I am incredibly guilty of hoarding physical objects – books, clothing I don’t wear, magazines I never read, dog treats, etc. – but I am just as bad if not worse when it comes to my electronic life, except there’s even more of it. Digital organization is crucial for me!
Electronic clutter is just as stressful as physical clutter, not to mention just as exhausting when you try to sort through all of it to find what you’re looking for.
Because I am so prone to electronic clutter of all kinds, I have a few systems in place for the areas where it is most likely to creep up. Let’s talk about how to organize digitally and say goodbye to the digital clutter, once and for all.
1. Keep your files on your computer neat, tidy and actually important.
It’s too simple to let your desktop and your computer files to become the electronic dumping ground for every image, PDF and important document you’ve ever been sent in your life, not to mention all sorts of documents and files you create yourself.
I sort things in my Google Drive and on my desktop computer into three main folders:
- Side Hustles
I work very hard to not just dump every file that comes my way into the files on my computer. That is, after all, why Google Drive exists.
2. Unsubscribe, unfollow and unfriend often and liberally.
I used to eagerly play the follow-for-follow game on Instagram, and I go through phases of being overly optimistic of how many email newsletters I can and want to read in a day.
So I ended up with about 500 people I followed on my blog Instagram that I didn’t really care about and god knows how many emails coming into my inbox.
Here are my strategies for this:
- If I get an unwanted newsletter or promotional email, I try to unsubscribe right then and there. Sometimes, it takes a few emails for me to actually get rid of it, but boom. (Somehow, this hasn’t worked for the Williams & Sonoma emails I’ve been getting and can’t stop getting. But otherwise.)
- If I’m looking at Instagram Stories and I see someone I don’t really engage with much, I’ll check their profile and decide to follow or unfollow depending on their feed.
- When I’m on Facebook and someone I haven’t seen post in a while (be it a group, a page or a friend) pops up on my feed, I ask myself if I really care about their updates.
I know this sounds like totally “Duh!” but too many people I know decide to take on the huge daunting task of going through their entire friend’s list or a huge file of unwanted emails as one project. It’s easier to eat the elephant one bite at a time, don’t you agree?
3. Use Google Drive and Google Photos (or Dropbox or another cloud-based service, I guess) to store your files & photos.
The fact that some people don’t use Google Drive and Google Photos is mystifying to me, but one of the reasons my computer files are so tidy is because most of my files are stored in Google Drive. (Note: The same folder rules as my computer apply to my Google Drive, so don’t think this is a free pass to let the clutter reign.)
I also keep an Archive folder on Google Drive, which is where I stash files that I think I might need but want to review later. Swoop, off they go.
And Google Photos is great because once you upload all of your photos, you can clear your phone. You can still access all of them whenever you need to in the Google Photos app, but they’re not taking up precious GBs. It will also prompt you to delete the photos you just uploaded to Google Photos from your phone and will automatically archive things like screenshots.
4. Don’t hoard anything.
Honestly, No. 4 is an overarching rule for all of my rules about digital organization, but it stands on its own because it is so, so, so tempting to hoard emails, photos, apps, Facebook friends.
If you want to reduce digital clutter in your life (and it is really clutter, and it does really take up a lot of space, and it does actually slow you down and cause you unnecessary stress, whether or not you realize it) you have to change your mindset about digital clutter and admit that it IS taking up space in your life, not just on your device.
And just like you don’t want to buy a ton of clothes you won’t wear and books you’ll never read (that was a pointed dig at myself, by the way), you want to look at digital clutter the same way. Prevent it before it starts, and once it does start, nip it in the bud.
Delete emails you don’t need after you’ve read them, and file or archive the ones you think you will need.
Don’t save phone numbers in your phone if you’ll never text the person again.
Preview PDFs instead of downloading them.
Avoid downloading apps you think you’ll only use once, and delete apps that you downloaded and decided you didn’t like at all.
Leave Facebook groups you don’t want to be in.