it again. Every chapter contains valuable tips and tools to lead a minimalist lifestyle.

Leo inspired me to make a number of habit changes and I’ll be doing a series of posts on this topic.

The first change I made was creating a minimalist computer by…

1. Decluttering my desktop.

All of the extra stuff on my desktop has been placed into a few minimal file folders.

This isn’t an earth shattering idea. But how many of you have computer files you can’t locate? Files that are hanging out on your desktop or in random folders? And then spend way too much time looking for certain documents?

Then again, I might be a lone ranger and the only one with this problem.

2. Changing my filing system.

Rather than having 20 folders in My Documents, now I have 4! They include…

  • Work: Just like it says, the folder is for stuff I’m currently working on.
  • Read: The reading folder is for reading materials, like ebooks and articles.
  • Finances: My finance folder stores all our financial data.
  • Archive: The archive folder is for all my other stuff. I’ll be cleaning out my work, reading and finance folders daily and weekly. All the extra stuff will land in the archive section. πŸ™‚

Now I don’t have to spend so much time searching for stuff and creating new folders. This is a perfect, simple solution.


I loved Leo’s book so much that I decided to participate in his affiliate sales program. If you purchase this book I’ll receive 50% of the sale price. So you’ll be supporting RowdyKittens as well as Zen Habits and Mnmlist.

Thanks in advance for your kindness and generosity. Your support helps keep this blog going. πŸ™‚


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Kerri Fivecoat-Campbell January 7, 2010, 6:24 am

    My office and computer space is definitely one place I have room for improvement.

  • Alejandro Reyes January 7, 2010, 7:00 am

    I already bought it… but maybe I can share your link around with my family.

    Back to the book, it is a wonderful book, I find it very useful and worth every penny and even more. And of course you are not the only one with a cluttered desktop. I tend to place every file there, but now I’m working towards a more versatile and useful way. One folder in My Documents with the name Flash projects, which holds in separate folders each project and it’s file structure.

    The structure is a necessary evil for me as a developer, but the rest goes on Useful files or Archive, finances goes under payments and that is all now.

    Too bad I still don’t have a minimalist desktop, I just installed windows 7 and I’m still installing the stuff I need (and a couple of games, yeah I’m a gamer on lazy Sundays)

    • Tammy January 7, 2010, 10:33 am

      @Alejandro – if you would share the link with friends and family, that would be great.

      It sounds like your file structure is organized really well. My system might not work for everyone, but I hope folks will rethink how they organize digital documents.

      A gamer? Sweet! Do you limit your time spent gaming?

      • Alejandro Reyes January 8, 2010, 8:03 am

        I only game during the weekends, mostly with my brother. I spend more time reading and practicing my coding skills than anything else. I’m also trying to learn how to play guitar (not the guitar hero way). =)

        • Tammy January 8, 2010, 9:12 am

          Logan used to play a lot of video games and he gave them up because they were a time suck. It’s good that you have a balance between online and offline activities. πŸ™‚

  • Kevin Martin Doyle January 7, 2010, 7:17 am

    Great to hear that you enjoy the book. I may have to check it out!

    Do you plan on creating sub-folder within each of the four main folders? If not, I would be concerned that I would never be able to find anything. Of course, I am kind of an over-organizer. I admit that having more folders and tons of nested sub-folders is not an ideal situation. How do you approach it?

    Again, thanks for the heads up on the book!

    • Tammy January 7, 2010, 10:31 am

      @Kevin – coolio! The books rocks! πŸ™‚

      I don’t plan on creating sub-folders. If I name doc’s appropriately, I don’t have a problem finding the information. Also, most of my content is online (via RowdyKittens, my photoblog, flickr and on google doc’s). So searching for stuff is a breeze.

      Overall, I’ve found that having more folders is a hassle. I spend more time creating folders and looking for stuff, rather than focusing on creating useful written material. πŸ™‚

      Does that help?

      • Kevin Martin Doyle January 7, 2010, 11:47 am

        It does help. Like I said, I sometimes fall into the trap of having too many subfolders and it can get away from you. It is particularly troublesome when you have a particular file that fits into more than one of the categories you have created. I love how Delicious and Flickr allow you to apply multiple tags to a photo or link. I am working on organizing my physicial space first then moving into the digital world. I think the latter will be a bit more difficult… πŸ˜‰ Thanks so much!

  • Charley @ You, Simplified January 7, 2010, 7:55 am

    I’m often frustrated at trying to find files on my Netbook. I started storing stuff in MyDocs but then over time I adopted my D: Drive. Worse still, duplicate files were put in each. I think that digital clutter is one of the areas that doesn’t get as much attention as it should in the Simple Living world. Thanks for the article. I think I will set up a Reading Folder, Writing Folder, Blogging Folder and an Archive folder that can have Read and Published folders in it.

    Warm Regards,


  • Liz January 7, 2010, 9:05 am

    Great tips; I need to do this with my MBP.

  • Hayden Tompkins January 7, 2010, 4:12 pm

    I can’t stand a super cluttered desktop! I love that this was your first step. πŸ™‚

  • Uri January 8, 2010, 10:09 am

    Fantastic! I wrote about the same subject, with a bit more detail, in http://mnmal.tumblr.com/post/185315456/clean-and-clutter-free-desktop.

    I agree with you, Leo’s book is really simple and to the point.

    • Tammy January 8, 2010, 12:05 pm

      Thanks Uri. I’ll check out your post. Thanks for reading the blog. πŸ™‚

  • Chris January 8, 2010, 11:38 am

    Love minimalism, just bought the ebook from your link. ;o)

    • Tammy January 8, 2010, 12:05 pm

      Awesome Chris! Thanks for your support. I really appreciate it. Let me know what you think of the book. πŸ™‚

  • Mneiae January 8, 2010, 7:26 pm

    You just inspired me to clean up my own documents folder. Now there are only 2 folders in it: Current and Archive. Thanks for posting about this!

  • Scott February 8, 2010, 7:22 pm

    I’ve tried several filing schemes on my computers over the years and stumbled upon one that was so obvious that I don’t know why more people don’t “discover” it. Simply create an alphabetical set of folders in your main documents folder: a, b, c, etc. Everything goes in there, arranged alphabetically by name. I use my operating system’s symbolic linking feature to cross-reference sets of files that belong to a particular topic in a folder named for the topic and stored in the appropriate a to z folder. I also carefully name my files to describe their content and append yyyy-mm-dd dates to the end, as well as v001, etc. version numbers when appropriate. I wrote two scripts to assist in managing cross-referenced files and enforcing my naming scheme. Since implementing this filing system, I have not needed to search for files on my computer using its search capabilities. I also do not need to open a file to know what is in it. Its name clearly tells me.

    With this scheme, finances go in Documents/f/finances, my to-do list goes in Documents/t/todo, my tickler files go in Documents/t/tickler, my telephone and address book goes in Documents/t, with cross-references in Documents/p and Documents/a (for phone and address), and work files go in Documents/w/work. Even if I forget the name of a file, if I have a general idea of what kind of content it contains, I am very likely to find it by looking for its topic alphabetically. I have been using this system for a few months now, and it has not failed me yet.

    Although it may seem complicated, this is an example of leveraging what you already know to simplify something. Nearly any other filing scheme you can devise requires you to remember the scheme. This one leverages the fact that you already know the alphabet in order to recall the location of any information stored on your computer. You do not need to remember a file’s name, especially if you have created meaningful file names and cross-references by topic. All you need to remember is your abc’s and the general topic the file covers.