Photo courtesy of Ian Bartlett/The Licensing Project
How to Declutter Your Digital Life
As a certified KonMari consultant, Katherine Picott is well-versed in the art of getting rid of what no longer serves you. But what’s often overlooked, she says, are our digital worlds: We spend so much time in our email inboxes, on our phones, and on our laptops, but we don’t dedicate the same emotional and practical consideration to decluttering them. “Digital clutter doesn’t just slow your devices down—it can slow you down as well,” she says. Here, she takes us through her task list to clean up your digital footprint, Marie Kondo style.
A Guide to Decluttering Your Devices
by Katherine Picott
With our devices being the center of our worlds, it is important that we learn how to use them in a way that helps us instead of harming us. The best way to achieve this is by taking back control and decluttering our devices.
The thing about digital clutter is that it is no different from physical clutter. However, because data and storage aren’t taking up space physically, it can easily become mismanaged. Decluttering your digital home requires you to do the work. It can range from joy-checking thousands of old photos and emails to deciding to keep only two out of your five social media accounts.
When decluttering my own apps, the first thing I did was look at apps I didn’t use and apps that were preinstalled. This is an easy way to significantly reduce the number of apps taking space on your phone and help you find the apps you do use more quickly.
Next, review apps that are similar in function. Remove any that you feel serve a duplicate purpose.
Take a few minutes to review apps that you have a subscription to. (On an iPhone, go to settings, then tap your name. Then tap subscriptions, and you’ll see them all there.) End any subscriptions you don’t need.
Photos, Videos, Downloads, and Voice Notes
I’m a military spouse, and my photos and videos of my husband are valuable to me. Because of their value, I have designated a folder for them. Once I find that the folder is getting too full, I will move the media files to an external drive. Additionally, I make sure that I delete any duplicates or images that don’t show either of us in the best light.
You can joy-check your images the same way you would clothes: Look at an image and ask yourself if it sparks joy. As you’re decluttering, create folders for categories of images you value.
With voice notes and downloads, it is important to check your device settings. Check to see if things like voice notes and podcasts don’t auto download.
Your Email Inbox
I once had over 100,000 read emails in my personal inbox, so I know how difficult this can be. Shocked by the number of emails I was keeping, I started by shifting my mindset—I used to be satisfied with all my emails being “read.” Now I archive or delete almost everything in my inbox.
Getting the number of emails down requires ruthless honesty. Go through your emails and unsubscribe from retailers that no longer spark joy. Once unsubscribed, use the search bar to find all emails from that specific retailer and delete them.
Declutter your draft folder by deleting any duplicates or drafts for emails that were already sent.
If you’re like me, and you have 100,000 emails to get through, this process might take you a few weeks. Observe how you feel when new automated emails hit your inbox—it may be that you’ve accepted the nuisance. Now is the time to do something about that.
Desktop and Folders
Your desktop is the face of your computer. Go through your desktop icons, files, and apps one by one and determine which you want to keep. As you declutter, consider both accessibility and relevance. Also keep an eye out for duplicates or documents with blank pages. After decluttering, review the desktop trash bin and then let the items go by emptying the trash bin.
Take a moment to really look at your internet browsers. Once there, review your bookmarks. Identify which bookmarks are necessary and discard the rest.
After you have decluttered your bookmarks, go through your open tabs. As you review each tab, consider what you are working on presently. Use the tabs as themes and keep tabs open only for things you are working on. Close any tabs that you aren’t working on and add them to a to-do list to revisit later.
Social media is a technology that will run on autopilot if you let it. Identify how frequently you use each app, how it makes you feel, and if it is adding value to your life.
If you are unsure of how to start decluttering your social media, start with the people and accounts you are following. Ask yourself: Do I recognize the people I follow? Does their content still resonate with me?
If the answer to these questions is no, consider unfollowing. Not only will it preserve your battery life, but it will customize your feed with the people and content you want to see.
Another way to prioritize your social media feed is by changing your notifications—and the types of notifications you allow—as they can easily become digital distractions. There are so many ways to customize your experience on social media; it is a matter of designating the time to do it.
Keep the germs away. Take the time to clean and sanitize your devices.
Save your battery. Close unused apps and clear your browsing history.
Don’t overwork your device. Schedule a time once a week to shut down your devices completely.
Boost your productivity and reduce your stress. Designate a day and time to declutter and organize your devices. Once a week, one a month, once every three months—the choice is yours.
Shift your mindset. Remember your devices are tools—use them accordingly.
Your devices are your digital home. Consider who you want to give access.
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Katherine Diaz Picott is the founder and CEO of Tidy Milso. She is a KonMari® Consultant, certified by Marie Kondo.