by | Nov 20, 2010

Years ago, before the standardization of the desktop, file managers were a popular type of software. These were system utilities that would let you do lots of neat stuff with your files. Everyone had lots of work to do organizing their files, and a program that did it faster and better was highly prized.

It struck me as ironic that even if you avoided housework in the real world, you ended up doing it in the virtual world.

Somehow the irony of electronic “housekeeping” stayed with me. Over the years I’ve often found myself doing something at the keyboard that’s not that different from washing the kitchen floor.

Of course, it’s not as satisfying as washing the kitchen floor. After the floor’s clean, I get a payback right away when I put the mop and pail away and stroll back into the kitchen.

I guess eHousework could be necessary or practical. On the other hand, it could look like a ridiculous waste of time, aspirational work avoidance, or a laser-like focus on the inessential.

You don’t know what I’m talking about?

Have you ever found yourself

  • cleaning your inbox
  • defragging your hard drive
  • sorting your bookmarks
  • emptying desktop “trash”
  • policing the icons on your desktop
  • experimenting with screensavers
  • fine-tuning the icons on your phone or tablet
  • creating wallpaper for your desktop
  • straightening your virtual stickies
  • changing the “skin” on Firefox
  • personalizing your Google desktop
  • organizing your blog sidebar
  • reworking social media profiles

Then you should know what I’m talking about. You, my friend, are a housekeeper. Dusting, emptying the trash bins, changing the linens. A servant of the machine.

Like anything else, I know I should apply the “80/20” rule to this situation. I know that only 20% of my activities will produce 80% of my results. But if the icons really bother me, shouldn’t I change them? In fact, I’m 100% in favor of changing the icons.

Maybe you’ve found a solution for sinking time into virtual housekeeping. I’d love to hear it.

Image licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License, original work copyright by CarbonNYC,

tbd advanced publishing starter kit


  1. PJ Kaiser

    I second the vote for filters – all of my mail – across four inboxes – is organized using filters. Took a bit of time to get it set up and i have to tweak it now and then but it’s a big timesaver.

    I find that i have to do a LOT less housekeeping since i’ve moved to a Mac, fwiw. And i try not to get hung up on keeping icons and bookmarks neatly organized because i know it’s only a matter of time until i migrate to a new … something – operating system, browser, etc. – and I’d have to redo it all. So i try to keep it simple and focus on using rather than arranging.

    • Joel Friedlander

      PJ, seems like filters are a favorite, for good reasons.

      It took me a while to get to the point of being able to just leave stuff alone if it wasn’t optimally arranged, neat and tidy. Now I’m more interested in getting stuff done and have learned the lesson of “good enough” is a powerful one if you don’t have an unlimited amount of time on your hands. Thanks for your comment.

  2. Rima

    Here’s one for Gmail users: Create a filter, or a number of filters, for emails with words like “coupon” or “subscribe” and set these emails to skip the Inbox and go directly to a folder called “bulk mail.” This will keep newsletters and such in a separate place and keep your Inbox from getting cluttered.

    • Joel Friedlander

      Great tip, Rima. I’ve been using filters too and it really helps keep the inbox slimmed down.


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.