What is digital clutter
Digital clutter is electronic information that clutters your life. It includes emails, photos, videos, documents, bookmarks, and everything else on your computer. Just like physical clutter, it bogs up your life and ties you down. Clutter has been defined as a confused or disordered state or collection, and more than once by our online minimalist friends*. Basically, clutter is anything that takes away from your peace and joy life. Big or small, physical or electric, relationships or commitments… if it doesn’t bring you peace and joy, it’s clutter.
*Any distraction that gets in the way of a remarkable life [from Unclutterer] /Anything that is disorganized, anything you don’t need or love, too much stuff in too small a space [from Becoming Minimalist]
The benefits of clearing out digital clutter
- Get more space. Using gigabytes and terabytes that you may never access is wasteful. You’ll need to upgrade your hardware sooner to keep up with the storage demands.
- Save money. Hardware upgrades, bandwidth transfers, cloud accounts… there is a cost associated with digital storage.
- Save time and be more productive. Unless you have a spectacular search engine and use something like evernote to make all your stuff searchable. Less images and films means you spend your time doing something productive.
- Know what you have. A full closet leaves you with nothing to wear so you buy a new outfit. So it is when looking at your digital listings, you might just go back to Google to find anew what you need.
- Reduce stress. When there’s less to lose, there’s less to worry about. And if your computer falls over before you’ve backed up, it won’t be so bad.
- Enjoy the lighter feeling. It’s the same feeling of freedom we get with decluttering our physical stuff.
- Become less attached. If you really need something you deleted, odds are it’s out there on the internet and you’ll be able to find it just as quickly as searching through what you already have.
- Evaluate future purchases more carefully. Laying down $15 for an ebook is easy and online marketing is persuasive. Keeping your digital stores clear will help you resist.
How to de-clutter your digital information
Just like decluttering your house, this can take some time, especially if you’ve been hoarding digital information. Unfortunately there’s no visual gratification for the work, so I recommend the clean-slate method.
- Archive everything into a folder and date it. This is the equivalent of emptying your kitchen into a box and putting it in the garage. Keep the few things you know you’ll need and move everything else out of your main workspace. This means moving data onto another device such as an external hard drive. You can export emails and bookmarks, then save in the same folder, then delete what’s in your account.
- When you need something, move it back.
- Let that archived folder wait. In a year, you probably won’t be able to remember what’s in it. Maybe in another year you’ll be ready to delete it.
- Don’t collect new clutter. Every time you click on save, or don’t click on delete, ask yourself if you should keep it, toss it or not sure. Keep is for things you really love and actually use, just like physical decluttering. Remember you can probably find it again if you need to, whether it be a quote, e-book, video or photo
Need some inspiration? Read about Ev, who deleted everything… all his professional photos, his hugely successful blog and all personal digital stuff!
Update: My personal example is about music files. I have collected many, many mp3 files. I haven’t even heard many of them. And in the last five years I’ve devoted some hours to sorting and organising them. I even bought a specific external hard drive to store them. But since I acknowledged the reality that I’ll probably never listen to most, I started deleting and only organising the ones I absolutely love, working my way through the unsorted files as my mood for music strikes.