Struggling with clutter in your digital world? I've invited someone who has grown up in a digital world to share her wisdom and experience. Kate Walters is a talented writer, minimalist, creative, and, she is also my daughter.
I know you will get heaps of great ideas from her post. I certainly did!
We often hear about the benefits of owning less. When we only own the things that add value to our lives, it frees our time and attention to do the things we love doing.
Owning less does wonders for our wellbeing. When our physical spaces are clear from clutter, so are our minds. The only things left are those that are truly meaningful and important.
To fight the physical clutter, many minimalism advocates recommend keeping possessions digitally where possible. Photographs, receipts, important documents and books can be stored so they take up no physical space at all—out of sight and out of mind.
But what about our digital space? It’s a huge part of our lives, so when it gets cluttered and disorganised it can affect us in the same way as a physical space.
We lose precious time looking for files, we waste money on subscriptions we never use, and the mass of files dumped on our desktop are subconsciously distracting us from more important tasks.
When we give our digital space the same attention we give our physical space, the time we spend on our devices will be more intentional, productive and enjoyable.
The average person has 60–90 apps installed on their phone. But we only use 9 on a daily basis and 30 each month.
That’s a lot of apps we never use cluttering our screens.
Go through each page of apps and delete the ones you haven’t used in a while. You can be brutal—remember you can always re-install apps later, even the ones you’ve paid for.
To save time scrolling through pages of apps looking for what I need, I like to keep all of my apps on the first page. I move the apps I use the most to the bottom of the screen (so they’re easy to access quickly), with the apps I use less often towards the top.
I organise apps I rarely use into folders, but rather than organising by category, I sort them into colours.
Some people assign a separate folder to each colour. On my phone, I’ve got one folder for my miscellaneous apps which I’ve organised starting with blue, then going through the rainbow.
It can seem childish, but when you think about it, it’s much easier to quickly find what you’re looking for. Try it out for a day and I guarantee you’ll never go back.
Netflix, Dropbox, Spotify—these businesses, and countless others, are based on subscriptions. By themselves, they’re an irresistibly cheap monthly fee. But once you add them together it can come to a frightening amount.
I’m always drawn in by the free trials, but then I forget to cancel before the trial ends and I get charged.
Make a list of everything you subscribe to, and make sure you’re using the services enough to justify the fee. Because the less money coming out of your bank account, the better.
Much like your physical desktop, a computer desktop can get pretty cluttered pretty quickly. Like all mess, it’s fine for a time, but it needs to be cleaned up eventually.
For me, a clean desktop gives me as much, if not more, satisfaction as a clean physical space. It’s a breath of fresh air and life seems instantly more manageable. At least once per week, sort the files on your desktop.
If you’re finding it difficult to keep on top of your desktop clutter, you can rethink your filing strategy so it becomes just as easy to file things in their correct place as it is to chuck on your desktop to look after later.
Social media is that friend we love to hate. I often spend too much time scrolling down social feeds. But what’s worse is I feel terrible afterwards—after looking at others’ ‘perfect’ lives I feel as though mine isn’t good or exciting enough.
I hate feeling like that, and I’m sure you do too.
Go through your ‘friends’ and ‘follows’ on all of your social media accounts. Are there people who post annoying things all the time, or people who make you feel bad about yourself? Unfollow them so their posts no longer show.
On Facebook, you can choose ‘unfollow’ instead of ‘unfriend’ so you can still stay connected as ‘friends’. And you can always hit ‘follow’ again if you change your mind.
Also, go through the list of commercial pages you follow. Do they post content that’s valuable to you? If not, give them the boot.
I make sure I clean out my ‘friends’ and ‘following’ lists every few months so the time I choose to spend on social media is uplifting and positive. I didn’t realise how much the clutter bothered me until it was no longer there.
Our phones are great because we have a camera wherever we go. But it also means we have many more photos. It can be tricky trying to find that one particular photo from that holiday two years ago.
Spend some time going through the photos on your phone. Delete all of the duplicates and low-quality ones.
I find this alone instantly makes my photos more manageable, but you can take it one step further. If you go to a special event or on an overseas trip, you can organise the best photos into folders. This will be especially handy when you’re showing friends and family at home.
We get many emails each day from marketers and spammers. In the middle of a busy workday, we just delete them as they come in. Harmless, right?
Emails are a constant distraction throughout the day, so the less coming in, the better.
Over the next week or so, as emails from marketers come in, take an extra second to open the email and click ‘unsubscribe’ at the bottom. The emails you receive will gradually become less and less.
If you choose to subscribe to a mailing list, make sure its content is useful and valuable to you.
Sometimes I need to enter an email address for something, but I know I’m going to receive emails I don’t want. I created a separate Gmail account for this purpose so my professional email inbox stays squeaky clean.
When you cut out all of the email clutter, you’ll notice and focus on the content you enjoy reading.
It may not seem like a major time saver, but you’ll be well on your way to eliminating distraction throughout the day when you get your inbox under control.
Similar to emails, phone notifications can be a major distraction through the day and all hours through the night. Go to Settings and turn off all of the notifications you don’t need.
It’s only when you stop and think about it that you realise just how cluttered our digital space can be, even though it’s not taking up any physical space.
Our digital tools can be real timesavers and add great value to our lives. But if we’re not careful, they can get out of hand and we can go through our days constantly distracted by things keeping us away from what’s truly important.
It all starts with taking some time to think about the way we use our devices and apps. We need to make conscious decisions about what we do and don’t need, then organise what’s left in a way that makes our lives as easy as possible.
What are you going to do this week that will make your digital space as beautiful and useful as your physical space?