This day and age bring an abundance of things. Some good, some grand, and many forming the collective known as digital clutter. So much of our lives are held within our devices. Our appointments, our bills, our social lives–all run from wherever we are, often in the palm of our hand. Don’t get me wrong; this level of efficiency was a natural progression of things that really has turned out to make life easier. But that being said, refrain from any control measures and it can soon reach cataclysmic proportions. Useless photo after useless photo and junk mail stacked so high that it predates your college degree. If you want to adult well and become more efficient, it’s time to become a digital minimalist.
Minimalism is a lifestyle trend growing evermore popular amongst millennials and it’s easy to see why. Stickier financial situations, a job market that’s shifting, and an inclination amongst most to put their money where their travel is means that gone are the days of more stuff being equated with a richer life. We want life lean, clean and stored on machines (running on 76 MB that is).
But even if you aren’t into the whole KonMari-ing your home type-of-thing or a fan of the capsule wardrobe, let me at least try to convert you to digital minimalism. Simply put, it’s synonymous with “sort your life out.” What better way to start the new year than to get your digital clutter in check and have the systems in place ready to support your life as it unfolds over the coming 12 months?
How to Become a Digital Minimalist
Your Inbox – This is a two-part process. You’ve got to take care of historical emails and more importantly, prevent future clutter. The best way to do this is to create yourself some folders within your inbox. One for items that have been dealt with, another for items that need dealing with. Place those that you’ve yet to respond to in the latter, drag all the rest into the dealt with (deleting instead if you wish) and then tackle those that you still need to respond to. Next, put some rules in place for all incoming mail:
If it’s spam, unsubscribe before deleting so no others follow from that sender. It takes two seconds to do, so no excuses!
If the incoming messages warrants a response that can be generated in under two minutes, do it then and there. If lengthier, drag into the folder and deal with later that day or as soon as possible.
Your Downloads – If you aren’t in the habit, set yourself a reminder once a week or month and go through and organize your downloads folder. You’ll probably find that most items can be deleted (mine ends up filled with funny pictures that have a short lifespan and restaurant menus!) but for those that you want to keep hold of, move them into the appropriate folder.
Folders are Friends – Following on from the previous point, if you haven’t already, get a clear folder tree in place for documents, photos, programs, etc. You want to make individual items as easy to find as possible. Organise by year, category, priority–however you see fit. On your phone, group apps into subfolders or organize by panels on your home screen so that you know exactly where everything is when you need it.
Backup – If you don’t have your important stuff backed up somewhere, stop what you’re doing right now and right this wrong. Whether you choose physical hard drives or cloud storage, get those important documents, photos, videos or whatever else saved somewhere safe. You never know when disaster might strike. Cloud storage is preferable IMO, because it can be accessed from anywhere and means that you don’t have to risk losing your hard drive, dropping it in a river, etc. Google or Dropbox are common places to start, but a personal favorite is BackBlaze for rapid, affordable backup.
‘Friends’ & ‘Following’ – I am, of course, referring to social media networks. Periodically go through and get rid of anything which doesn’t make you feel fantastic. Unfollow, unfriend and make room for better influences in your life that are in line with your ideals.
Bookmarks – If you’re a regular bookmarker, be sure to go through the list from time to time and get rid of those things that are no longer relevant. Saved a bunch of sites for a project now in the past? Cull. Bookmarked ideas for a birthday gift that’s now sorted? Cull. You get the idea.
Cookies & Browsing History – Download CCleaner and regularly rid your PC of cookies and browsing history. Prevent crashes and speed up start-up.
Passwords – With a log-in for a million and one different things these days, it is officially impossible to remember the password for everything. And the most frustrating thing when you lock yourself out of whatever it is you’re trying to use. Instead of putting the pressure on yourself of trying to remember them all (which you won’t), instead, remember one. A master password can be used for programs such as 1Password or KeePass, allowing you to store all your passwords on a database, never to be forgotten again!
Old Apps/Programs – Just like clearing your downloads folder, be sure to periodically go through your phone and computer and delete apps and programs that you no longer use. Remember that deleting the shortcut from your desktop isn’t the same as deleting the program itself! It’ll free up space on your device and speed things up.
Photos – Perhaps the most overwhelming one, I find, and the only con of our transition from film to digital cameras. With the ability to take as many photos as you want without having to worry about your limited film roll, we have a tendency to take photos of junk that we never look back at again. There’s no pressure to stage a photo well and consider your angles or lighting; we take our phones everywhere we go, think we may as well take a picture of whatever we’re doing or whoever we’re with and then never look at it again because it gets buried under more of the same. Make 2018 a year of doing things differently. Go through your photos on a regular basis, back up those you genuinely want and delete the rest.
The world is out there. Don’t spend any more time than necessary fighting with your computer. Invest a little time now and liberate much more for yourself later.
How are you getting a handle on your digital clutter?
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