De-clutter your life by going digital
As I start to write this article I realise I have a confession to make. I’m a little bit of a Luddite when it comes to old fashioned media. I still prefer to buy my computer games as a boxed, physical product, even though direct downloads have become the most popular way to play games on Windows PCs. I still read physical magazines and books, I still occasionally buy CDs and every time I pass the empty Blockbuster Video store near our local supermarket I let out a sigh of disappointment. What can I say? I just like my physical media (plus the walk to take the blu-ray back on a Sunday morning was good exercise). Even if, like me, you have an affinity for old fashioned physical goods, there are still lots of ways you can de-clutter your media collection and free up valuable space in your home (assuming you have some room left in your attic!). In this article we’ll look at some valuable space and time saving tips.
Important – This article discusses format shifting and converting media. In most countries (including the UK, where we’re based) this is perfectly legal as long as you keep the original media (storing it away in the attic, for instance) and do not sell it or give it away. If you live in a different country please check the local laws before downloading and/or using the software we discuss here.
Break your post-it note addiction! – Are you the type of person that gets through packs of post-it notes writing little reminders for yourself that clutter up your desk, fridge door or other areas? Cut down on your addiction with these three apps.
1) Use the sticky notes tool in Windows to put virtual post-it notes on your screen. This program comes pre-installed in Windows 7 and 8, you can open it by going to the Start menu or Start screen and searching for “Sticky Notes”.
2) Use the Windows 8 calendar app – To start this app search for “Calendar” on the Start screen. You can then set reminders and Windows will pop up a reminder onto your desktop.
3) Keep your notes in Evernote. You can write notes like shopping lists, reminders, to-do lists and more in this handy app. Evernote on your Windows desktop even synchronises with Evernote on your phone or tablet. Write a shopping list at your desk then read it back later at the store on your phone, ingenious! Check out our Evernote tutorials here.
E-books, e-bills and e-papers – Back when office computers were a new thing, some IT experts predicted that we’d all be working in paperless offices within a few years. What actually happened was completely the opposite, computers made printing out so convenient that people started to print every last little thing, using more paper than ever before. Even all these years later, technology can’t seem to eliminate the printed paper entirely, but we’re getting much closer. Here are three ways your Windows PC can help you cut down on paper clutter.
1) Choose e-books over physical books – We have all seen the rise in popularity of e-books, now that modern technology allows for small, light and comfortable e-book reader devices like the Amazon Kindle and the Nook. Sure, a physical book might still be preferable for many of us, but you certainly can’t beat the convenience of carrying around your library in a Kindle. While there isn’t really a practical and/or affordable way to convert your own physical books into e-books (unless you want to spend around $8000 on a scanner like this), just by buying a handful of books on your e-book reader, you’ve already saved an awful lot of potential new clutter.
2) Go for e-billing – Many companies offer e-billing accounts now, where statements will be sent in PDF or similar format, for reading on your PC or your tablet. Perhaps you keep old bank statements going back several years? Maybe you don’t need to, check with your bank and see if they have an online statement retrieval service. Shredding all those old bank statements and reclaiming that space is very therapeutic!
3) Document scan – You can convert a lot of paperwork into digital versions if you’re willing to invest time and money into document scanning. If you need to archive lots of old papers, perhaps from your small business or maybe from school or college, a document scanner such as a Fujitsu ScanSnap can quickly and easily digitise piles of problem papers. Remember to make a backup of your scanned files before destroying your originals.
Manage your media better – Do you have stacks of DVDs, CDs or even old vinyl or cassette tapes? If so, use the tips below to de-clutter your collection and save space.
1) Convert your music – Having all your music conveniently stored on your PC won’t just save you clutter, it can be extremely convenient too. Even if you don’t listen on your PC, your Windows computer can help you copy your media to your smartphone, tablet, mp3 player or similar device. Converting CDs is especially easy, the only hardware you need is a CD or DVD drive in your Windows PC. Follow our tutorials here to get started.
Converting cassette tapes or vinyl records is a little more complicated, but entirely possible too. Check out our tutorials here.
2) Convert your movie collection – Instead of a stack of DVDs in the corner, why not convert your movie collection to a more modern format and store your old DVDs up in the attic as a backup copy? We covered how to convert DVDs into digital formats in these tutorials.
3) Archive home movies – Converting your home movies to play on your PC depends on the format they are in in the first place. Modern camcorders record to SD card or similar flash media. In this case, all you need to do is take the memory card from the camera and pop it into your PC.
Some camcorders recorded to mini DVD discs. Often all that’s required then is to load the disc into your PC and run it through a converter program, the same program used to convert your Holywood blockbusters.
Camcorders that used older technology may require you to purchase a suitable capture card. These come in all shapes and sizes and with various capabilities. Unfortunately, covering all possibilities would easily fill up an entire newsletter in itself! Read the online reviews before you buy and be prepared for a little learning curve if you’ve never used one before.
Play that media! – Once you have converted your DVDs and other media, you can play them on a wide range of devices.Here are three ways you can enjoy your new digital media library.
1) Hook your PC to your TV using a simple HDMI cable. This is an easy way to get your digital library on the big screen, but it’s not always the most convenient or hassle free method for comfortable couch viewing.
2) Use a media streamer – Devices such as the Dune or Roku players support playing back media from hard drives and/or USB sticks. If you are buying a new device, check compatibility before you buy, since not all devices support all formats. If you already have a device you want to use for media playback, you can use our free utility of the month, Freemake Video Converter, to change the format into something you can play on your chosen device.
3) Use an old PC and install Plex – For the ultimate in whole house entertainment, find an older PC (make sure it meets the minimum specifications) and install Plex Server onto it. Copy all your media to this re-purposed PC. Now, a huge range of supported devices, such as smart TVs, tablets, phones, streamers, games consoles and more will be able to access your content throughout the home. Check out Plex and see what it can do for you by visiting this page.
So there we have it, hopefully we’ve at least inspired you to use the power of your Windows PC in some new ways. We’ve certainly been enjoying our new Plex media server here and look forward to bringing you more multimedia tutorials in the future.