Digital Decluttering: 3 Questions To Get You Started

I enjoy living in a decluttered and organized space, and this includes my digital life as well. Rest assured, digital decluttering is not an insurmountable task; you can tackle it, I promise. This post will guide you through three simple questions to ask yourself as you begin the digital decluttering process.

For me personally, I started by re-setting 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 {all that digital clutter} and free up space {literally and figuratively} so I could move forward.

Notebook and pen sit near an open laptop computer with a cup of coffee nearby. Text reads: Digital decluttering, three questions to get you started.

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 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. Click To Tweet

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.

Woman typing on a laptop--you can only see her hands and part of her arms. A cell phone, planner, and glass of water sit nearby. Text reads: Three simple steps to declutter your digital life.

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, of 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. 

Thanks so much for stopping by today. If you enjoyed this post, I would love to connect with you on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest. You can also sign up to receive new posts via our monthly e-mail newsletter here.

This Post Has 22 Comments

  1. Avatar

    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!

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      You are welcome. Thank you for stopping by.

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    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.

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      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. Avatar

    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.

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      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.

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      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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    Jenny Bhatia

    Great idea. But, I would agree, intense. I have the same issue with the social part of it. I can’t keep up. I try to limit my daily social to under an hour. It can be time-consuming, but I like keeping up with everyone this way, meaning friends, family, and fellow bloggers. I am curious how you pruned this?

    1. Valerie

      Truthfully I’m still really bad at this particular part. Especially with blogging groups and fellow bloggers. I always feel bad leaving groups and/or deleting connections, even if I realize they actually aren’t that meaningful anymore. It’s a struggle indeed.

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    You’re speaking to my soul! My husband doesn’t understand why I delete things that take up zero physical space when I have unlimited online space, but it drives me nuts. I don’t need 3 pictures of everything I’ve ever taken a picture of. I only need the one that turned out best! I don’t need pages I don’t care about in my social feeds. And I definitely don’t need 100 junk emails a day! I’m so glad that I’m not the only on in this boat (:

    1. Valerie

      I hear ya on the multiple photos of the same thing. I try to sort as I take them so there aren’t as many to upload later. I also find that I have “unsubscribed” from almost every e-mail list I’ve ever signed up for and don’t miss any of them.

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    Jennifer Jones

    I definitely need to do this but hadn’t thought of restoring factory settings and adding back in what was needed. I think that’s a much more efficient than deleting what’s not needed.

    1. Valerie

      It is definitely more efficient but can also be a bit scary when you actually click that button. I have no regrets, though.

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    Jenn Summers

    Oh my gosh, Valerie, I can relate to this way too much! A couple weeks ago I went through my computer and got started on removing things. I tried to back up to my external drive but it seems my lovely children have broken it sigh. I have not finished it yet but I definitely want to get to a place where I can feel like I can erase everything back to the factory settings. That sounds amazing! As for social media oh my word I think I am in over 1000 groups (honestly have no idea its probably much more, gasp). And email… three accounts and all are a mess. Sigh, I feel like I need a week to get this started but I’m inspired by this post to give it another go!

    1. Valerie

      A thousand groups? Oh, my gosh. I am in like half a dozen blogging groups and I was thinking of cutting back because I can’t keep up, ha!

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    Thanks for this! I need to do a serious inbox purge. Half of the time I don’t even remember signing up to all the newsletters and marketing emails I get.

    1. Valerie

      I went to an actual store to buy something last week {I know, right?} and they tried to get me to give them my e-mail at the register and I was like, nopeity nope nope! I can’t handle having 80 bazillion business places wanting to send me a message, especially this time of year! I cleared pretty much all of them out and haven’t signed up for anything new in a LONG time. And I don’t miss any of it!

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    Craige Hardel

    It’s so easy to get cluttered especially when you’re busy. Nice to get more perspective

    1. Valerie

      The good thing is, decluttering can be just as easy when you take the time. 😉

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    Sherri Carlson

    Great post! It’s so crazy how we clutter our lives with our digital possessions. And, as you know, blogging takes a lot of photos! I try to do this about every 6 months! Thanks for the advice!

    1. Valerie

      Apparently I need to take my own advice again, because since I posted this I accumulated a whole giant folder of blogging photos! I don’t even know if I will ever even need them again, and if I did I could re-create them in Canva easy peasy. Thanks for stopping by, Sherri.

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