Perhaps you’ve heard of Inbox Zero. The idea being that one’s main email folder can become unwieldy rather quickly and the best way to stay on top of it is to aim for nothing remaining in the Inbox that hasn’t been processed in some fashion, be it by deletion or delegation or sorting into a “do this later” entry elsewhere.

I’m pretty good at keeping my work email under control. (Let’s not talk about my Gmail and my Google Apps accounts, because those interfaces are absolutely terrible if you want to manage your email in a non-Google-approved way, ugh.) The rule at work is, if I can see a scrollbar in my Inbox, I have too many messages in there and I pare it down one way or another.

On the other hand, I’m very very bad about maintaining another popular dumping ground: The Downloads folder on my computer. Judging by what I’ve seen in the course of my job I’m not the only one, mind you, but I can’t do anything about people who download the same Excel sheet twenty times and end up with ‘Critical Company Accounting Data (15).xlsx’ and so forth. All I can do is start looking after my own pile of mess.

There’s no mystery as to why this happens, really. A big part of what we do online is take stuff offline for our own use. Documents. Software installers. Media files. We download it, we run it or look at it or watch it or whatever, and then we’re done with it. “I’ll have to remember to put that in its proper place later,” we tell ourselves.

Ha! As if.

Let’s be honest: The bulk of it is Recycle Bin fodder. By the time you need to install that program again there’ll be a new version, or the program will be obsolete and you’ll have to download some other program’s installer anyway. You watched that video once, got a good laugh out of it, and… there it sits, undeleted and unsorted, until you get a new hard drive probably.

Don’t call it a “new year’s resolution” because ha ha no we don’t play that game in this household, but I started getting my main Downloads folder under control this weekend. Music is sorted where it belongs, installers are organized for safe keeping (or deleted), and so forth. My goal: Downloads Zero.

(Oh yeah and I have a stack of old hard drives with their own Downloads folders to work my way through as well. Whee!)

Let’s see how it goes.