I use and store a lot of digital files, and some paper files as well, and keeping them well-organized is crucial.
When I was traveling and living the virtualista life, I had one small file case for paper, the plastic kind with tabs and folders for A-Z. I made great efforts to keep everything possible in digital form, but there were always a few pieces of paper I needed to keep nearby.
Since I’ve transitioned to living in one place most of the time, I’ve limited my paper file storage to one two-drawer file cabinet. Ok, fine, I also have a separate file box which amounts to a third drawer, in which I keep a specific set of files.
And I maintain those files. I go through them pretty regularly, re-organizing and throwing stuff out. I have color-coded file folders in there for different categories.
I have what may very well be millions of digital files, including everything related to my own life and files for hundreds of client website projects.
I learned the First Rule of Digital File Storage the hard way, as many of us do: Do not use any device as the only location for storing specific files! Any files which live in only one place, let’s say on your laptop, can be lost forever in an instant when the machine fails in some way, or is lost or stolen.
Cloud storage for digital files is my solution. I long ago gave up the all-too-common idea that my files are somehow “safer” when they’re at my house or in my pocket than they are stored in a million-dollar facility designed for exactly that purpose.
My current system involves a short list of cloud storage providers: Google Drive, Microsoft OneDrive, Apple iCloud, Amazon Drive, DropBox, Flickr, and Rackspace. I use each for a very specific purpose, and keep a record of which files are where and exactly how to access them. The small size of my businesses allows me to use free space on most of those services, at least for now. At some point, some of them will fill up, and at that point decisions need to be made. It seems inevitable that I’ll have to pay more as time goes on, but I definitely plan to do it judiciously.