Clean up your digital space

As Neat Week draws to a close, here’s Ross Catrow (publisher, despot) finally…FINALLY…getting the chance to tell us all how our 1s and 0s should be more organized.

Ross Catrow is a guy who is constantly looking at all of our desktops and having anxiety attacks at how digitally disorganized we all are. He’s honed his system to such an extent that he can pull up anything, at any time, without feeling that vague awareness that the rest of us feel–the awareness that our digital lives are all shoved into a big virtual junk closet. Here’s how he lives, broken down by category.


Use actual mp3s? What am I? The aging skeletal remains of Anthony Kiedis? Long ago I switched to solely using a streaming service–Rdio is my brand of choice (mostly because of the interface). What’s the point in storing music on hard drives or phones or whatever when almost everything is available to stream? A couple caveats:

  1. This is most likely terrible for smaller, independent artists (but what isn’t?).
  2. If The Beatles or Metallica are your favorite bands, you’re out of luck.
  3. I imagine in the not too distant future, the entire music industry’s business model will change. If you’ve got rare or hard-to-find tunes, I’d keep them on a well-backed-up hard drive somewhere.


Apple’s new iCloud Photo Library (not to be confused with the very confusingly-named iCloud Photostream). Many, many companies offer cheap, cloud-based photo storage options. Pick the one that best complements the rest of your digital ecosystem and enjoy the magic of all of your photos on all of your devices whenever you want them. Note: Cloud storage is not a backup. If you do something dumb, like delete all the shots of your dog because you’re mad that he ate the Christmas Tree, the Cloud will dutifully delete them from itself and all of your devices. Your photo library should exist on a disk somewhere, and that disk should be backed up.


Honestly, I don’t have a ton of documents to manage. If I’ve got something I need to keep, I’ll typically scan it and stash it in Evernote. If I was more document-laden, I’d probably go Google Docs (again, keep with what best complements your personal digital ecosystem) or just a set of folders in Dropbox.


Evernote, you guys! Evernote changed my life, and I’m a huge fan. It’s your external brain and should have the responsibility of holding notes, documents, lists, and anything and everything you’d ever want to remember. Brains are bad at keeping these kinds of details, Evernote is really, really good at it (and making it available on all of your devices). They’ve just updated their pricing plan to make it even cheaper for folks, but the basic plan is free and a great place to start if all of your important pieces of information are spread across a dozen apps and a handful of devices.

Mistakes people make

  1. They don’t back anything up. Yo! Hard drives fail at a predictably regular rate. Don’t trust that everything you digitally hold dear is going to magically always be there.
  2. They use terrible passwords. Just go ahead and buy 1Password and keep the dang terrorists from stealing your identity.
  3. If you’re going to collect information into something like Evernote, you need to collect EVERYTHING. It’s not useful if you only have copies of three out of four 2014 estimated quarterly tax payments.

Sync it up

Almost everything I do is In the Cloud. Email, photos, Evernote, contacts, calendar, all that stuff Just Works. We live in a magical time.

Back it up

Backblaze. It’s $5 per month for infinity peace of mind. There’s no reason you should not be doing this right now. If you’re not signed up, do so immediately and do so using my referral code.

What I keep on my actual computer

My photo library lives on my computer, which is, of course, backed up with Backblaze. If I angrily delete photos from my iPhone and then regretfully need to restore them later, I can do so from my computer’s backups. That’s about it though.

What I keep on my actual iPad

Almost nothing. Everything is so cloudy and designed to sync between devices that there isn’t really anything that lives on my iPad.

What I keep on my actual phone

My camera?

  • error

    Report an error

Ross Catrow

Founder and publisher of RVANews.

There are no reader comments. Add yours.