Clearing Your Digital Clutter

Digital clutter can be easy to ignore but a cluttered computer desktop or photo library can drain our time and energy just like our physical clutter. Here are a few simple tips to manage the digital clutter!

Photos: Having thousands of photos stored on your phone or cloud storage can be daunting when we want to find a particular photo or make an album. And often we find ourselves spending money to upgrade our storage when we don’t need or want all the photos we have stored!

  • Schedule 15 minutes a day to declutter your photo library.
  • Start by deleting any screenshots you no longer need, then move on to photos you took to remind yourself of something… like a picture of where your car is parked or a flyer you no longer need.
  • As you scroll through your photos also delete any that are blurry, too dark, or grainy.
  • Another easy place to start is deleting photos that have no people in them. Unless you’re a particularly skilled photographer, often when we revisit scenic photos we find they don’t truly capture the memory (i.e. that picture of the huge red moon often looks more like a spec in a dark sky). Save the beautiful pics but let go of the rest.
  • Next, move on to multiples! We often take two or three pictures a time and they are rarely that different. Choose your favorite and delete the others. Deleting multiples is a great place to start with your videos as well… often we shoot a few “takes” when we only need one.
  • Finally, when reviewing photos from an event or vacation, put your editor hat on and curate. Choose pictures that tell a story and capture the feelings you experienced. You don’t need pictures of each and every activity or tourist attraction.

Throughout the photo decluttering process, keep in mind that all of our special memories live inside of us. Even if you don’t have a photo to mark each occasion, you still have the memories. If you don’t remember something, you can trust that you are not meant to. The most important time in our life is right now—the present moment.

Email: A great place to start is by preventing new email clutter from accumulating. We have found that so much clutter results from indecision. But clutter can be prevented when we make a choice about what to do with something in the moment we encounter it! For example, make decisions as you respond… i.e. once you have replied to an email from a co-worker or friend decide if you need to keep the email or delete it. If you receive an invitation to an event, make a decision about whether you will attend or not, reply, and then decide if you need to keep the invitation until the event is over or if you can put it in your calendar. When you receive a promotion, decide if you want to continue hearing from this company and if you don’t then don’t just delete it, unsubscribe! Doing your best to make decisions in the moment, will keep email from piling up.

Of course, even when deleting regularly, email will occasionally get the better of us so you will want to schedule some time once a week to do a sweep.

  • Delete events and promotions that have passed and email chains that are no longer relevant.
  • When it comes to regular newsletters and promotions, many email providers offer the ability to “sweep” your email box using certain filters. This is handy when you receive notifications and advertisements regularly from the same company or person. You can even set up rules that after a certain amount of days those emails are automatically deleted.
  • If you are overwhelmed by the number of emails, you can move the old ones into a folder and label the folder “emails to be decluttered and then take 15 minutes per day to work on those emails. This way, the emails are still searchable, but you can benefit from them not interfering with your day-to-day mental clarity.

Digital Files: Just like with physical clutter, we want to get rid of what we no longer need or want before we try to start organizing! Otherwise, we spend a lot of time and energy organizing clutter. And clutter by its nature can’t be organized!

  • If the idea of clearing your files is overwhelming, start small or choose an “easy win.” I.e. if going through your tax documents makes you cringe, start with the files that are on your desktop. Most likely, these are more recent projects and you can make quick decisions about whether you need to keep them or not. A clear desktop leads to a clear mind.
  • Once you get to those folders you’re avoiding, ask yourself why? We have found that when we’re avoiding a task it is often because we’re unsure of the next step. Or the next step feels complicated. For example, if your folder of tax documents is the one you avoid, perhaps it’s because you are uncertain about what you need to keep. In this case, your first step might be to visit the IRS website to find out which documents you need to keep.
  • After you have finished decluttering, then you can go back and organize your folders. Remember to keep your system simple and easy. If the system is too complex, it will not be easy to “file” your documents and you will create clutter again in no time. The key to getting in the habit of putting things away (both physical and digital items) is to make it very easy to do.

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