Decluttering is one of my love languages. A good closet purge and toy room clean-out speak to me in a way that the sweetest sonnet never could. And, I’ll admit it, I got swept up in the recent “tidying up” frenzy. If you also have been holding your sweaters, mixing bowls, and spelling bee trophies to see what sparks joy, I encourage you to consider decluttering another area of your life: the digital realm. Many of us spend a significant amount of time on our electronic devices, and I have found that simplifying and decluttering my digital life can help boost my productivity and ease stress. Here are five ways to declutter your digital life now.
1. Tame Your Inbox
Unsubscribe is your friend! As e-mails come through that you no longer wish to receive, take 5 seconds to unsubscribe. For those coupons and newsletters you want to continue to receive, consider opening a separate e-mail account to which you can direct promotional e-mails. This has made a huge difference for me. I log into my secondary account less frequently than my main account, and it has made important emails easier to find. I also recommend utilizing labels and folders to make e-mails easier to find later, and don’t forget to check the junk folder for e-mails that should be in your inbox.
2. Streamline Social Media
How is it that what starts out as a search for a recipe posted by a friend or a simple “Happy Birthday” message becomes me watching videos of dogs swaddling babies? I’m going to be bold here and suggest that the best way to avoid the social media rabbit hole of doom is to completely delete your social media accounts. If this is too extreme, consider deleting the apps off of your devices or setting time limits for the biggest time-suckers. After deleting the facebook app from my phone and accessing it only once per day on my computer, I found I was wasting a lot less time.
And when you do find yourself peering into that rabbit hole? Two words: 1. Unfriend 2. Unfollow. It might seem harsh, but that classmate from BIO 101 back in Fall 2003? Unfriend. Constant political rants from a cousin you only see once a year? Unfollow. Baby boutique advertising $60 moccasins? Unfollow. Quick and easy, no hard feelings. I have found that a little unfriending here and a little unfollowing there leads to streamlined, decluttered social media feeds that are more relevant to my life and more uplifting to my spirit.
3. Turn Off Notifications
Declutter your digital life by turning down the noise – literally. Turn off push notifcations that keep your pocket dinging and demanding your attention while you are trying to work, or cook dinner, or figure out how your toddler shoved 12 DVDs into the DVD player (again). If an e-mail or text comes in and sits for a few extra minutes before you read it, everything will be okay.
4. Update Passwords
When did you last change your passwords? Are you still using the same password you used when you would chat up your crushes on AIM and MSN Messenger? It might seem like a chore, but digital decluttering means clearing out those old passwords, too. Take some time to update your passwords. This post by Consumer Reports offers great tips for generating new passwords, and good reminder to turn on multifactor authentication when available (e.g., using a PIN or thumbprint in addition to your password). Taking the time to create strong passwords will help protect you from security breaches and compromised accounts. Not sure where to start? Begin with your e-mail and online banking accounts to protect your most valuable data. If you feel you need to store your passwords somewhere, consider a password manager like Dashlane, LastPass, or 1Password. These managers will generate random passwords for you to use on your various accounts, and they will protect your information with strong encryption.
5. Clear Out Old Devices
Until recentlly, the little tub of random cords in my office contained an ethernet cord, iPod clickwheel charger, and car charger for a flip phone I used in college. At one point, I also owned two extra laptops that I had replaced but not discarded. Can you relate? Aside from keeping a back-up phone for emergencies, I suggest recycling, donating, or selling old electronic devices. If you haven’t used it in a year or don’t know what it’s for, it is probably okay to get rid of it. If your items are still in working order, sell them or donate to a local charity. If they can no longer be used, here are resources for local electronics recycling:
I don’t know about you, but just the thought of fewer notifications, junk e-mails, and random cords around my house is sparking more joy than my favorite pair of jeans ever could. Whether you are “tidying up,” doing some Spring Cleaning, or just looking to simplify your life a little bit, I hope these five tips provide practical guidance you declutter your digital life now.