When it comes to decluttering we automatically target the physical, tangible items that have a presence in our space. What about our online space? Could they, like our homes, become cluttered and in need of a cleanse?
I'm going to explain how digital declutter affects us and our productivity, and give you 10 digital decluttering projects that you can take on.
Did you know that clearing our digital clutter is just as important as the physical clutter?
In fact they are very similar. Just as physical clutter causes stress, digital declutter can cause us to lose our time, reduce our productivity, and be a huge distraction.
Now more than ever, it's imperative that our digital spaces are under control as an increasing number of us are working remotely; plus the fact that tech is present in more aspects of our daily life. I'm not just talking about computers here; laptops, phones, and tablets all count.
With all this tech surrounding us, it's inevitable that it causes us to be distracted. Accompanied with the birth of push-notifications pinging at us every 2 minutes, the question is: can we ever truly be focused?
Do you put as much effort into decluttering your digital space as much as your physical space?
Personally, I do not; shameful as it may be! Digital spaces are often neglected and not held as high in regard compared to physical spaces. That needs to change!
There are numerous digital spaces you can declutter, such as download folders, trash can, notification alerts, notes; it can be overwhelming to say the least. I suggest to break it down into smaller, individual projects rather than attempting everything at once. Even decluttering a few areas will give you a sense of space and clarity!
Here's 10 project ideas to get you started on your digital declutter:
10 Digital Decluttering Projects
1. Desktop and Homescreen
Let's begin with the most common area to declutter.
Desktops are commonly used as a dumping ground for files and documents: more often than not, they remain there and become part of the background. Aim to clear your desktop by using basic folders (see the next project), and make it a habit to save documents there straight away! Keep the intention to have no documents, folders, or shortcuts on your desktop.
Utilise your homescreen on your phone or tablet to include the apps you use everyday. To give you an idea, I have email, messaging, Notion, and bank account apps. As I swipe to the next screen I store the apps that I use less frequently; the next page apps I use even more infrequently (but still need to keep), etc.
Make it easy to find documents by creating folders. You don't need subcategories of subcategories of categories: just have the basics! Work - Personal - Purchases - Miscellaneous. Get everything off your desktop and into these folders!
Review your apps and ask yourself: "When was the last time I used this? Do I really need to keep this? If I had to use it and didn't have it downloaded, could I find something that performs the same on the internet without downloading it?"
We seldom use more than a dozen apps or programmes: the remainder just add to the volume of visual and digital clutter.
When I bookmark a page, I want to be able to find it again! As with Documents, create folders to easily retrieve these pages. Make it habit to always save bookmarks within the folders: it will save you an incredible amount of time (and effort) scrolling through one long list of bookmarks (Dad this one is for you!).
I find decluttering and organising photos quite difficult; I never know how many to keep of which ones to delete. A life-saver I've invested in is an external hardrive. I bought a 1 terabyte hardrive, so that once I've sorted my photos out on my laptop, I move them over to it. I don't have to worry (not for a long time at least) about the memory filling up versus my laptop. Categorise photos into years and special occasions. Again, don't overcomplicate it!
Do you keep all the junk mail that comes through your letter box? Why then, do you keep all the junk mail and subscriptions that come in your digital inbox? Be ruthless with your email, just as you are with physical mail!
Unsubscribe from ALL subscriptions. I guarantee that this will get rid of a massive amount of mail coming in. In addition, delete all emails that you'll never need again.
As previously mentioned create folders to archive emails. I again suggest creating basic folders: Personal - Purchases - Work. As you use these folders you'll come to realise when you need another one, such as if you're planning a wedding create a 'Wedding" folder.
Aim to get your primary inbox down to 0. Yes I said it! Z E R O . It's not impossible, and the feeling of having nothing in your inbox feels great! Make it a goal to get it down to 0 at the end of every workday.
7. Passwords and Accounts
It's hard to keep a track of so many and similar passwords. Create a secure and efficient password management system to store them all in one place. There are plenty soloutions if you Google it. Personally I use the app Notion (it's an all-in-one productivity, diary, calendar, to-do list brilliant app! An absolute gem and a game changer for my life) where I have set up a simple table and can easily find it. However because I'm old-school, I also write them all down on a piece of paper tucked in an undisclosed location in my flat!
If you're like me you probably have tens if not hundreds of chats open with friends and groups, each containing who knows how many messages, photos, videos and gifs! I firstly save any photos from those conversations that I want to be saved, then clear the whole chat. 99.99% of the time you'll never need to read through them again!
9. Social Media Feeds
Unfortunately it's all too easy to be overwhelmed by the noise and shouting that happens online; no wonder it causes stress! Cut the chaos by evaluating your friends, followed pages and accounts, and whether to mute, block, or unfollow them. Whether it's on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, News sites, or Pinterest, ask yourself: "Am I really that concerned with this?"
As your social media feed shifts from chaos to calm, you'll naturally become more mindful and intentional about how you actually use your time online.
10. Create a Routine
Just as we clean our houses on a regular basis, so too do our digital spaces. All the same, I'm sure our cleaning routines are very different! Therefore I'm not here to tell you when you should be decluttering your digital space; it's different for each and every one of us.
The key to take away is maintenance on whatever time scale that works for you.
Before you go, please remember this...
the same rule applies to everything digital as does with the physical: EVERYTHING needs a home!