Lately people have been asking me if I know how I can help them start a digital declutter and get organized, and to be honest I have to admit that I am not totally decluttered in my own digital world. I think I haven't pushed myself to do a real digital declutter because it doesn't bother me since it's not physical and around me to see all the time. However, not being diligent in deleting files, especially image files, has caused me issues when my computer is slow or I run out of space on my phone when I'm travelling especially when I want to take more photos. I think this is definitely something that affects everyone in this digital age, so I decided to finally push myself to start a digital declutter and share how you can start doing this too. Here are a few ways you can get started with your digital declutter:
Track How Many Files you have
First off the only way to know how much you are sinking in digital clutter is to check how many files you have overall. I decided to start with the files I have on my laptop instead of my smart phone device, as my laptop is much older and gets slower to use the more I have huge files on my computer. It's good to get some real numbers to understand how much digital clutter you are dealing with. So here's the number of files that I am currently dealing with so you can see:
Images: 7, 148 (OMG!)
PDF Docs: 523
All I can say is damn, I'm a digital image hoarder! I do love photography and I have to really learn to go through my images and choose what I still need. I have transferred all of the images I have taken with a DSLR as well as all the smart phone devices I ever had since 2010. I have managed to let go of many printed photos and negatives in the physical world, but it seems there is just so much more digital images that I’ve accumulated with being able to take many good quality photos with my own handheld devices.
Create File Folders & Start Small
You should start the process with the folders containing the least amount of files to sort and delete, and then work your way to the most. I started to go through the "Documents" folder of my laptop which were all mixed up with files of work I have done for clients in my past marketing freelance work, and then everything else I have worked on in the past five years. The documents I have are mixed with files of resumes and cover letters, invoices, bills, receipts, confirmations, and only some files already in their proper folders. There are so many files just on their own in no "home" and just living in the "documents" section. I was very happy to delete the files of cover letters to the many jobs I had applied to (and never got the job), when I was laid off from my last corporate job back in 2015...it felt really good and so satisfying to let those all go! It's amazing how far I have come since that time. I created 25 folders to organize all my files, (not sure if that is too much but for now it helps me). Then I created one folder called "All Folders" on my desktop screen to store all those folders into, so visually they are hidden away in their new master home.
Take Your Time To Delete & Organize
Doing this digital declutter process will not be complete in one day, it takes time just like doing the KonMari Method in your home. I have spent approximately three hours just going through my documents and downloaded files, and I am no where near being done. If you start to get frustrated, then it's time to take a break, breathe and leave it for another day. For me it really helped me to create the folders (homes) to organize and sort through the files. As I was sorting, I could already identify which files could be deleted and let them go right away. I definitely felt the frustration when I realized how many more files I had to go through, and I reminded myself that this will not get done in a day. Take time to do this once a week, or every other week and you will get through it all.
Save De-Cluttering Photos for Last
In the KonMari Method, the Sentimental category is last for a reason and it should be the same for digital decluttering. I was able to place images in folders as I went through my downloaded files, but I know that I will have to do little by little every once in a while through my 7, 148 digital images! I know that's a lot to admit, but it's something I will work on as I am not yet a digital minimalist but I'm working on it. I have so many images that are a mix of personal and business (most are personal) and imagine if I had printed all of these images out that would be insane to go through physically. I think that is an important thing to ask yourself when doing your joy checks with digital images, does it spark joy enough for you to print? If not then let it go...I'm gonna try that.
Deal With Email De-cluttering After Computer Files
Just when I thought I only had to deal with my laptop files, I realize that emails are another huge digital thing to go through. I have three email accounts that I use, two personal and one for business. The reason I have two personal emails is because I still have one of my very first email accounts using "Hotmail"...and admitting that must have aged me! If I sign up for anything I like to use my Hotmail account, but also I have some friends and relatives who only know this email so I use it to keep in touch. The email declutter is also another lengthy process so remember that this takes time too. Create folders to organize your emails and treat this like the paper category of the KonMari Method when you deal with incoming mail...only have emails in your in-box that are for "immediate attention", then create a "pending/temporary" folder, then finally you can have a "keep forever" folder for those really important emails. Remember to un-subscribe to mailing lists that are no longer of interest to you, and only stay subscribed to emails that add value to your life so that you can take control of what comes in.
De-clutter Phone After Email
Once I finally have my laptop files and emails decluttered, organized and in their homes, I will move on to decluttering my phone. I would start with checking what apps are being used and not used at all, then delete what has never been used and then you can organize what apps are left on your phone. Always make sure you are only keeping apps that add value to your life of course. I have organized my phone using the colour folder app way of organization, and I have to say it has worked well for me. You just have to get familiar with what colour your apps are that are frequently used, so you can find and open them easily. I know I have my app situation under control, but again I have many images on my phone so I will tackle that more. I will do a little everyday, and I usually like to do this if I have no data or wifi and travelling on the subway train or just commuting in general. I have to remind myself to control the amount of photos I decide to take with my phone and if they are really worth keeping memories of.
I hope this gives you a good idea of how to get your digital declutter started. Then you can start to be more mindful of what images or files you decide to keep in your laptop or phone and get it under control. I will share a part-two of this blog about my life after doing my digital de-clutter once it is fully complete...I wonder how long it will take me? So stay tuned.