“An internet user and his leisure time are soon parted.” – Author Unknown
A clean, uncluttered room breathes fresh energy into your home and life. In the same way, an uncluttered computer results in a more enjoyable, fresh, and productive experience. Don’t underestimate the value. The benefits far outweigh the time investment that is required.
To keep your digital clutter to a minimum, try attacking these 25 Areas of Digital Clutter to Minimalize.
1. Inbox Messages – You remove the mail from your mailbox everyday. Apply the same principle to your Inbox. To accomplish this, if you can answer an email in less than two minutes, do it right away. If it will take longer, move it into a “work in progress” folder.
2. Old Documents – Do you really need to keep everything that is in your Documents Folder? Doubtful. In fact, you could probably delete half of those documents and never regret it. If you don’t want to delete them completely, consider moving them into an archive folder so they don’t clutter your most-used document folders anymore.
3. Old Software/Program/Apps – Uninstalling is different than deleting a shortcut. Uninstalling programs frees up space on hard drive—simply deleting shortcuts doesn’t.
4. Desktop Icons – Remove as many icons from your desktop as possible. It is the equivalent of working at a cluttered desk. A clean desktop clears your workspace and allows you to concentrate on the task at hand.
5. Folder Structure – Unless you don’t mind searching every time you need a saved document, you’ll need a good folder system. To get you started, rename any folder named “New Folder,” delete any folder with nothing saved in it, and develop a good structure that works for everybody who uses the files.
6. Photos – Refuse to keep photographs that serve no purpose. You wouldn’t put bad photos in a physical photo album. Likewise, you don’t need to keep them just because there is space on your hard drive. Holding onto poor quality photos makes it more difficult to find the high quality ones when you need them. Always delete them before/during the import.
7. Music/Movies – One of the best things about digital media is that you can have every song/movie in your library available at your fingertips. Unfortunately, one of the worst things about digital media is that you have every song/movie available at your fingertips. To keep them from cluttering your library, delete unused ones permanently. If you can’t find the strength to delete them, move them to a different folder where you can recall them manually if you need to (you won’t need to).
8. Time On-line – Log on less. Your kids will thank you.
9. Facebook Friends – Too many friends on Facebook makes it more difficult to keep up with the ones you truly care about. Finding out that your old friend from high school is taking her three children out for pizza might be interesting, but the never-ending flow of information is distracting you from the people sitting next to you. At first, it is fun to join the popularity contest to see how many friends you can get—but it is important to realize you are not in high school anymore.
10. Facebook Time-Wasters – Join fewer groups, play fewer games, poke fewer people, and chat less.
11. Twitter – To improve your entire Twitter experience and to keep it productive rather than distracting, read Leo Babauta’s Minimalist Guide to Using Twitter. You’ll never use Twitter the same way again.
12. RSS Subscriptions – Unsubscribe to blogs that are no longer updated or relevant to your life. If your reader has really gotten out of control and no longer saves you time, read How to Declutter and Streamline Your Google Reader Inbox.
13. Internet Bookmarks – Delete bookmarks that are no longer needed. It is as simple as Right-Click > Delete. For the remaining bookmarks, use a folder system for quicker navigation.
14. Cookies – A cookie is a small packet of text saved by your web browser that stores information unique to you and your browser history. Generally considered harmless, a large percentage of targeted advertising comes from information gleaned from tracking cookies.
15. Old Contact Information – Delete contacts no longer needed. Update contact information that needs to be updated. This will keep your contacts folder clutter-free and efficient.
16. Passwords/Log-Ins – I use 1Password. It provides me with the security of choosing unique passwords for each of my protected accounts on-line without the headaches of trying to remember them. You’ll never go back to trying to remember them all again.
17. Email Marketing – Unsubscribe to newsletters / advertisements that no longer add value to your life. Don’t just delete, unsubscribe. It should take only a few seconds by clicking the “Unsubscribe” link on the bottom of the email.
18. Email Accounts – Nobody needs more than two e-mail accounts (work/personal). One is even better.
19. Desktop Background – Appreciate the simple beauty of a minimalist background. A background that does not clutter your eyes or mind will improve your productivity and attention span far more than you think.
20. Temporary Internet Files – Control Panel > Internet Options > General > Delete Temporary Internet Files. Done.
21. Internet Home Page – How many times have you hopped on-line just to get a small piece of information only to be sidetracked by political news, sports scores, or celebrity gossip? Probably countless times. Here’s a quick tip: Change your Internet homepage to the minimal, unpersonalized google.com. There are no tangent headlines battling for your attention.
22. Disc Clean-up/Defrag – A four-click solution on most computers. Start > Accessories > System Tools > Disc Clean-Up. To get really serious, read How to Analyze, Clean Out, and Free Space on Your Hard Drive.
23. Upgradeable Digital Devices (Cameras, Thumb Drives, MP3 players, Cell Phones, External Hard Drives). If you’ve been making the most of technology for any length of time, chances are you have a small pile of old devices that you no longer use. If you can’t find somebody who would graciously accept a hand-me-down, recycle them properly.
24. Cables – Your desktop is where you use your computer most. Don’t allow it to be overtaken by things begging for your attention and personal space… especially cables. Perhaps the solution for cable-clutter is not as difficult or expensive as you think.
25. CD-ROMS / Hardware Manuals – If you no longer use the program, you don’t need to keep the CD. Likewise, if you no longer own the hardware, you don’t need to keep the manual. And to reduce even more paper clutter, see if your hardware manuals are available on-line (in pdf format, for example). If so, discard them entirely.
Tackling all 25 areas of digital clutter will almost certainly take more time than you have available right now. That’s alright. There is probably plenty of room in your bookmarks folder for this post. Just save it under “Work in Progress.”
Jessalynn Jones says
wow! I also blog about simple living and this is definitely an area I’ve been neglecting! I am about to get a new laptop because the one I have is on its last legs. My goal now is to clean up this laptop really well so that only the stuff I need is moved over! Thanks for the inspiration!
I don’t usually comment but I gotta say thankyou for the post on this one : D.
Ha ha Karl, that’s funny, I also think it’s funny that people who write about leading a minimalist lifestyle seem to have SOO much to say about it…. I’m a fellow “noticer-of-incongruencies” ???? …. on Pinterest for example there are often one-image-how-tos, that you can pin on a given subect … but I noticed that on living simply, there doesn’t seem to be any self-contained single image how-to on living simply…. they are all an image of a book cover that you have to link through to in order to actually find out about living minimally, many times it’s a whole website with pages and pages or a book with pages and pages on the subject… it’s really ironic to me that minimalists can’t sum it up in a minimal way. I can, my advice would be “minimalist living. how to: just do it” ha ha ???? And best tip so far whether real life or digital life: clearing a little bit every day keeps the clutter away
Oh yeah, and for me, imagining ‘if I suddenly lost everything in a natural disaster or the Internet itself were to break and everyone start over, what would I really be saddest to have lost?’ And let that guide me when decluttering so that I can have clear in mind what it is that’s most important to me and what it is im making space for in order to have it in ‘high relief’ in my life. Letting go of interests or hobbies that are intrinsically messy. My biggest digital areas I need to declutter would be photos, music, personal emails, and digital creative projects that I started but didn’t finish, or didn’t have a system for keeping organized in the first place. And duplicate items. I hear there is a program or app that can help locate and alert you to duplicate photos or items………. A big thing that’s helping me as I go forward, is trying not to start something unless I have an infrastructure and/or time/plan in place, in order to see it through. instead of starting new projects or going on new trips for the fun of taking new photos of amazing places, thinking to myself ‘how about celebrating the old… try finishing or deleting an unfinished project, or re-organizing/decluttering photos from old trips and enjoying those memories for whatever they’re worth”. I’d love to find a way to integrate old photos that really mean something to me, back into my everyday life, through a calendar PDF or app or something, for example a “heres that meaningful thing you were doing or so and so was doing a year, two years, five years, ten years ago snapshot alongside my January-December calendar views, etc etc otherwise when do people really ever re-view old photos????? Music, I’m tempted to never own any of it ever again. It’s all on YouTube anyway. Maybe just having one or two current playlists of music I’m into RIGHT NOW. Personal emails I’m gradually making into an ebook for myself, just copying and pasting the meaningful interactions had between closest family and friends, into my own PDF book I can read maybe if I ever am laid out in hospital for some reason one day or something……? Ha ha now I’m the one with lots to say on the subject of being minimal ????
Love this post! I’ve been on my minimalist journey for almost two years now and have done pretty much everything on this list already, which is quite satisfying :). I have a question though, and would love to hear anyone’s opinion on this: I am currently in the process of deleting old accounts that I do not need anymore. However, there are some accounts that are literally impossible to delete, and besides that I am, for example, required to have an email address for my university, my job etc. Now they all link to my main email address but it still bugs me that I have so many accounts that I cannot delete completely. I decided to write them all down so that I at least can track where I’m registered, but it feels so cluttered in my mind. Also because I am never sure if these really are all of my accounts; maybe I forgot about a few. Should I worry about this? Morever, there are some forum comments I posted years ago, that cannot be deleted. I’m not 100% sure they are anonymous or not but it bothers me… Anyone else with a similar experience? Am I just worrying too much about useless things here? Hope to hear from anyone :)!
In subscribing from the store sites…some of these companies send several a day…less temptation and if I need something I will just go on their site at that time. Next one I’m getting rid of is the recipe sites…too many repeated recipes
Use the term “unsubscribe” as an email filter.
If you keep everything online you can relax. NSA keeps everything. Just give them a ring when you need something.