Personal Information Management Part 2: File Categories

I didn’t realize I would end up making a series about this, but here we are. I have this weird obsession with creating One Classification To Rule Them All. The first part was how I created a file naming system. In this article, I’ll discuss file categories.

[File Organization Part 1: Universal File Naming Scheme]

File Categories

Most, if not all, operating systems give you a pre-determined set of folders to keep your files in. But they all organize files by type. Documents, Photos, Videos, etc. This is a good, basic system, but I’m taking a more lifestyle-based approach. The reason for lifestyle categories is because my goal is universality. Just like my file naming scheme works independent of OS, I want my categories to work for digital and physical things.

file categories in files app


These are the categories I came up with:

  • Home = Recipes, cleaning, etc.
  • Learn = Database of random information
  • Play = Stuff for fun
  • Self = Journal, self-improvement, etc.
  • Work = Work-related stuff

As an alternative, if filenames start getting too long, we can use abbreviations: Home = [H], Learn = [L], Play = [P], Self = [S], Work = [W].

Home is where I store recipes, cleaning tips (stain removal!), and financial stuff. Learn is an archive of random stuff, basically a miscellaneous category. Play is things you do for leisure, like video games, reading, movies. Self is things you do for self-improvement, like exercise and journaling. Finally, Work is for work stuff. If you’re a student, rename it to School. You can also add more categories if it makes sense for you. All of these folders are stored in one single folder called Root.

Now, inside each of these folders I do still organize things by file type. My general rule is this: If I have a minimum of three files with the same primary category, they get their own folder. Example: Root > Play > Game > Stardew Valley.

learn category in apple books


[Do Your Apps Spark Joy?]

Photo by Erol Ahmed on Unsplash

2 thoughts on “Personal Information Management Part 2: File Categories

  • Two thoughts:
    Where were you 25 years ago when I was starting out. I now have decades of crap, folders within folders, other folders of stuff rescued from computers I retired long ago. In them are more folders of stuff, some duplicates, some fresh, oh and folders of stuff rescued from even older computers. It would take me a year to sort everything out now and in the end I’d STILL not know what three quarters of the stuff was. Last month I was digging around and found a whole web site I had retired almost 20 years ago. I had no clue that it even still existed. Nice hints but I’m far too far down the road to try to adopt it now.

    Over the years I’ve tried variations on what you suggest, Home, Learn, Play, Self, Work. The problem I always run into is what about things that cross categories. Something I’m doing for myself, but is a home improvement. I’m playing with a program, but it’s teaching me coding. I’ve found it difficult to make hard categories. I have the same problem with e-mail I have folders for Work, Financials, Friends, Theatre, and others. But what about the message from my friend at work about paying for some tickets? Unfortunately I’ve not been able to hold to a hard filing system like that. Oddly enough, and much to my surprise, what Apple has done with iCloud has worked the best for me. Folders by Application, Pages, Numbers, Pixelmator, Linea, and so fourth. I may not know WHY I did a particular document, but I usually remember what I used to create it.

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