Cutting Back on Digital Clutter

Feeling overwhelmed with digital clutter? Here are the things you should DEFINITELY delete. | spring cleaning | online safety | decluttering | computer tips |

It’s the season of decluttering. Many of us, I’m sure, have gone to the store to stock up on plastic bins and trashbags and are already starting to get in the swing of Spring Cleaning. I mean, ‘tis the season, right? But here’s the deal. You may be cleaning out your closet and under your bed and in that one junk drawer that you never think about until this one time a year when you’re getting organized. Heck, you may have even bought a new planner and promised to organize your time better. But I can almost guarantee there is one place you didn’t think about decluttering… and it’s right in front of you. It’s your digital life. Now that we live in the world of cloud storage, so many of us have unlimited or large amounts of storage and we don’t think about paring down… but there’s good reason to (and there’s some good places to start, too).

Remember a few years ago when someone hacked the iCloud and was able to find (and share) tons of naked photos of celebrities? Yeah, that happened because these celebrities sent something private to someone, and it got backed up online, and then they got hacked. Boom. Now their private photos are in front of the world. While I’m not implying that you have scandalous photos on your hard drive or in your cloud storage, digital hoarding and digital clutter is very real, and privacy scandals are also very real.

Get rid of private info. I’m not talking about deleting social media or anything like that. If you have a document or a folder of your passwords, and it’s conveniently labeled “passwords,” you might have a small security issue. Especially if that document is backed up to a hackable service, like the cloud. Go ahead and make a private copy in a locked place (like a safe), and then delete the file. It’s best for your safety, especially if you’re saving passwords for very sensitive stuff (like your bank account).

Delete the blurry photos. Even if you have unlimited storage, deleting those photos that just aren’t great is a great way to make the good ones easier to find. Go ahead and take time to delete photos you don’t love, get rid of anything you don’t want someone seeing, and pare down the extra “junk” you’ve got stored away. If you’re using an external hard drive, go ahead and pare that one down, too. Just get rid of the stuff that’s so old or so low-quality that you’ll never use it.

Go through your Google Docs. If you’re like me, you’re a big fan of Drive from Google and the associated programs, like sheets and docs. I love being able to open and edit these docs from anywhere, and I also love sharing them with family members (like our weekly meal plan and grocery list, so everyone can add their own stuff before I head to the store). There’s another way you may be like me… since it all autosaves, if you don’t take time to delete, you may have your last year or two’s worth of grocery lists… really? Is that necessary? Go ahead and PURGE! Delete the old lists, make room for the new lists, and stop having 15,000 documents pop up every time you search “grocery list” on your phone.

Delete those old shipping notifications. When I place an order online, I like to hold onto that handy little shipping notification so I can keep an eye on the tracking. It’s a really effective way to make sure your stuff arrives without a problem. However, I’ve found myself running into a little problem… I went back through my inbox and found shipping notifications from SIX MONTHS AGO. Do yourself a favor: if you don’t have one, make a “shipping notifications” folder. Commit to going through it every week– add it to your planner if you have to!– and delete any ship notifications for items that have arrived. There’s no reason to keep holding onto tracking numbers forever after your items are here, and they’re just cluttering up your inbox.

Commit to Inbox Zero. We’ve all been there… signing up for one too many junk emails in order to get coupons, signing up for email newsletters from favorite sites and finding out you aren’t really reading them, and of course, getting social media notifications. Commit to zeroing out your inbox on a daily or weekly basis, so you’re starting the day on a good, clean note, with just what matters in the morning. I like to check my email in the morning and get to the most important things first. Then, around lunch time, I check again, getting through immediately important things and filing away anything that needs to wait (like those shipping notifications). Before bed, I make sure to add anything I haven’t covered to my to-do list and filing it in it’s own folder of stuff to tackle first thing tomorrow, and then anything else that’s not necessary goes in the trash, or gets read and then trashed. And seriously… if you find yourself skipping the email more often than not, it’s okay to unsubscribe (even if you’re having to unsubscribe from me. I won’t hold a grudge. Mostly… haha). Oh, and if you’re checking your social media regularly, turn off those email notifications– most of the time, you’re just telling you what you already know.

Delete the old stuff. Your final paper from a college you attended four years ago? You probably don’t need it anymore. That recipe your aunt Meg sent you that you’ve decided isn’t your thing? Hit delete. Tax info from 10 years ago? Digitally shred it. If it has been more than a few years since you opened the file, just get rid of it. You really, really don’t need it.

What item are you digitally hoarding? Let me know in the comments below! (And seriously, how often do you spring clean your computer and phone? I’m curious!)

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