Lost In a Mess of Digital Media?


Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can." --Arthur Ashe


Big mess? Well, you're not alone. Photos on your phone, your partner's phone, your home desktop, your office, your tablet, and on and on. You have photos everywhere, but you never seem to get to actually look at them and enjoy them. And, it's the same thing with your videos, music, books, and data. It's all a big mess.

It can be overwhelming. Well, don't give up. You can get out of the mess! Divide and conquer, that's the name of the game. Take it one step at a time.

I don't know anything about your mess, but I do know all about mine. So, let's talk about my mess.


One of the key issues with my mess was how all my devices interacted with each other.
Phone talking to desktop

For example, I would do a wonderful job of synchronizing my phone photos up with my desktop only to start noticing problems a few weeks later. The problems were the result of my laptop talking to my desktop and synchronizing a different photo collection to my desktop which would cancel (overwrite) my phone to desktop sync.

As you can see, my devices were all syncing independently from each other. It was very easy to overwrite a high-quality file with the low-quality file having the same name. Also, any "meta-data" information could be lost the same way. In short, this just doesn't work.

It wasn't until I had my, phone, desktop, laptop to tablet all synchronized together that I finally started to make some positive progress. In this example (which is what I use) all my devices synchronize to my main desktop PC. Wherever there is a conflict, I have things set so that the "newest" file overwrites the oldest file. And every time I update even just one file on my desktop server PC, it automatically updates all the other devices.

Without having all my devices properly synchronized together, changes made on one device would be canceled out by changes made on another device.

So, in the big picture, I was tearing down my progress as fast as I could do it.

If that sounds confusing it's because it is confusing.


OK, that sounds a little patronizing, I know but that is one of my problems. I was so paranoid about screwing up my photos, my irreplaceable photos, that I made .ZIP files of everything before I did anything. I went crazy with these .ZIP files, I even had .ZIP files zipped up inside of other .ZIP files. Then when I unzipped them, I just added to my overall mess of duplicate files.
Now don't get me wrong, play it safe with your irreplaceable files but lighten up on the .ZIP files.


I have, over the last forty years, amassed over 20,000 photos. Most of this has taken place during the last 20 years since I have been carrying around a digital camera (my phone). Most of the previous paper photos have been digitized and are part of the 20,000.
Loss in a digital mess
All of this continues to grow at a rate of around two hundred (200) new photos per month or 2,400 photos per year.

To you, this may be too much stuff or maybe you are chuckling and saying, "This guy is just an amateur!"

My point is that everybody is different, with unique needs, tastes likes, and dislikes. What is great for you may be a disaster for me.

We all may not have "too much stuff" but we probably have "excessive stuff" in the form of;

  • Duplicate photos
  • Unnecessary or unwanted photos
  • Blurry or unusable photos
  • Photos that need to be in the trash, not in your collection

It's the same deal as cleaning out your refrigerator or pantry at home. Just do it, and don't forget that cheese back in the corner. It's really gotta go!


  • You must complete the synchronization between all your devices before you even think about renaming your files.
  • The same goes for tags and any metadata comments. Not only do all your files need to be synchronized but you must pay attention to the source vs. the destination so you don't lose your new data.
  • Even with 100% automated sync, it is a good practice to perform a weekly check to make sure everything is going what it is supposed to be doing.


So, I have cleaned up my collections and started a system to keep them clean. And that is the general idea. Wait a minute, what about the enjoyment part? Well, check out my website, Home Media Basics to get to the enjoyment part. Hey, there is no free lunch!