Learn to Stop Worrying And Love The Clutter

I have several vaults that I would like to keep quite separate (e.g. Notes, Dreams, Studio Notes), with a couple of nested vaults within. Nothing complicated, and I haven’t had any issues.

Notes < Mobile Notes
Studio Notes < Band

Synced using Syncthing. And dagnabbit, that’s the way I want it — there’s a bunch of stuff in the parent vaults that I don’t want, or can’t use on mobile.

With this method, it seems you have to know exactly where you’re going to save things that you haven’t even created yet (that is, if you ever want to re-organise files/folders — which for me is often — without pain of broken links, or orphaned/duplicate attachment files/folders all over the place).

Or… you just keep, and orgainse, absolutely everything in one huge vault, one massive pot of files, just jumbled in there all higgildly-piggildy — creating a disorganised mess that’s impossible to browse outside of Obsidian — but eliminating most of the aforementioned problems.

That would be fine, but dealing with images and PDFs inside Obsidian doesn’t seem fast/flexible enough for me. So, I’m not convinced yet, but really would like to be.

Any thoughts greatly appreciated, cheers.

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I don’t understand how you’re encountering this problem if the vaults are quite separate. Are you linking between vaults?

You can use folders inside a vault. I have lots of unrelated stuff in a single vault and haven’t found it to be a hassle. (Some people feel differently about it, tho.)

I don’t follow how this relates to rest. If you give more detail about the problem, someone might be able to help. (I don’t use many images in my vault and try to keep PDFs out of it, so that person might not be me.)

The vaults are separate, but sometimes I do move, and want to be able to, move files and folders between them (is this some sort of ethos violation?) — and hence, sort of need to know where it’s going to live [it’s final resting place] before it’s even been created —

or have to use this system of having an attachments folder inside every single directory. This works ok if you’re moving a whole directory, but not if you just want to move one file.

You need to remember to move the attachments also (we’re literally talking about a note with a picture in it here). If you Move the attachments folder with a file, it’s going to break stuff that remains in place. If you Copy the attachments folder, it’s creating a mess of duplicates all over the place.

And this is what I’m trying to determine. There’s surely a better way. (i.e. one big vault for everything?)

That would be all hunky dory, if I could view/manipulate everything (images, PDFs etc.) inside of Obsidian, not really worry about a neat file structure (i.e. attachments for the whole vault are in one big folder all together — which outside of obsidian would be a nightmare, but that wouldn’t matter with this method — and hence the title of the post.

(Reply: It’s just a note taking app, bro)

Vaults really aren’t meant to interact with each other, so yeah, if you find yourself moving things between them like you describe, I think you’d be better off with a single vault. As you’ve noticed, it would clear up the problems with moving things.

I haven’t looked at Syncthing in a while, but I think I remember it allowing you to control which folders are synced? So if each vault were instead a folder in a single vault, you could move things freely without breakage and still control what goes on your mobile device.

It certainly goes against Obsidian’s design.
otoh, it is something that I do from time to time.
But if you’re operating against the flow of the program, you do need to understand what it is you are doing.
I suggest that all file names be unique. That means that you can find a file, even if you have broken the link. Obsidian will reindex but only ever knows what lies within the open vault.

Also important to remember that there are no attachments in markdown - in reality they are just links. Break the link and the “attachment” is lost.
Easiest way around that is to keep all attachments external to, but accessible from, all vaults. Explicitly only put links into the notes. That should avoid attachments getting lost, but might be a more fiddly workflow. idk if any plugins will be able automate this for you.

Yes. That would be going with the flow.

Thanks, good point. I’ve updated some of the ignore patterns in Syncthing. But you end up with the same problem in the end — moving files with attachments.

Am I missing something here?

When I drop “stupid-meme-I-saw.jpg” into a note, it’s copied to somewhere inside the vault, no?

“Vault Folder”
“In The Folder Specified Below”
“Same folder as current file”
“In sub folder under current folder”

(all inside the vault)

This was one of the first things I noticed using Obsidian. I thought, “amazing I can put images in these notes”

But then I realised, “Oh, it creates a copy of the file inside the vault. I’m ending up with duplicate files all over the place.”

For me, being able to link images and mp3s (as great as it is, and as nice as it looks) inside a note becomes completely pointless if/when you move that note, you’re having to manually change links, or manually find and move the linked files.

They’re not “attachments” if they’re not “attached”

I was one of them, but you learn to live with it.

You can learn to live with multiple vaults too, you just need to understand how Obsidian works.
Which is best depends on your typical workflows.

One of Obsidian’s weaknesses is file management - for example the multiple requests (and plugins) for manual sequencing. Bookmarks offers a way to maintain a manual sequence, but doesn’t allow a way of actually selecting and managing a group of files; yet at least. Which means that you need a robust way of interfacing with the file management tools in the OS.

Separate vaults can help this, with the extra gain of attachments moving with their vault - though this doesn’t help if there’s a desire to move individual files between vaults.

Working with one vault is much easier if you have a workflow that never needs to work with the file explorer. (The Heptabase system is a good example because it only has one folder for the notes; using it for a while helps to junk the file explorer and teaches a bit about the limitations of that type of design.)

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Well, they are attached, so long as you don’t sunder the link.

I’d agree with this.
It may not be an issue if you keep everything inside one vault - but that vault can then become very large if you use a lot of images, PDFs, and videos. Which creates problems with speed and sync.

But it is worth looking at the ways different plugins tackle the issue. Some send pasted images to an image hosting account, some send them to a local folder. One of them might meet your needs, or you might be able to tweak the code so that they do. I don’t use them myself because I don’t understand exactly what they do under the hood, and don’t have the time to investigate plugins.

What I have started doing is having my own (backed up) folder for pasted images, and then paste from that into Obsidian and other programs. The links persist despite files being moved. There’s a workflow change, but probably no slower overall as there’s one collection phase followed by a note-making/pasting phase. I do also use a clipboard manager with will produce sequential pastes, so I’m used to working in this way.

Yes. If you prefer not to store a copy of an image into your vault, you can, however, ctrl + drag and drop - this will create a link to the image’s original location. If you click the link, the image will be opened in your default application for images (or being embedded into your actual note - if you don’t want to embed it, remove the ! before the link).

If you keep all your stuff within one vault, moving a note will automatically adjust all links from and to that note. So you don’t have to change anything manually.


This is helpful… thanks.

I wish I’d known sooner

I have—for the sake of my sanity—stopped worrying about organizing individual notes into specified folders (except in a few contexts where the separation from other notes is obviously warranted, eg. my therapy notes don’t need to be swimming about in the main file folder, eg. my flashcards deserve a Flashcards folder. Other than these special cases, every single note simply floats, seemingly “cluttered.”

I chose to break away from topics and folders and such because, and I’m sure many users are familiar with this idiom, spending time organizing means spending less time learning. In addition, the (arguably) best part of Obsidian is its ability to make connections between ideas that you might not have thought of yourself. Separating your notes into many vaults, however unrelated they might seem, bars you from that function.

That said, there’s no rule that says you have to use Obsidian that way. Connections might not be your main output goal, and that’s fine, no matter what anyone says. Still, I would advise taking the easy road, and I’d argue it is not nearly so chaotic as you described. At least, it doesn’t have to be.

What I have done (through much trial and error—I am not a tech person!) is watched and read instructions about how to created automated systems in Obsidian, and created notes that act as indices of my content. Understanding plugins like Templater and Dataview is crucial for this. With these plugins I have essentially created a table of content for my Vault. If I ever wonder, “Hm, how many notes do I have with movie recommendations in them,” I can make a Dataview table that lists not only the titles, but the directors, the release date, the runtime, the genre, in minutes.

I think it’s hard for non-techies to grasp that software doesn’t reflect real life. Obsidian is not like a physical file folder, where the manual effort of organization by type and alphabet is ultimately more productive. It’s a program, which means it is most ideal if the organizing effort comes before the file collection by using programs to do the organizing work for you. You can tell Obsidian to send certain types of content to specific locations, or open a specific page format for specific types of notes, for example. And there’s no need to worry about AI stealing your ideas or anything because these are automated processes that you design.

TL;DR: 1) Just because you don’t know where something is does not mean it is lost, not so long as you know how to find it, and have the tools to do so.

TL;DR: 2) Obsidian fresh out the box is kind of…useless. You gotta help it grow by learning how to optimize it.

PS. Here is a list of plugins and functions that helped me massively, once I overcame my intimidation of trying new and unfamiliar things.

  • Dataview, Templates and Templater, of course.
  • QuickAdd (BIG help)
  • QuickSwitcher
  • Periodic Notes
  • Completr
  • Dangling Links
  • Find orphaned files and broken links
  • Folder Note (this is a good one!)
  • Waypoint (under appreciated and so so sexy)
  • Homepage (I keep my tables of content here)
  • Recent Files (simple and powerful; lists your 50 most recent files)
  • Tag Wrangler (would die without this, really)

Jesus, sorry for the book. I am a writer; it is my greatest flaw.

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Don’t apologise. Thanks for the input

I’ve amalgmated 3 vaults into one since the original post. And I’ve been looking into more plugins. Part of the reason I was reluctant to install too many plugins was keeping track of them across the different vaults.

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