As I have gotten rid of much of my physical belongings, and as I continue to do so repeatedly, there’s another thing that really bothers me off and on — my digital clutter.
Of course, digital clutter is not as overwhelming as physical clutter. If you’re a bibliophile and knowledge seeker like me, just open your Kindle and Audible apps and imagine what if you actually had a physical library consisting of all those hundreds or thousands of titles. It would be a nightmare when it came to moving or relocating to a new city or country, right? But now, you have all of them in your Kindle and/or smartphone, and things are a whole lot easier. You are basically carrying your library wherever you go and have access to it within seconds.
Having said that, I still experience uneasiness sometimes due to digital clutter. Somewhere in my mind, I still feel disorganized and a bit overwhelmed if I fall off the wagon and don’t take care of it. It’s not visual like physical clutter, but the psychological and emotional component still exists.
Along with digitizing our physical items such as old journals, CDs, DVDs, photos, we must ensure that we also pare down our digital possessions. Along with organizing our inbox, our music, our photos, our libraries, and the numerous folders on our laptop or PC, it’s best to also get rid of all the files that we no longer need. This not only increases storage space on our computer and our devices, but also saves a good amount of time in the long run.
We can make some rules around this to keep us on track. For example, the Minimalists use the rule of thumb of “the last six months” i.e. they look back at their usage in the previous six months and get rid of all digital files that they didn’t need. They do this kind of purging twice a year. Of course, this doesn’t apply for documents such as tax returns, medical reports, university transcripts, and other important files that must be kept.
It’s also important that we declutter our photos and videos as well on our smartphones. It’s best to delete the unnecessary ones and back up the important ones in the cloud in order to free up storage. (Personally, I have found Files by Google to be immensely useful in decluttering my smartphone and freeing up space.)
My suggestion is to spend just 10 minutes at the end of your workday to declutter and organize digital files on your work computer, and 5-10 minutes every weeknight (maybe after dinner) to declutter your laptop/home computer or your smartphone. That’s it. Over time, it’ll become a daily habit and a second nature for you, and you’ll be able to eliminate the digital clutter build-up, saving you tons of time.
In addition, you can schedule a block of time once a week, or once a month like the Minimalists, to organize all your folders, delete excess photos from your phones, clear unused bookmarks, and archive any files and emails that you haven’t accessed in the last 90 days. When you archive them, they’ll be out of your view (tidying up your folders and inboxes) but you’ll have access to them if you need them.
This regular maintenance on our devices ensures that our devices run smoothly, our desktops, folders and our inboxes are clear and easy to access, and our user experience gets exponentially better.
You might be making huge strides in getting rid of your physical clutter, but make sure that you address your digital “stuff” as well. Junk, even the one that sits in your devices, has negative consequences, so make sure you eliminate it and create more space and freedom in your digital life as well.