When I moved into my tiny house, I had to digitally scan every document and photo. I don’t have the room for jam-packed filing cabinets. Scanning my documents produced hundreds of new files. It took me hours to organize them in a way I could find those files quickly. Nowadays I have to guard against digital clutter, whether it’s new incoming files or my online accounts. Cybersecurity has been front and center in the news headlines and new threats pop up all the time. To be vigilant against phishing scams and account hacking I have streamlined and organize my online media, banking and communication accounts. As a matter of personal sanity (it’s an OCD thing), I have also decluttered my digital footprint. Here are a few steps that can help you tackle and streamline your digital clutter.
1. Gather all of your digital stuff together. Sort through cables, CD-Roms, Manuals. Get rid of anything you no longer have, need or is outdated. Back up and wipe any old thumb drives and external hard drives you don’t use. Destroy old CDs.
2. Before you decide to digitally declutter online, make sure you are using unique passwords and wherever possible set up two-factor authentication. 1Password provides the security of choosing unique passwords all of my protected accounts online without having to remember them. I also have a small password book as a backup.
3. Wipe and donate unused computers to a local school. Donate any unused gaming consoles to a shelter, after-school club or church. Factory reset and give old smartphones. You can donate your old phones to charity.
Now let’s tackle the easy things first.
Tackling Smaller Digital Projects
Unless you are my friends Renee or Derek, who have never deleted an email (probably ever), most likely you can organized and cleaned up your emails in an afternoon. That might sound like a significant time commitment, but it is so worth it! It will help you from getting overwhelmed again.
- Tackle your email. Almost everyone has several email accounts. If you are really concerned about cybersecurity, you shouldn’t have more than three emails. One for work, a personal one, and a junk email. If you want to declutter hardcore, pare it down to two emails, work and personal. Declutter your inboxes. If there are emails you must keep, set up files and sort your emails into those files. Answer any email that needs your immediate attention. Delete the junk. Take the time to unsubscribe. It may take a few minutes now, but it will save you the hassle of deleting the same old stuff every day. If you have Gmail, click here for more ideas on how to clean up your email inboxes.
- Delete temporary internet files. Go to Control Panel > Internet Options > General > Delete Temporary Internet Files.
- Update your contact’s information. Delete unwanted contacts.
- Clean up and delete bookmarks that are no longer needed.
- Consider changing your internet homepage to a less distracting, less personalized page like google.com. It might prevent the distraction of more personalized pages (i.e. news, weather, stock market updates, celebrity gossip).
- Think about your social media. Cull your Facebook contacts. “Unjoin” groups you are no longer interested in. Don’t try to keep up with all the different social media streams. Leo Babauta from Zen Habits approaches Twitter like this, “I’ll just jump into the stream of incoming tweets and see what people are saying. I can ignore them or follow their links or reply if I want. Then I get out of the stream. I don’t try to read everything I missed, and if I miss a lot of stuff, I’m OK with that.” You can apply that tactic to any social media. Social media should not run your life. Do you really need all of those media alerts?
- Tackle your document folders. Delete any old folders no longer needed. Set up a document folder system, one where you can easily find what you are looking for. For instance, all my blog posts are group together in one folder. Within that folder, they are broken down by year and finally by topic. It looks like this, (Project) Blog > (Year) 2017 > (Topic) Tiny House.
- Clean out old documents. Archive anything you can’t get rid of.
- Uninstall any programs you no longer use, including games. You’d be surprised at what you don’t use.
- Minimize your desktop icons. Make your desktop as clean and as distraction free as possible. Choose a simple desktop background to minimize visual noise.
Tackling Larger Digital Projects
Larger digital projects can be overwhelming, so set time limits, (like 3 hours a week) until it’s done.
- 1. Tackle your photos. Delete any images that aren’t meaningful. How many photos do you need of that lake view? Keep your very favorites and delete the rest. Delete anything out of focus. All those unwanted photos are taking up space on your hard drive. Cull them and organize them by subject, event, year or person. Pick a system that works for you.
2. Go through your music and movie library. Delete anything you don’t listen to or watch. Be ruthless. Keep the best of everything. If you really want to watch that mediocre movie again, rent it later. Your photo, music and video libraries should be filled with everything you love and nothing more.
3. Now clean up the disc and defrag. For more information check here.
4. Last, but not least, upgrade your software, programs, and digital devices.
For more ideas on how to digital declutter, check out The Minimalists.
How do you digitally declutter? Have you found any particular systems that have helped you streamline your digital footprint?