How I am learning to organize files

I’ve never been a disorganized person but it’s difficult to organize files in a clean way. Files are created which fit into multiple folders and now you don’t know where to look. I looked on reddit to see if anyone has found a good method for naming folders.

I found a suprisingly active niche community /r/datacurator which is dedicated to this simple question: How can we organize files in such a way that everything is easy to find and that we don’t spend a lot of time looking for them?

One of the posts on the subreddit linked to “Johnny.Decimals”. The idea is that you can use numbers to organize your folders in a certain order such that “Writing” can be near “Documents” even though they won’t be with alphanumeric sorting. You give each group a common number and organize categories into “area folders”.

At first this seemed like a silly idea. I want less folders, not more. But I can take a few good ideas and create a system which works for me.

First, I want to emphasize that my solution will not be good without fast search methods. If I’m looking for a specific document then I will rely on tools like fd or Everything (one of the only benefits of using Windows/NTFS).

I plan to store my files only one or two folder levels deep. I want clean categorization without having to dig through nested folders.

I already have very generic sorted folders but one of the problems that I’m having is that source data (music samples) are far from my projects. Another problem is that my Sync folder (syncthing, connected to my phone and laptop) has basically the same duplicated structure. Instead of having one folder for source data or syncing I’d rather have many folders if that gave me the cognitive benefit of having data of the same media types closer together.

The first digit will denote the media type and the last digit will denote the function. For example, Pictures that I want to sync between my phone, laptop, and desktop will be in the folder named “40 Pictures”. Stock photos will be in “47 Stock Photos”. My photography .RAW/CR2 files will be in “48 Raw” or “497 Photography Raws”.

Text documents will live in folders starting with `5`.

Synced Documents? `50`

Wikipedia Downloads? `57`

Wikimedia Downloads? `47`

Large InDesign files? `59`

eBooks? `55`

The numbers allow you to put all your folders into one big folder without having all your categories disorganized. The number-prefix will make it such that everything is sorted correctly.

You don’t have to do it the way that I’m doing it. For example, you could turn this unordered list…

  • license

  • bills

  • demos

  • proposals

  • flipcharts

  • data

  • screenshots

  • travel

  • templates

  • contracts

  • processes

Into something that looks more like a pipeline:


  • 1* Relationships

  • 4* Org

  • 5* Product

  • 8* Sales

Status Types:

  • *5* Draft

  • *9* Final

Access Types:

  • *1 Public

  • *2 Restricted

  • *3 Confidential

Potential Result:

  • 11 Contracts

  • 12 Proposals

  • 41 Licenses

  • 41 Processes

  • 42 Templates

  • 42 Bills

  • 43 Travel

  • 51 Demo

  • 51 Screenshots

  • 52 Data

  • 81 Flipcharts