When was the last time you undertook a digital declutter? They can be pretty confronting to think about! I’ve pulled together 10 tasks to get you started – some much shorter than others. They should help you stay on top of your digital life moving forward as well!
1. Back Up Your Files
Before you start a big clean up you should always back up your files, and while you’re at it investigate ongoing backup solutions. This should include a backup that is located completely separate from your home – either securely online or offsite somewhere – in case of something going majorly wrong. For things you really care about (special photos, important documents etc) make sure they are backed up to more than one location just in case. Personally I use a combination of external hard drives and a cloud based storage, which also backs up to separate hard drives – just to be sure!
2. Clean Up Your Desktop
Is your desktop full of files and folders that you never look at? Give it a good ol’ cleanup and delete as much as you can, and file away the rest. It’s amazing how a chaotic desktop can impact on your state of mind – much like a cluttered physical desk! You’ll probably find a whole lot of the items on your desktop were things you downloaded once and never needed again!
3. Rationalise Your Filing System
If you can never find the documents you’re looking for it’s a good sign your filing system needs sorting out! Sit down and map out the structure of files you are likely to need, then set up a digital version that reflects that. It might include folders for different years, topics, or a combination of both, depending on the kind of work you do. It will make staying on top of your online files so much easier moving forward as well.
4. Deal With Your Inbox
Depending on the state of your inbox this might be a task that has to be completed in stages! Nowadays that our email inboxes have infinite storage space it’s so easy to ignore how overloaded they can become. For new emails coming in try and deal with them on the day they come in, or if they need a longer response then set up a time to respond to them. When they have been dealt with either delete them or put them in a suitable folder to keep your inbox as clear as possible.
Set aside some time to then go back through your inbox (this might need some distracting music or a podcast) and delete everything you can and file away the rest. We should aim to treat our inbox like we do our mailbox – recycle what we don’t need and respond to what we have to.
5. Uninstall Software
Next on the digital declutter list is to uninstall software and applications you no longer use on your computer. This doesn’t just mean deleting the shortcut, but rather uninstalling the whole shebang. It’s amazing what you may have installed in the past, and it’s a great way to free up lots of space on your computer.
6. Clean Up Downloads and Trash
Even when you copy items out of your downloads folder you are left with the original as well, which is just taking up unnecessary space. So head on in and delete away or move into the appropriate folder. Once you’ve done that, be sure to also empty the trash can – another oft forgotten spot full of items just taking up room!
While cleaning up your inbox you should also set aside some time to unsubscribe to any mailing lists that you really don’t want to be on anymore. If you find yourself constantly deleting emails from a mailing list without ever opening it, it’s time to go. It’s amazing how much easier it is to stay on top of your email if you stop things coming in that you aren’t interested in anymore!
For mailing lists to companies that I like, but don’t always need to see, I use a service called Unroll.Me – it ‘rolls up’ all the email subscriptions you put on the list and sends you one email a day with the new updates from all of them. It also makes it really easy to do a mass unsubscribe as well. I recommend giving it a try!
8. Attack Your Digital Media
This is another one to be done in stages, but a digital declutter is not complete without attacking your photos, music and movies. The first step is to delete anything you don’t need – you wouldn’t have put crappy photos in a physical album, so there’s no need to keep duplicates or below par digital photos either.
Rationalising the digital media you have makes it easier to find the items you actually want. It also makes it a much less intimidating task to set up proper filing and backup systems for them too! For anything you want to keep but don’t need to access regularly, save them to an external hard drive and to a cloud system, then move them from your computer to free up more space.
9. Social Media
When undertaking a digital declutter it’s a good time to go through your social media and do a bit of a clean out as well. Chances are that you might be struggling with likes, and deleting content might affect the number of likes, but a declutter should be done nonetheless. This means unfollowing accounts on twitter you’re not interested in, deleting (or at the very least hiding) facebook friends whose updates you really don’t want or need, and so on for all the social media platforms you use. I was in my early 20s when facebook become a thing, and there are people I have on there I’m not entirely sure how I know, which is a good sign it’s time for a declutter!
10. Old Documents
While setting up your new folder structure another good idea is to delete any old documents you no longer need. This includes old versions of documents you won’t need to refer back to, drafts, notes and the list goes on. If you haven’t needed to access it in over a year there’s every chance you no longer need it on your computer at all!