Create A Highly Organised, Synchronised Home Folder With Dropbox

Create A Highly Organised, Synchronised Home Folder With Dropbox

When you love Dropbox like we do, you start syncing more and more stuff. The more stuff you sync, the harder it is to organise. Here’s a simple way to sort quickly and stay organised across multiple computers

We’re going to deal with two things here: organisation and synchronisation. Organisation is the big part, since that relies mostly on your (whereas synchronisation relies almost entirely on Dropbox). We’ll tackle that first, then take a look at some of the issues you may encounter when syncing almost everything you do on your computer. While these organisational ideas came about by using Dropbox, many apply universally to any modern file system. Some will require Dropbox, but you can still use most of these organisational ideas without it.

The Structure

Dropbox starts you off with a bunch of folders, and rather than change a bunch of things we’re going to keep organised by building on that. Before we dive in, let’s take a look at the folders you’ll want to have in your Dropbox. Once you have those, we’ll discuss how to use them.

  • The Dump
  • The Landfill
  • Projects
  • Documents
  • Your Flex Folder
  • Applications
  • Movies
  • Music
  • Photos
  • Shared Folders

Alright, let’s get started!

The Dump and the Landfill

We are not perfect. Like many diets, organisational systems expect us to simple curb our flaws for the sake of bettering ourselves. You’ve only got a limited supply of willpower, so how you organise yourself needs to recognise that. The Dump is all about having a place for your imperfections. You need to have a work folder where you can just save things arbitrarily. Starting on the first day of your week, everything you’re creating gets saved to The Dump. It doesn’t matter what kind of file it is or what kind of project it’s for — if it belongs to the current work week it belongs in The Dump. If you take lots of screenshots, change the location of those screenshots to The Dump (here’s how to do it in OS X). Whatever you create and whatever assets you use to create it, make sure this is where they go first.

These two folders will be the most important part of how you keep things organised in your Dropbox because they allow you to be a little lazy, but it’s important to not just let everything flow or you’ll become overwhelmed as it gets later in the work week. When you’re working on something new, even if you think it might only require a file or two, make a new folder inside of The Dump to contain it. Do not make efforts to spend time organising the dump, but definitely take a second to keep similar files together so you can move through The Dump quickly while you’re working.

Projects and Documents

actively working onTaskPaper


Your Flex Folder

The reason this is necessary is because my Flex Folder is sort of a combination between active projects and archived documents. Everything I save into my Writing folder could end up staying there untouched indefinitely or could be very active. The problem is, I don’t know which category each piece of writing will fall under. As a result, having a Flex Folder for writing lets me organise these documents with that extra flexibility. If you do any kind of work that doesn’t allow you to apply the active/archive structure, a Flex Folder is often the answer.


Because we’re syncing all of these folders between multiple computers, it’s easy to end up with a machine that requires a certain application that isn’t installed. While it’s not that hard to download what you need online, it’s annoying to have to stop your work to search for the application you need, wait for it to download, and then getting back to work. If you’re focused and in the zone, you want to minimise these problems as much as possible. Keeping installers for commonly used applications in a synchronised folder will help you do that. While you’re not going to keep big installers in here (like Photoshop, for example), it’s a great place for smaller installers for those applications and utilities you can’t live without. As an added bonus, if you ever need to share an app with a friend you can do that directly from your Dropbox.

Movies, Music and Photos

If you’re using a free Dropbox account and surviving by referrals, chances are you’re not going to have enough space to sync your rich media. If you’re paying for an account of 50GB or more, however, Dropbox can do a great job of handling your media.

Movies and photos are both pretty simple, since they can be organised in similar ways. About a year ago I got fed up with iPhoto and decided to try something else. That something else was an organised folder structure for my photos, forgoing any actual application to help me out. Dropbox made for a perfect partner because it provided an automatic backup of all my images. I have an enormous photo collection, but organising it wasn’t all that hard because you really just have to look your Photos folder the same way you’d look at managing your photos in a photo management application: organised by albums. The problem is that a directory isn’t ordered any way you want it, but rather based on certain criteria. Generally you’re going to organise your files in alphabetical order. To ensure similar albums stayed together, you can just add a tag to the front of the folder name. For events, I added a date stamp (e.g. 2008-09-21). For portraits of people, I added the tag PEOPLE. Folders containing wallpaper were prepended with WALLPAPER. The idea is pretty basic but it helps keep everything sorted nicely. This same method works well for movie clips, too.


Shared Folders

shared folders featureneed an alternative to the now defunction

Customise and Be Flexible

I deal with more files (and different types of files) than the average person and this is a system that’s worked really well for me. It’s about as ideal and perfect as I could possibly ask for and it makes my life easier every day. That said, you’re not me. You do different things, have different talents and flaws, and could be a very different person. If you want to implement this system, the first thing you should do is assess any doubts you might have. Chances are most of these ideas can help you stay organised and productive across your multiple computers, but only if you put a lot of yourself into the way you implement them. Do not follow this verbatim, but try it out in a way that suits your needs best.

If you have any suggestions for improving this system or just want to share how you made it work for you, let’s hear it in the comments!


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