Are you a clutter bug?
Or have you cleaned every closet, sorted every drawer, straightened out the spare room and alphabetized your spices?
Even if you’re clutter-free at home and office, there is one place that most people never think about decluttering.
I’m talking about your digital world. Is your computer a hot mess of old files? Are you constantly having to delete voice mails or text messages so you can receive more? Does your email inbox look like a mail server exploded in it?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you need to do a digital declutter and give your online life a boost. Not only will you be more productive, but a digital declutter can help your computer run faster and better.
It’s not hard to get it organized, but you will need to set aside a little time. Don’t worry, though. You don’t have to do it all at once. Just pick one of the steps below to get started on your digital declutter.
Declutter Your Online Life
Since our computers are usually the biggest offender, let’s start by decluttering the computer. Whether you have a laptop or desktop, whether it’s Mac, Windows or Linux, putting your computer in order is good for you—and good for your computer.
We’re going to start with your online life—and begin by cleaning up your email inbox.
Dump the Inbox Backlog
I have a client who, when we started working together, had nearly 10,000 unread emails in his inbox. Besides having had to pay for more space in his email inbox, all those unread emails, some of which dated back years, made it hard to tell what was actually important. If you haven’t read them within a week or so, it’s not likely that you’ll get to them, so just hit delete and get rid of the backlog. Now that you’ve gotten rid of the unwanted emails, on to the next step.
Unsubscribe from Unwanted Emails
How many of us receive emails every day from mailing lists we’re no longer interested in or don’t have time to read? You can either go through them one-by-one and hit “unsubscribe” or you can use an app like Unroll.me to see all your subscriptions in one place and unsubscribe to the ones you don’t want.
Turn off unnecessary notifications, unsubscribe from mailing lists you don’t read, stores (physical or online) that you don’t shop at or whose sales emails you don’t need. Opt out of unnecessary notification lists.
Organize Email Folders and Delete Stuff You Don’t Need
Once you’ve read an email, if you don’t need to act on it, delete it. If you do need to act on it, do it and then delete it or archive it out of your inbox, into appropriately labeled folders. Create filters to sort your emails as they come in, especially if you get a large number of emails per day.
Your primary inbox should be reserved for new and most important email communications. Stop using it as a storage for unneeded emails or for long-term storage of emails you may need to refer back to. Create folders that you can label with topics, like client names or projects, to make it easy to find those emails.
Delete Contacts, Forums, Pages and Groups That No Longer Serve You
Once you’ve organized your email and unsubscribed from mailing lists you don’t need, delete old contacts, remove yourself from forums and groups you no longer participate in. Leaving your information out there and abandoned accounts open can put you at risk for hacks and cyber breaches. Deleting accounts can help prevent hackers from accessing your information.
Delete Old Unwanted Social Media Profiles
If you’re not going to use a social media platform, delete the account and then remove the app from your computer, phone or tablet. If you aren’t sure whether you want to delete the account, make sure the account is secure with an updated password, and delete the apps. It will be easy enough to reinstall them if you decide to start using the account again.
Update Accounts so They Are Current and Secure
If you haven’t run a security check on your email and other accounts recently, now is a good time. Review your profile and settings in your email, social media and other accounts to ensure the information is up-to-date, that you have a valid method of account recovery should you get locked out, and that your password is secure.
Google Yourself and Remove Irrelevant Information
Run an internet search on your name—and on any variation of your name that you regularly use. Make note of the results and remove anything that’s irrelevant (like old, abandoned accounts) or that may compromise your privacy. There are a number of sites out there that aggregate personal information and publish it on the internet.
One of the biggest (and most annoying, IMO) is Spokeo. Not only have I found information about me on Spokeo for every address I’ve ever lived at, but I’ve found incorrect information that shows me living with various extended family members, married to distant relatives, and other information that’s not only wrong, but no one’s business. Fortunately, you can remove it. You can go to Spokeo’s optout page, or you can follow this link for instructions to delete yourself from their website. Note: there are now a couple of other sites similar to Spokeo so be sure to check those search results carefully.
Declutter Your Computer
Now that you’ve got your online life in order, let’s look at the computer. Instead of covering your desktop in files, create some folders and organize those files into appropriately labeled folders. You’ll find files more quickly and not end up with duplicates and chaos.
Next run your computer’s disk clean up. This will archive old and unused files. And then, if you haven’t done it, run your Disk Defragmenter. This remoes old bits of deleted files, consolidates files that have been saved in different locations and free up space on your drive. If you have Windows, you can find your disk defragmenter at >Control Panel\All Control Panel Items\Performance Information and Tools\Advanced Tools. If you have a Mac, you’ll need to follow your computer’s instructions to find it.
CCleaner will optimize your computer, clean up temp files and empty recycle bins. Malwarebytes cleans your computer from infected files, and the premium version is also an antivirus program.
Now that you’ve done your digital declutter and your computer, mobile devices and online life are neatly organized, it only takes a little bit of regularly scheduled time to keep it that way. Calendar an hour or so once a month to go through some of these steps (you’ll know which ones apply most to you) and keep your digital life decluttered and productive.