Spring cleaning isn’t just for your physical space.
To give yourself a fresh start this season, it’s good to declutter and organize your digital life as well.
When we think of clutter, we usually think of piles of paperwork and messy junk drawers. The visual clutter can make us feel stressed and anxious, and negatively impact our work and motivation. While digital clutter may not have the same physical impact as household clutter, it can adversely affect our productivity and mindset just as much.
How often have you tried searching through a cluttered email inbox for an important work document, only to come across streams of promotional emails? Or had to scroll past years and years of photos to locate a photo? Or had to track down an important document on your computer but couldn’t remember where you saved it?
Your digital devices should be supporting your life, not making it harder. That’s why it will feel so good to take some time throughout the year to declutter and keep your digital life organized.
If the thought of organizing your digital life seems overwhelming, we hear you. But try to remember that the aim isn’t perfection or mastery, but rather…management. Your digital life doesn’t have to be sparkling clean, but it should be tidy enough that it doesn’t give you a headache every time you try to write an email.
Below are tips to help you sort and organize your digital life so you can give yourself a refresh, both digitally and mentally.
Do your digital decluttering by “zone”
Instead of trying to organize everything all at once, what you’ll want to do is approach your digital decluttering project by “zone.” For example, one day you can declutter and organize your email, the next day you can tackle your computer files, the next your digital photos.
This approach is similar to the zone cleaning method for your home, in which you clean and organize your space by room. The zone cleaning method is a great way to break down a big project into achievable tasks, and stay on track.
Delete and declutter first
Much like cleaning and organizing your home, you’ll want to sort through and declutter your digital items before attempting to keep your inbox or computer in order.
Take stock of your digital devices and don’t forget your old online accounts as well. If you haven’t logged onto an account in a while, then you might want to shut it down–especially if the site has your personal information.
As for photos, you might have a hard time deleting them, especially if they’re vacation photos or include people you love. But if the photo is blurry or if you have multiple photos of the same image (do you really need ten shots of the same cup of coffee?) then you should go ahead and delete it.
Here are some of the digital items that you’ll want to sort through and declutter:
- Photos on your phone and computer
- Email attachments
- Phone apps
- Browser extensions
- Computer files
- Bookmarks folders
- Online accounts
Give yourself a quick win by unsubscribing from newsletters that you never read. It may not seem like a big deal to have unread newsletters sitting in your inbox, but the small inconveniences eventually add up.
Whether it’s getting distracted by notifications of a new message, or the hassle of sorting through your mail while trying to locate an important document, irrelevant emails can clutter up your digital space and your mind. So go through your inbox and take note of the newsletters, promotional emails, and other marketing items you never read or click open. Start hitting unsubscribe and watch your email clutter start to decrease.
Move important digital files to folders
If you’re not ready to hit delete on an email or file just yet, then relocate it to a folder. This way, you don’t have to worry about files taking up prime real estate in your inbox or desktop, while still having peace of mind that they’re around. Just make sure to check in on these folders occasionally so that they’re not contributing to digital clutter.
Create a separate Gmail account for your work emails
If you’re a freelancer, you might be using the same email account for your personal and professional emails. But if you want to manage your email flow and keep yourself sane, then consider a separate account for your work emails.
This way, you can keep your work communications organized, while also maintaining your professional boundaries. In other words, no more reading and responding to non-urgent work emails on nights and weekends.
Make your organization system make sense for you
When naming and categorizing your folders, use a system that will be easy for you to use and remember. For instance, if you’re naming files by date, but can never remember the month or the year when you’re searching for them, then it’s probably not the best system for you.
You can try using broad categories so that you can keep your files organized, but also give yourself some flexibility. Common categories include: Insurance, Taxes, Work Contracts, Apartment Stuff, etc. You can then create sub folders if necessary or break it down by year.
Add personal flair
Devotees of bullet journals and paper planners love to customize their notebooks, and add fun stickers and colors to their pages. This makes the planning and organizing aspect that much more fun. So why not add some personality to your digital files as well?
You can color code your online calendar, add emoji to Google Doc folders and email labels, and give fun names to your files like “My Brilliant Creative Ideas” or “Dream Vacation Budget.” For even more email personalization inspo, we highly recommend this episode of Oh, I Like That podcast.
Set aside a little time each day or week to tackle one small digital clean-up. Maybe it’s adding filters to unwanted emails, or deleting photos while you’re waiting at the doctor’s office. Through trial and error, you will find a system that is manageable for you.
Written by JiJi Lee.