15 Tips for Decluttering Your Digital Life

Going ‘digital’ is supposed to make our lives easier, but it still feels overwhelming to deal with at times. The truth is, digital clutter can be just as bad as having paper clutter everywhere. It’s very easy to become overwhelmed by too many documents glaring at you on your computer desktop, your inbox being overtaken with unnecessary emails, or your social media being a bit too social with all of its constant notifications. So it’s time to clean out and get back to a clean, zen-like digital existence. Here are 15 tips to help you declutter your digital life.

1. Unsubscribe from all the newsletters you never read

Remember that one time you signed up to a newsletter just so you could get 10% off, even though you will never buy anything from them again? Me too. The first step towards your new, cleaner digital life is unsubscribing.

It’s time to delete, unsubscribe and say goodbye to all those emails and newsletters that you never look at and don’t find of interest or value.

Group you inbox by sender and get ruthless with your unsubscribing. This will mean less stuff clogging up your inbox in future, and less clearing out of your inbox.

2. Clear out you inbox

Let’s face it, emails are one the biggest hassles of your digital life. All they do is suck up time from all the things we want to do and stop us getting useful things done. It’s time to take your inbox back!

The simplest way to do this is to group everything by sender. Doing this allows you to see all the emails from a particular person or sender together. So you can either delete them all, or archive multiple emails from a sender in one go.

Take this to the next level by setting up rules in your inbox to automatically direct emails from certain senders into folders, keeping your main inbox cleaner.

3. Stop checking and responding to email every few minutes

Email can very easily drain time away from the important things you need to do. There is a simple work around to make you handle email like a boss and make sure you can focus.

Self-experimenter and productivity ninja Tim Ferriss, suggests checking your email only twice a day. Once at 11am and again at 4pm.

At those times you can respond to everything you need to and delete anything un-necessary. Leaving you loads of time to focus on the things you need to get done.

You can take this one step further by setting up and autoresponder to make sure everyone is clear on where your focus is. You can find a template for this here.

4. Turn off non-essential notifications on your phone

Great another notification suggesting that I should endorse someone on LinkedIn. Said no one. Ever.

Not picking on LinkedIn specifically, but so many apps send want to send you notifications on the most trivial of things. Go through all of your apps and ensure that you are only receiving the absolutely essential ones.

5. Distraction free phone

Ok, this is for the more hardcore of you out there. If you really want to reach digital nirvana then you have to take a long hard look at your phone.

Jake Knapp of Google did this in 2012. He took a hard look at his iPhone and decided he needed to do something about how much time he spent using it. He tried an experiment, turning off and remove everything on his phone that usually distracted him from what he was doing.

Your challenge, if you choose to accept it, is to try this for 24 hours.

Remove the browser from your phone, remove your mail app and remove anything that has an endless supply of distracting things, like Facebook, SnapChat etc. Then see how much extra time you find you have.

Digital life organised apps

Credit: Jake Knapp. Distraction free iPhone screens

6. Check what your phone apps are doing in the background

Go through each of your phone apps and take a look at what they are doing in the background. Many of them will be doing a ‘background refresh’ or using location services when you don’t really need them to. This can make your device behave sluggishly and reduce your battery life. Disable both of these features where possible.

7. Get your zen-like desktop

If you’re like me, your desktop is probably buried under a wall of random files. What was just a convenient solution for saving a file you needed to use quickly has now turned into a jungle of, well mess. Be ruthless with these.

Drag as many as you can into your Recycle Bin and delete them forever. Sort any remaining files by type, so you know what you’re hoarding and sort them into your newly re-organised folders. Your now zen-like clean desktop will be a breath of fresh air.

8. Sort out your files and folders

Set some time aside to sort out and organise all your messy folders into something a lot more logical. You’ll feel better for doing it, and you might actually be able to find that file your looking for next time.

9. Get rid of the big

Takes a bit of ‘digging’ this one but is well worth it.

Use your computer’s search to seek out all the files you have that are over a certain size, say 20MB, and delete the ones you don’t need. Not only will you streamline your folder organisation further, but you’ll also free up a lot of space quickly.

10. Delete the contents of your downloads folder

It’s amazing how much stuff you can download and for your downloads folder to get completely out of hand and take up huge amounts of your storage space.

Getting rid of anything in here, that you no longer need, or want will free up valuable storage space.

Digital life messy desktop

Credit: Reddit. This is why storing files on your desktop is a bad idea.

11. Clean up your web browser

Simple, takes no time at all and can improve the speed of your browser. Clear your history, delete all the cookies you have gained and disable/delete all extensions and plugins that are not needed.

12. Clean up your bookmarks

Streamline your browser window by cleaning out your bookmarks. Delete what you can, then save the rest with apps like OneNote or Evernote.

13. Organise and delete images

In the age of digital photography and instant smartphone snaps we’re creating more images than ever before. If like me, you keep about 5 variations of the same photo it’s time to declutter.

Delete all those photos that are out of focus, duplicates, or the originals that you’ve already used on Instagram! Keep only the best ones.
If you don’t want to lose any of your images that maybe put them in a cloud drive so you don’t have to keep them stored on your computer or phone.

14. Uninstall the software and apps you don’t need

It’s amazing how much software and apps you collect over time. Much of it you probably haven’t used for a long time. Look at every app that is currently on your device and uninstall any that you don’t need. This will likely improve the speed of your device.

15. Clean out your social networks

Over time social feeds can get overrun with updates from people and businesses that no longer match our interests or provide us value.

Unfollow, defriend and unlike anything or anyone that you’re not interested in keeping up with.

So there are 15 tips that we hope will spur you on to declutter the areas of your digital life that maybe just need a little tidying.

We’d love to know some of your tips to maintain your digital life to ensure that the clutter doesn’t come back. Let us know in the comments below.