Even though I had a bit of a spotty start of it, when I finally committed to decluttering around my home, I found it rather to easy to get rid of things. As one spot cleared out, it spurred me on to clearing out other spots.
Before I knew it, I’d donated several (packed) carloads of clothes, toys, books and household items.
Unfortunately, when it comes to my digital world, I have continued to struggle to get the clutter under control.
My digital world snowballed, especially in the early days of social media and my freelance designing, when I wasn’t sure how to organize it all. At the start, I followed just about everyone on social networks, and I collected just about every digital element and font I had the rights to.
Organizing documents and associated files? pfft.
Before I knew it, I was too busy with new projects to go back and sort through it all. And the problem only grew and grew.
Until earlier this year, when I finally tried to get serious about this all, the most I’d done was to occasionally delete outdated digital elements, attempted to (poorly) organize my fonts and elements, and sifted through various ‘friends’ lists on social networks.
Tips For Decluttering Your Digital and Online World
As I indicated in another post, my digital clutter has slowed me down on several projects, so over the last several months, I’ve begun to try to declutter my online/digital world.
Keep in mind, that I am still in the early stages of this process, so my ideas on sorting through it all are pretty elementary.
I started with my social media accounts, and slowly sorting through my digital elements . There was a lot of baggage I was carrying around and having to sort through, every time I got online: connections that were brief (when I was quick to follow pretty much anyone), irrelevant (I no longer need to follow sites for baby discounts) and outdated and useless (some fonts are just plain ugly, and no project will ever, ever, ev.er. require them).
Below are some of of the things I’ve done to declutter and organize my online and digital world:
Take Care of Your Computer Desktop.
For me, this is like the FlyLady’s recommendation to shine your sink daily. It’s a baby step. Something simple and manageable that can make your life feel a bit less cluttered. If it’s not taken care of daily, it quickly grows into an uncontrollable and icky mess.
Organize and Properly Label Your Documents.
I try to keep all of my client files and associated elements in a folder for each project. Once the project is complete, I zip the file and move it into a “Completed Projects” folder on an external hard drive.
Part of the key here is proper file labeling. I learned (the hard way) early on, when searching for a folder or a file, it is much easier to find, if the file name is relevant and easily associated with the project and files.
Clean Your RSS Feed
When Google announced that it was shutting down its reader, I admit, I was sad. But the truth is, it was one of the best things to recently happen in my minimalist lifestyle; so much so, that I even wrote a post about it.
I had too many email subscriptions being fed into my email inbox. It made it difficult to sort through work emails, so I usually kept as ‘unread’ to save for later. But never went back and read them.
Unsubscribe/get rid of the ones you find yourself always skipping over, saving to ‘read later’ (and never reading) or, are just flat-out uninterested in.
Eliminate Duplicate Files
I knew that there were times that I downloaded something twice, or copied a file and didn’t delete the original. But I was always afraid to delete the file, in case I actually hadn’t.
I came across the Gemini app ($9.99) for Macs a couple of years ago. (There is software for the PC, Easy Duplicate Finder, but I can’t vouch for it, as I’ve never used it). The first time I ran it, I was amazed, though not entirely shocked, by the number of duplicate files I had. I was even more amazed, and equally surprised, by the amount of space it freed up on my computer, when I deleted them all.
Though I don’t have as many duplicate files now, I still run the app about every 6 months, just to clean up anything I’ve missed or overlooked.
Remove Unused Apps From Your Phone
There was an app I tried to download recently, and was unable to, for several days, because I had too many apps, taking up too much memory on my iPhone. Even though I was able to download the app after I deleted about 5 apps, I ended up deleting 16 other apps I never used, and it’s made it so much easier to locate the apps I do use, when I need them.
Delete Music You Don’t Listen To and Bad Photos
Listen: photos, videos and music will eventually take up a TON of space on your computer. Hanging on to every free song you’ve ever been able to download, even if you hated it, and every photo taken with your phone, no matter how unflattering it was, or video, despite the crazy horrible lighting, will wreak havoc on your computer’s memory, and your sanity at some point.
There is no need in keeping photos that are out of focus, poorly framed, or similar to 100 other shoots you took at the same moment. Pick your favorite one or two and delete the rest.
Go through your music and get rid of songs and albums that you no longer enjoy. At the very least, save them to an external drive, and get them off of your computer.
Clean Up Your Bookmarks
I’m not gonna lie: my bookmarks were a big huge mess, and frankly, I am still trying to organize them. At one point, I had a decent system, but when I started switching from browser to browser, my bookmarks folder became one big gigantic vomit of links that were basically irrelevant, since I could never find anything…
Take the time to go through your folders and delete anything that is no longer relevant. For example: I had tons of bookmarks that I had saved for a book I was planning to write, and was researching. I no longer have plans to write that book, so it makes no sense to keep those links bookmarked.
Create folder titles that are more descriptive. This will make it easier to know what is within each folder. I had a folder titled “random”. Umm… hello actual randomness!
Clean Up Your Social Media Accounts
Admittedly, doing this created a lot of anxiety for me. Every week, I see people ‘calling out’ and trying to shame those who unfollow/unfriend them.
On one level I get it – it hurts to be ‘unfriended’. And no one wants to be ‘that jerk’ (or some other, even worse, name) who unfriends someone, and gets ranted about on Twitter or Facebook. (and, let’s be honest: being ‘unfriended’ or unfollowed is not actually as big of an affront as we try to make it in our minds; can we just get over it, please?)
Yet, I totally sympathize with those who clean out the lists of who they choose to follow, and try to be more selective and personal in their online interactions. Do we really need to be guilted into carrying around every business or person we ever followed, for the rest of our online lives?
If there is one area where there is a ton of digital noise for me, it’s social media. Twitter is where Randy and I met, and connected, so I want to love it (“I can’t quit you, Twitter“), but in order for me to recapture the fun and joy I had on it in the early days, I have had to majorly trim down the number of people I follow.
It (literally) took an entire afternoon to do, but I went through all of the people/businesses/groups etc that I was following on Twitter and unfollowed those who I no longer had a connection to or with.
I did the same thing with Facebook, and groups on Facebook, and it has made a huge difference in my social media experiences, and has eliminated a ton of stress, every time I get online.
As noted, these are just the beginning steps I’ve taken to get my digital/online world under control. I’ve hardly scratched the surface on my digital elements and I’m still trying to wrestle them into my control. It will take a lot more thought and consideration, but I hope to get them cleaned up, sorted and organized soon.
There doesn’t seem to be a quick fix to any of it, but it is something that is worth tackling. You’ll enjoy your time online more, and, hopefully, decrease the amount of time you waste searching through the clutter and noise.
I’d love to hear how you’ve organized your life online and digitally. Please share your suggestions and tips in the comments!