Spring Cleanup: 30 Must Do Tasks for Freelancers and Creatives

The spring is a great time, isn’t it? :) At my house I always spend a lot of time cleaning the house, washing windows and doing some extra cleaning after a long winter. As a freelancer/creative I’ve started a tradition on cleaning up in my computer-related things this time of year as well. Except this, I also do a lot of stuff specially in spring which helps me stay organize in the whole year. Here are some of my tips on how you can do the same!

If you are a creative mind that often leaves you with quite a lot of files, folders, software you’ve tried and so on. The spring is a great time for cleaning up a bit all over the line. It usually gets hotter and sunnier, the snow starts to disappear(if you live in a colder area like me) and you often get some extra inspiration and energy. I think this is a great time to use some of that extra energy on cleaning up. Not only does it feel good to have things nice and tidy but it will also help on your productivity when you do this.

Picture by Roma Flowers

I hope these tips I’ve collected can help you out a bit and if you have some tips of your own, feel free to add them in the comments:)

1. Look through files and folders


Picture by Ivan Prole

Take the time to look through all those files and folders you’ve created the past months. Finished projects don’t need to be shortcut-ed on your desktop. Usually these folders can have a lot of reference material you don’t need anymore or files that were never used.

2. Update Data

Make sure all your contact info is correct in your portfolio, signatures and so on. You should also take some time to make sure that all your contacts are up to date both on your computer and your phone.

3. Uninstall software you don’t need anymore

Picture by Michael Lorenzo

If you have tested out new software or used certain apps for various projects that now are finished, its time to uninstall them to make room for new ones. Your computer will thank you ;)

4. Check for updates on “everything”

Do various programs ask you if you want to update in the middle of you working with things so that you constantly click “remind me later” ? Now is the time to get it done. Check for updates on all software you have and get it over with. Not only will this stop “annoying” warnings and update-messages but it will also give you a more stable system. Win-win situation coming up.

5. Look for programs you need

Maybe you’ve spent a lot of time thinking of programs or extensions you should have installed but never took the time to. Use those extra minutes to find what you feel you need it being new skins, browser extensions or pure software. My advice is to also get a time management app if you don’t have one yet :)

6. Archive files and tag them

Picture by Billy Alexander

Look through files you have (that you still need) and arrange them into archives. Pictures and such should be tagged to find them easier later.

7. Earn money/share unused files

If you make drawings, write scripts, create logos, make buttons and such things there’s a good chance you have lots of these that never made it any further than the drawing board. Now is the time to look through them. If you think any of them can be of use to other creatives there are many ways to share them. If you have high quality photos taken by yourself that never came to use you can try upload them to stock-sites and earn some money of them. Or you can upload to other sites where they can be shared for free, like for example deviantART or Flickr. The possibilities are many. Wouldn’t it be great if others could make use of these files that you spent hours and hours making? There are many sites where these different kinds of work can be uploaded so try explore the options.

8. Update your portfolio

Picture by Asif Akbar

With all the projects you have finished it’s time to go ahead and update your portfolio. Many articles have been written with good tips depending on your niche so go ahead and google them if you need new inspiration on how to make your portfolio as professional and attractive as possible. My#1 tip on portfolios is to make sure you show the versatility of your work.

9. Unanswered mails

Do you have any unanswered mails that you havent had the time to respond to and such? Do it now. The sight of an empty inbox will leave you with a good refreshed feeling if you’re used to the mailbox being all filled up.

10. Unsubscribe to newsletters

During a year there are emails/newsletter subscriptions that you make or that you get automatically when you’ve ordered something. Some of these are actually useful while others are useless and annoying. Take this opportunity to unsubscribe to the ones that just annoy you.

11. Bookmarks

Cleaning up in your bookmarks can be quite a task but in many cases it can help speed up your browser and make things easier to find. Make folders for various links you need to keep, look through them and delete the ones you never use.

12. Paid subscriptions

Do you have any paid subscriptions that you don’t use or have been thinking of cancelling? Get it done!

13. “Read it later”s

Picture by Chris Chidsey
Maybe you have a button in your browser to store articles you want to read later or have a lot of bookmarks lying around that you’ve meant to read for ages. Clean them up aswell.

14. Clear out emails

I myself tend to keep all emails that I think can be useful to have later on. When I do the spring cleanup I take a look through my oldest emails and delete the ones I don’t need anymore.

15. Clean up your virtual desktop

The desktop itself can be quite cluttered after months of hard work. Remove all those shortcuts you don’t need anymore and all the files you’ve saved that should be somewhere else. Changing your wallpaper can also be quite refreshing. Start off the spring by giving yourself a new work environment. Find a nice new wallpaper that has a fresh feeling to it, maybe you even have some artwork of your own that you can use?

16. Defrag

You probably defrag your hard drive regularly, which you still should. But after having done all this cleaning up and moving of files you should finish it off by giving your drives a good old full defrag. This way files will be stored more efficient and the drives will work faster for you again.

17. Automate things

Picture by Sas Van Veen
This can be a lot of things that you’ve been meaning to do but never took the time to. Schedule backups or scannings, make a Photoshop action for something you do often or just some sort of adjustments you’ve wanted to do to your routines.

18. Change passwords

Every now and then you would for obvious reasons want to change passwords. Do it now. Make sure you know the passwords to all your services and store them safely.

19. Finances

If you have unsent invoices, get them out. Make a system in your finances with everything that involves. Put all your receipts where they should be, do you have overdue bills to pay yourself? And while you’re at it have a look at your expenses. Maybe you should set aside more money to save for something you need or for taxes. Are there areas where you can cut down on expenses?

20. Evaluate yourself

Picture by Sigurd Decroos
Take some time to have a look at what you have done the past months. Write down things you feel have been succesful and things that haven’t been quite like you planned. This part of the process can be very valuable. Give yourself a pat on the shoulder for the good things you’ve done, and try to find ways to improve on the areas that weren’t as succesful. As a rule you would want to keep good habits and break bad ones. It’s that simple. But you need to think things through to be able to figure out how to do just this. Be honest to yourself and it will pay off in the year to come.

21. Set goals for the coming months

Picture by Mateusz Stachowski
Planning is essential. And it’s always easier to plan and know what you want when you aren’t in the middle of everything. Take the time you need to write down your goals and how you want to be the coming months. Goals like “getting more done” and “being better at taking care of yourself ” are good goals but remember to also have some more specific goals that can be measured. Then it’s easier to see if you really succeeded or not when you have your next evaluation.

22. Hardware needs TLC too

Picture by Ilco
It isn’t only the software part of your equipment that needs your care, this also goes for your hardware. Blow off you keyboard and clean the mouse. Make sure everything is clean and working properly. This is also the time for renewal if needed. If you have a hard drive that has been acting up recently you should consider getting a new one or at least getting it fixed BEFORE it crashes and takes with it hours of work you’ve done. If you have cables that aren’t working properly or other things that just have things about them that annoy you or don’t work properly – get new ones or get them fixed.

23. Finish things

Most of us have old projects lurking somewhere that we always are going to “finish next week”. Make that next week this week. Make new room in your mind for fresh new things by finishing off the old ones. Maybe its article ideas you’ve been meaning to send for reviews, pictures you’ve ment to print out or upload somewhere, art you’ve made that you want to submit somewhere or something else you haven’t finished. It may take a few hours to get on top of things but it’ll feel great when you’re done!

24. Throw away stuff that doesn’t work

Throw all those old and dry pens and markers that aren’t working anymore. The old mouse that will never be used again shouldnt be hanging out in your creative area. Same goes for broken cds, rulers and staplers.

25. Treat yourself with something new

Picture by Banjo Ari
Buy a new plant, a picture, blinders, a new pen you’ve wanted or something else for your workspace that you need and/or want.

26. Clean the office

Empty the recycle bin, change the curtains, clean all spaces of your office.

27. Get rid of old papers and magazines

Cut out articles you want to keep and throw what you don’t need anymore.

28. Redecorate if needed

Maybe the office space itself could do with some adjustments. Moving the desk a bit, painting a wall or getting a new cabinet can do wonders to both your creativity and your productivity.

29. Stock up

Picture by Ian Barnard
Make sure you have fresh new notebooks, paper to print on, enough pens and pencils, ink for the printer and other things that you use a lot of.

30. Take a break!

If you’ve spent hours or maybe days spring cleaning you should end the whole session with taking a time-out. Go for coffee or lunch somewhere or just do something you love to do and give yourself a pat on the back for cleaning well done!

These were my 30 tips for the spring tasks. Obviously you would want to keep on top of things and organize more than once a year. But if you take the time for a real spring cleaning where you do everything that’s needed and clean up in all those things that have been unfinished for so long it will be easier to keep it up on a regular basis. Make sure you do these “spring cleaning” routines again in not too many months. If you do these things only a couple of times a year at least have routines that make them easier to follow-up.

As always you can leave feedback or your own tips in the comments section below. Thanks for reading and good luck! :)

Hilde Torbjornsen

A girl with passion for design, photography, business planning, freelancing, inspirational art and Photoshop/Illustrator. She runs the website Designer77 and you can follow her on twitter here: @Hildy77

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Comments

  1. Robert Wisewell says

    Thank you very much for sharing, freelance is a tough world and it’s nice to see people like you making it easier for others. Have an amazing day!

  2. Jonathan says

    It’s amazing how similar our perspectives are to each other. I could not like this more, thank you so much!

  3. Dillen says

    Well, the write-up is actually the freshest on this laudable topic. I concur with your conclusions and will thirstily seem forward to your future updates.

  4. says

    I always go through all my folders a few times a year. Its a good habbit to get into to remember all the things you did and things you dno’t need so you can make space for important things.

  5. says

    You’ve forgotten steps 0a and 0b (Zero A a and Zero B)

    Before you carry out massive cleanup of data and programs on your computer (mine are Windows machines), carry out a full hard disk image of your system so that you can recover if you over delete data or if you encounter uninstallations that crash and burn. Do a separate backup of your data because that should be a smaller size.

  6. mark says

    Well, I have only just started writing for people (rather than machines), so I do not have much to clean up. But, I still found this post extremely useful. As I sit here, surrounded by papers, old computers, and my unfinished tax forms, it occurs to me that spring cleaning is precisely what needs to happen.

    I especially like the to do list idea. I have been unable to keep those in order in the past, but it is probably a good time to start again.

    Have a great day!

    – mark

    • Hilde says

      Thanks Mark, Im very happy to hear you found the article useful!
      Good luck with your spring cleaning and have a nice day! :)

  7. Web Risorsa says

    i use to have an external hard drive to backup before cleaning my computer and laptop…

  8. Rhapsody says

    Briljant! Thanks for this. I’m looking forward to getting a fresh start before the sun realy starts to shine!
    Keep them coming!

    • Hilde says

      Im very happy you enjoyed the article! :)
      Yes, its great to get a fresh new start. Especially before the sun scares out all those dustbunnies from everywhere;)
      Have a great spring!

  9. says

    Very informative, I do agree in most of it. It’s really good to make some organize about your stuff and also don’t burn yourself working long hours infront of your pc.

  10. Tegan says

    It’s Autumn here right now but I need to do every one if those things! Thanks for the reminder and I’m glad I’m not the only one who puts these things off for too long :)

  11. says

    Nice article and tips! :)

    I’m actually in the middle of my “spring cleaning” right now… Cleaning up, throwing away, finishing old projects and throwing even more away. I’m also busy with building a new website for my business, the old one was too old and I didn’t like it anymore. For me, this also has something to do with finishing old projects!

    Cleaning and refreshing the desktop really works, sometimes it even makes your computer feel as new ;)

    • Hilde says

      Thank you for the feedback,
      and best of luck with all your ongoing projects! :D

  12. chuck says

    Something i should be doing is getting around to all my old emails, and forgotten contacts! Whats really effective is to just set a day aside to really spring clean everything on your computer, then its over and done with til’ next year!

    When i find a day off to do this i will certainly be spring tech-cleaning ;)

    • Hilde says

      Thanks for your feedback! :)
      Those old e-mails, yes I know. Thankfully Im done with them for this time as of yesterday. What a good feeling, hehe
      Happy cleaning ;)

  13. Webme1 says

    This is a fantastic list. A great way to clear the decks and start afresh. Some of the tasks such as file tagging can take a long time but are well worth the effort when you want to find specific files without interrupting your work flow.

    This is a great check list. Just start at number one and work down. By the end of it, your computer and your working space will be less cluttered and makes for a fresher mind. If you are too busy to do them all in one go, being able to cross off one item on the list each day will mean that a month later you are fully organised and good to go. I am starting right now!

    • Hilde says

      Hi!
      Thanks so much for your feedback! I am verry happy to hear you liked the list :D And I agree with you, if you cant do all the tasks at once – go ahead and for example do one a day or something. Excellent suggestion! :)
      Good luck with the cleaning ;)

  14. emil giurca says

    well , my computer helped me with my spring cleaning when it crashed during a repartitioning of the system today .

    lost absolutely everything from project files ( it’s a good thing i had already uploaded my current projects to various servers ) to font collections and what nots .

    so let this be a lesson to all you kids out there : just because you’ve done something hundreds of times before and it worked perfectly … take precautions ( such as back-ups ) :))

    • Hilde says

      Yeah Emil, I agree. (sorry to hear your computer crashed by the way :/ )
      We definitely should go ahead and make sure we have backups of everything at all times, you never know when bad stuff (like a computer crash) can happen.