How to Clean Up Your Digital Clutter

April 2023
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While your work computer may be very organized and have a specific filing system, your personal computer or smartphone may be a little bit messier, according to The New York Times “Well” newsletter.

You can’t always see the mess like you can with physical papers, but it’s still there and can cause some anxiety and make things difficult to locate.

“Just as clutter in your home can cause stress, erode productivity and have a negative effect on your sense of well-being, digital clutter... can bring up similar feelings,” says the article.

While some may not be bothered by electronic clutter or digital hoarding, purging and scaling down can also make your devices operate better.

To start, check your device storage (on your phone or computer) to see how much free space you have overall and to learn how many videos, photos and files you currently have. You may be surprised at what you’re inadvertently saving. 

Review emails in your inbox to see what you can clean up. Deleting files can be daunting, so it’s important to do this in small chunks of time that are more manageable.

KC Davis, a therapist and author of the book “How to Keep House While Drowning,” says, “I recommend a short time span to digitally declutter every day... and small goals like unsubscribing to two marketing spam emails every day.”

Other experts recommend reviewing your screenshots folder on your phone, bookmarked websites and any duplicates. Deleting apps you don’t frequently use is another good place to begin. (Note that some phones have pre-installed apps/podcasts!)

“You can also expunge unwanted text messages... and set your phone to delete old emails rather than archive them, which can eat up storage space,” the Times says.

Marie Kondo even provides advice on digital clutter: “A rule of thumb I follow is, if you haven’t opened a document in three or so years, and reading the file doesn’t spark joy, then it is time to let go with gratitude.”

Remember that you don’t need to delete everything — especially photos that hold memories — and consider archiving special items you don’t use every day in the cloud.

Keep things organized with folders for desktop files or phone apps, as well as email labeling systems. Finally, you must do regular maintenance once you’ve gotten your files under control. Here are some more digital decluttering tips:

• Look at the data.
• Declutter in bursts.
• Purge, then organize.
• Look for ways to delete in bulk.
• Consider offloading photos.
• Schedule time for upkeep.

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