Digital Decluttering: 3 Questions To Get You Started

I enjoying living in a decluttered and organized space, and this includes my digital life as well. 

Recently I decided to re-set my laptop to factory settings, essentially clearing all of my personal information and then adding back in only what I deemed absolutely necessary. 

At first I thought I needed a newer, faster, spiffier computer. It turned out I simply had to let go of what bogged me down and free up space for what could move me forward.

Notebook and pen sit near an open laptop computer with a cup of coffee nearby.

Do I Really Need All These Files and Photos?

I realized I held on to plenty of electronic “stuff” for years that is simply not that important, and so I did not even bother backing up a lot of it. I thought of it like this: If I only had one paper copy of this, and I somehow accidentally shredded it, how devastated would I be? The answer in almost every case turned out to be “not at all.”

Of course I did want to save a few items {iCloud came in handy here}, but I purposely did not move others—knowing they would be gone forever—and I felt confident I would not miss them. With the clutter out of the way, I could more easily see what I needed to do to keep my digital life from becoming overwhelmed again.

I hesitated the most with photos. I think those of us who grew up in the age before digital cameras and ubiquitous phone cameras still have a hard time thinking of pictures as disposable commodities. But honestly, I share all of my favorites on social media, and have several photo albums of prints from our travels that grace our shelves. I also upload copies to Amazon photos for storage. I have no reason for the excess to be saved on my laptop for all eternity. 

One loss did disappoint me a little. After I re-installed the operating system, I attempted to download Evernote again and discovered the newest version is not compatible. I had been using Evernote to organize my blog notes and drafts, and I really liked the set-up. But, I made the switch over to a different application—Notes—and it is working out just fine after a brief learning curve.

How Social Do I Have Time To Be?

Next I moved on to dealing with my social media accounts. I currently maintain two Facebook pages {one personal and one business page for the blog }, plus Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest

Here is the main problem I am having: In an effort to be a supportive blogger—as well as to open marketing avenues for my own writing—I seem to have bitten off more than I can chew. That is, I sort of haphazardly “liked” and “followed” a bunch of resource pages, tech support pages, and fellow bloggers, and I cannot realistically keep up with them. 

So now I am taking on the task of sorting through what I follow and paring it down to a reasonable amount that will actually be beneficial to my writing and that I can engage with actively. All the motivational  pages in the world are not going to benefit me if I have no time to digest them. I also want to have the time and energy to give honest support to fellow writers I love following, not just clicks for clicks’ sake. It is proving to be an intense process.

Why Do I Have So Many E-Mails?

Truth: I absolutely cannot stand having unread e-mails. Even if I know it is something I am likely to immediately delete, I will still click on it because I need to get rid of that red notification dot. 

Generally I only leave messages sitting in my inbox if I still have an uncompleted task associated with them—notice of a blog comment I have not responded to yet, confirmation of an Amazon order that has not arrived, a reminder that our library books are due soon and I should renew them.

Every time an e-mail comes through that I am not 100% sure about, I open it and then scroll to the bottom and unsubscribe. I do not need to be on 99% of the e-mail lists I signed up for, and neither do you. Keep a few newsletters and blogs and affirmations if you really enjoy reading them, but most could go and you would never miss them.

This will, off course, be a work in progress. Just as you cannot clean out your closet or declutter your kitchen once and be done with it, keeping your digital decluttering under control will involve active decisions each time new things find their way in. 

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  1. Thanks for this post. I need to do this! I especially like your tips about storing photos on Amazon and unsubscribing to mailing lists. Thanks for the good ideas!

    1. You are welcome. Thank you for stopping by.

  2. Email is the hardest for me!! It would take me a few hours now to delete and organize the emails I’ve got piled up. It’s a good thing I don’t do that with my paper mail, LOL.

    1. I have a few folders to organize e-mails I need to keep temporarily (reservations and such) but I find most I can just delete and the worst thing that would happen is I would have to ask someone to send it again. I literally have only three e-mails in my inbox right now.

  3. I’m curious if your laptop began running faster after you reset it and cleared it out? Mine is at least 7 years old so it has gotten pretty slow no matter what I do with it. I purchased a chrome book to use instead but still need my laptop for some things. I have 3 active email addresses and it drives me nuts all the junk I get on all three. I’m trying to delete one altogether but I get a couple key emails on it every few months.

    1. Honestly, I was really hoping that would happen! Alas, it does not seem to have made much a difference in speed. I have a 2009 model MacBook Pro. It’s basically a dinosaur, and is a few operating system upgrades behind the latest one, because it simply cannot handle the newest bells and whistles. I am loving the newly organized space, but part of me still wonders how long before I break down and get a new laptop. I have been considering a Chromebook because most of what I do is online anyway, and I don’t really need the fancy Mac features anymore.

    1. I realized I never even looked at my files or photos . . . I spent all this time putting them into little folders and categories and whatnot and then totally ignored them! I deleted probably 90% of everything I thought I “had” to keep, and no regrets.

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