Technology, whether you like it or not, is here to stay. Unfortunately, technology can be tough. It takes time and effort to understand. It can get expensive. We can spend as much time investing into technology as we actually save from using it. And without intentionality, the endless pursuit of the latest and greatest gadgets can be a fruitless endeavor.
On the other hand, technology offers countless benefits: the ability to stay connected, the ability to communicate to a far broader audience, the ability to solve complex problems, the ability to save time, and the ability to clear some physical clutter from our lives.
For those of us who hate physical clutter, consider these 15 ways that technology can help clear clutter from our homes:
While many of us enjoy our physical photographs arranged in photo albums and scrapbooks, few people have good systems for storing physical photos. Luckily, a simple software program such as Iphoto or Adobe Photoshop Elements not only store your photos digitally where they can never lose quality, but offer a wide range of options for sorting them. Without the right equipment, the process of converting physical photos to digital files can be time-consuming. But, for a fee, services such as ScanDigital will do it for you.
Even the smallest of MP3 players (8GB) store approximately 1,500 songs in their memory, somewhere around 150 CDs – that’s a lot of shelf space that can be replaced by one device that fits easily in your pocket. And MP3 players can easily be played on any audio system that allows for an auxiliary input.
Less and less homes these days are showcasing DVDs. For starters, Blu-Ray players have replaced DVD players in both quality and functionality. But more importantly, companies such as Netflix stream such a large assortment of movies and television shows on demand that keeping all those DVDs on the shelf is no longer necessary. And what about all those movies that you’ve already purchased on DVD? DVD-Burning software (such as Handbrake) quickly eliminates any reason to keep the physical DVDs cluttering up your living room.
4. Contacts / Address Books.
The contact information of business associates, extended family, and old friends used to fill address books, rolodexes, and the margins of phone books. But this is no longer the case. Every computer today provides opportunity to digitally store the information of even your most-obscure acquaintance.
5. Yellow Pages / White Pages.
Depending on the community you live in, those Yellow Pages may be taking up far more space than you prefer. But yellowpages.com contains all the same information… providing an invaluable opportunity to clear up some space in your junk drawer.
Maps come in a variety of forms: atlas, fold-up, handwritten directions. Today, GPS devices come standard on almost all smart-phones (Iphone, Blackberry, etc.) and even some vehicles. For those of you who don’t use a Smartphone, a simple GPS device can still replace all those maps taking up space in your glove compartment.
Cookbooks may be among the hardest hit by the recent explosion of free websites and ebooks. The number of photographs in physical cookbooks is severely limited by price, size, and opportunity. But online, recipes are not limited by the same restrictions. As a result, not only can countless photographs be used to guide the rookie chef through the cooking process, but limitless videos can also be used to answer any questions. An entire shelf of cookbooks in your kitchen can quickly be replaced by a few keystrokes on your computer.
Ebook readers (Kindle/Nook) have exploded in popularity and digital books now outsell physical books on Amazon. While reading books on a screen may never replace the actual experience of flipping pages in your world, it certainly provides a golden opportunity to lower your monthly book budget and conserve space on your bookshelf for only the books you desperately need to keep.
EBook readers offer newspaper and magazine subscriptions (Kindle subscriptions/iPad subscriptions) to some of the most popular industry journals. This means, of course, fewer periodicals cluttering up your home or office… and more trees standing in the forest.
Ever wish someone would create a product that could replace all those sticky-notes and scratch pieces of paper laying around your home and office? So did the creators of Evernote. And while it may take a bit of effort to figure out how to use, it’s certainly not more effort that sorting through a stack of yellow-sticky notes every time you need to find a note.
11. Cameras (Still/Video).
With the ever-increasing quality of cell-phone cameras, the need to carry a simple point-and-shoot camera is far less important today than it was even 1-2 years ago. Skilled photographers will still use their advanced equipment to capture photos far better than cell phone photographers. But for those of us who just want to be able to capture life’s unpredictable moments in the blink-of-an-eye, the camera lens on most cell phones does the trick.
12. Cable TV.
There are new products entering the marketplace nearly every month that make cutting the cable in your home that much easier. Products such as Netflix, Apple TV, and Google TV are offering more and more television programs than ever before. And while dropping Cable TV from your home may not clear much physical clutter, the savings of $50-60+/month will certainly clear up some space in your checkbook.
13. Landline Phone.
With more and more people choosing to rely exclusively on cell phones, only 49% of American households use a landline phone (that is down from 97% in 2001). People all over the world are making the switch from landline to cell-phone coverage only. After all, why send money to two different phone companies when you can only talk on one at a time?
14. Computer Data Storage.
Computer workstations and office drawers used to be home to floppy disks… 3.5in disks… CDs… and external hard drives – all for the purpose of storing more and more data. But now, office drawers are beginning to empty again as more and more people choose to store their data in the cloud using free services such as Dropbox. Not only does Dropbox keep data safe from fire and flood, it stores it in a place accessible from anywhere.
Oh sure, nothing may ever fully replace the family calendar posted on the inside of your pantry closet door, but the Calendar functions and the syncing abilities across platforms (desktop computers, cell phones, and online) of computer devices sure helps the digital storage of your appointments give that old calendar a good run for its money.
Now I know full-well that the use of technology is a personal decision. Some people will never replace their physical books, magazine subscriptions, or favorite cookbooks. People lived their lives free from clutter for thousands of years without the technology available to us today.
But with the recent advancements in both the functionality and intuitiveness of technology there are very real opportunities available to us to clear physical clutter by using it. And if that’s the case, I’m in!