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)
- Periodic Notes
- 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)