8 Ways to Declutter: Your Digital Life.

On Thursdays, I post a guide with ways to declutter a certain area in your life. If you're not ready to toss everything out, try these ways of reducing clutter, one area at a time. Like me, you may not think you have much, but you'd be surprised to find how much stuff you have that you really don't need.


It's easy to declutter the physical areas in your life because you can see and feel everything. It takes up physical space. Because of this physical space, we often forget about the areas of our lives that are filled up with intangible clutter, specifically, the stuff we have on the internet and computers. Every day, we are greeted with so much noise that comes from online streams, our mailboxes, and our phones. Here's some ways to reduce the noise and enjoy a little extra freedom away from your digital life.

1) Limit your RSS subscriptions. Your brain can only handle so much information at a time, and blogs can churn out dozens of posts a day. Pick a few blogs that you find yourself paying the most attention to and unsubscribe from the rest. Trust me, you won't be missing out on anything. Also, you may find that most bloggers prefer you subscribe by e-mail. I'm a fan of subscribing to RSS feeds because it sends all updates to one place (I have Google Reader) rather than sending daily e-mails to my mailbox. I can check the feeds when I feel like it instead of feeling overwhelmed with extra emails. It's up to you how you handle it, but that's how I do it.

2) Cut down on your social networking profiles. At one point, I had an account at almost all major social networking and blog websites (and then some). I realized it was too much and cut almost all of them. Now I have a few and don't devote too much time to them. Even more important is to cut back on the number you follow. You don't need 500  friends. You don't need to follow 200 people. You also don't need to read everything that everyone posts. It's too much.

3) Unsubscribe from all promotional e-mails. I love Borders. I'm a rewards member. However, this meant e-mails on a nearly daily basis that advertised coupons and sales. Most of the e-mails ended up getting deleted right away. While I enjoyed the occasional coupon (and used them), I did not care about the majority of my Borders e-mails and not knowing about the coupons would limit my overall spending. So I unsubscribed from them. Now they're bankrupt. Oops? Regardless, unsubscribing from all the promotional emails (Borders wasn't the only store) has significantly reduced the emails coming in and eliminated the temptation to shop. Next time you're shopping and the cashier asks for your e-mail address, don't give it to him. Stop the emails by not even allowing them to come!

4) Manage your e-mail accounts.  Depending on your purpose for e-mail, you may need one or you may need a few. I personally have one school e-mail address, one work e-mail address, a personal e-mail, and a throwaway e-mail for website registration, etc. Both my work and school emails are forwarded to my personal e-mail so I only have to check everything one place. It's great! I barely look at the fourth e-mail account because it's just for account registrations and probably filled with junk by now. Not all spam filters are perfect. I can't tell you exactly how to set up your e-mails but try to be mindful of how many accounts you have and their purposes. Simplify!

5) Don't check your online accounts more than twice a day. Ideally, this would be at some point during late morning and early evening. Especially try to avoid checking e-mail right when you wake up and right before you go to bed because you need those times of the day to let your body refresh and relax. If you're checking your accounts constantly, your day is sucked away and leaves you with little time to do the things that matter. Just tell yourself to check your accounts at a certain time(s) in the day and that's it. Shut your brain off from the internet and focus on other things.

6) Organize your bookmarks. How often have you bookmarked something only to never return again? Or how often do you bookmark something and want to go back to it but can't find it? Yeah. Time to fix that. Delete ones you don't use any more, use folders, and don't keep anything 'just in case.' Purge, edit, organize.

7) Simplify your computer. Your computer also needs attention.

  • Clean up the desktop. Ever since I had my own computer in high school, I've been one of those weirdos that hides all the desktop icons. Most programs can be opened by clicking on an icon and through the start menu, but I only need one way to do it. I choose the start menu and organize the menu accordingly. You can do the same for your programs and documents. And people who place dozens of documents all over their desktops? Don't even get me started!
  • Uninstall programs you barely use. If it hasn't been used in the past six months or more, get rid of it. These unused programs take up precious space and potentially slow your computer down.
  • Delete the music you don't listen to. I was a radio DJ in college and had a collection of over 55,000 songs in my music folder. I didn't listen to all 55,000 songs, but I collected them just in case I needed them for a radio show or mix CD. Now that I'm not in college anymore, I found myself overwhelmed with all this music and the space it was taking up on my small hard drive! The music had to go. I streamlined it over and over until I was left with just my favorites. It was rather time-consuming but I'm so glad I did it!
  • Organize everything into folders. Documents, pictures, music, whatever. Use sub-folders and sub-folders in the sub-folders if you have to! Just get it together. (Andrew wrote a great post on how to organize your digital photos.)
  • Save things on your external hard-drive. If you have an external hard-drive, back up your documents on it. I use my external as a back-up but also as a storage for all the images that I want to keep but don't need immediately on my laptop. If you don't have a hard-drive, I'd recommend getting one or thinking about putting your things in the Cloud.

8) Take a digital sabbatical! Best way to declutter the digital life? Don't have one! Get away from it! If you must have a digital life, allow yourself a digital sabbatical every once in awhile. Taking a digital sabbatical means staying away from the internet: no social media, no e-mail, no surfing, and staying away from the phone as much as you can. Whether this be every weekend like Tammy or once a month, a digital sabbatical is an important break. Give yourself the break from the internet (as often as you can) to recharge and experience life in the moment. (This is something I don't do often enough and need to incorporate more in my life.)

Whew! Keep an eye out for the final post in this series next week.


Other posts that may interest you: Shedding Your Online Friends and Follow Lists Downsize Your Digital Life 3 Steps Toward Mastering Your Digital Clutter 11 Steps to Banish Email Clutter