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10 Tips For Decluttering Your Digital Life

In today’s post I am revealing one of my dirty little secrets — my absolutely chaotic computer life! I know, I know…hard to believe right? ;-) Sadly it’s all too true.  My friends and family are always mocking my compulsive need to have a zillion tabs open at any one time in my browser and a desktop that is plastered with icons. But today I am attempting to turn over a new leaf! My business partner Scott recently sent me a link to an article with tips on how to do a digital declutter which he claims has been transforming! I decided to check it out and then did some more research of my own and found some more ideas that I hope can transform MY digital life as well!

Related:  The One Easy Decluttering Project You Should Do ASAP

I’ve narrowed them down to 10 Tips For Decluttering Your Digital Life:

Declutter Your Computer
A screenshot of my ACTUAL desktop from today! I have my work cut out for me!

1. DESKTOP RELIEF

Did you know a desktop cluttered with icons will actually slow down your computer? Sweep a cluttered desktop into one folder, then sort through it chronologically to get rid of anything you don’t need and make new folders for stuff you want to keep.

Removing icons you don’t use will also help. This won’t delete the program, but will instead just get rid of the shortcut.

Declutter Your Computer
A screenshot of my ACTUAL browser from today! Yes, there are FOURTEEN open tabs at the top! :-/

2. BROWSER SURVIVAL

Don’t have 14 tabs open at once – like me! Kill your tabs with the Tab Killer extension. Tab Killer saves the url’s of pages you want to open up and you can open them, when needed, from a popup. You don’t read all those pages simultaneously, so why should they be open all at once?

If killing is too extreme for you, you can CONDENSE them instead with OneTab. OneTab converts all of your tabs into a list. When you need to access the tabs again, you can either restore them individually or all at once.

Declutter Your Computer

3. TAMING EMAIL

Inbox

Organizing your Inbox can be a daunting task! Trust me, I know. My Inbox is a major source of stress in my life because it is NEVER empty! Ever.

Here are a few simple steps to help us get our email under control—and keep it that way.

There are 3 main clean-up options:

1. Delete. If you are confident that you don’t need the messages, you can delete them.

2. Archive. Archived messages are still in your account, but they will no longer show in your inbox.

3. Archive and label. Label (or tag) your messages to help find them more easily then just archiving.

Here’s a sweet trick….sweep away messages in groups!
In Gmail you can search things like from:facebookmail.com or from:groupon.com and once you’ve isolated that group of emails, you can archive, label, or delete all of those messages at once. THIS I am DEFINITELY going to do!

Unsubscribe

I swear I spend more time DELETING emails than I do READING them! I’ve tried unsubscribing to individual emails but it’s an impossible task!

Unroll.me will unsubscribe you from unwanted email lists. After you sign up, you’ll see a list of all your subscription emails and you can unsubscribe instantly from whatever you don’t want.

If you don’t want to sign up for a service, you can unsubscribe manually by simply searching for the word “unsubscribe” in your inbox and then weed through yourself and figure out what you want to keep, or better yet, what you want to LOSE.

Keep It Clean

Congratulations! Now your Inbox is clean, but the real trick is keeping it that way. Here are a few tips to help:

If you can reply to a message in less than 5 minutes, just do it. Don’t put it off. Then, archive the message, delete it, or drag it into a label to get it out of your inbox. For anything that will take longer, flag it and come back to it later. Set aside dedicated time each day or each week to clear out your flagged items.

Declutter Your Computer

4. OH SO SOCIAL

Google has an app that will tell you which Facebook friends rarely interact with you. You can peruse the list and choose to add them to an Acquaintances list, where you’ll see less of them on Newsfeed, or just UNfriend them altogether.

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Or just check your Birthdays tab and unfriend anyone who you don’t feel the need to follow anymore. Everyone has a birthday, so this is a super easy way to pair down your list.

Finally, you can unsubscribe from certain types of Facebook posts altogether. Just hover over your friend’s name in the news feed and click the “Friends” box. Head to “Settings.” From here, you can unsubscribe from any kind of update: Photos, Games, Life Events, and more.

Pinterest

This is a brilliantly simple idea — alphabetize your Pinterest boards to make finding what you need easier. Also, using keywords in the descriptions of your pins makes searching so much easier.

Twitter

Crowdfire is an app that helps organize people you’re following on Twitter so you can decide who to unfollow. It sorts by people who don’t follow you back, people who’ve been inactive for a set period of time, and people who might be spam.

Linked In

You can tag your LinkedIn contacts to better manage them, and create your own custom tags (that only you can see.)

Declutter Your Computer

5. LIFE IN THE CLOUD

Taking advantage of cloud storage is a great way to declutter your digital life! There are extensions for both Chrome and Firefox that allow you to upload online files directly to Dropbox (rather than downloading them to your computer and then having to reupload them.)

Declutter Your Computer

Chrome extension Download to Dropbox adds an option to your right-click menu to send any files directly from the web to a folder on your Dropbox. You can accomplish something similar manually in Firefox with the extension Save Link in Folder.

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6. POLICE YOUR PASSWORDS

I finally got smart and started using a password manager about a year ago. It takes the pain out of remembering all those passwords!! A password manager helps create strong passwords for all your online accounts and stores your passwords in an encrypted database. I use LastPass, but there are lots of other options that can be downloaded for free.

Declutter Your Computer
9to5mac.com

7. OUTSMART YOUR SMARTPHONE

Organize

I’m always debating over the best way to organize my iPhone. I love this idea by 9to5mac.com!
Organize your phone’s apps by how much you use them! Keep the ones you use the most on your home screen, and group the others by category on the following screens.
For example:

  • Homescreen ONE contains the few apps used frequently at home.
  • Homescreen TWO contains the apps used most frequently when out & about locally.
  • Everything else lives in category folders on homescreen THREE.

Downsize

Declutter Your Computer
Yikes! I need to DELETE some stuff!

If you want to know which apps are taking up the most space on your device….on an iPhone, just check Settings – General Usage. For Androids, check Menu – Settings – SD card / phone storage. From there, you can make decisions on what can be deleted.

Declutter Your Computer

8. JUST SAY NO TO NOTIFICATIONS!

Please, I’m begging you….Turn off your notifications! It is SO distracting to hear a chime or beep and have your screen light up every time someone responds on Facebook or you’re mentioned on Twitter, etc, etc, etc! You can always check at certain times of the day, to catch up.

On Facebook: click the icon at the top of your home page; click on account settings; click on notifications; this opens the page on which you can turn off all kinds of things for both your phone and email. TRY it! You’ll LIKE it!

Declutter Your Computer

9. DELETE BUT DON’T ORGANIZE

Get rid of files you don’t need anymore. Discard files, folders, photos, videos, emails – anything that isn’t necessary and is just cluttering up your computer. While you’re at it, don’t forget to empty the recycle bin.

Declutter Your Computer

DON’T ORGANIZE file and folders. This may sound CRAZY…but stay with me here. Organizing your digital documents in multiple folder structures is a waste of time and not really necessary. Install a desktop search app on your computer that will quickly search for the documents you are looking for, even faster than your custom organized folders. You can create a couple of high level folders under My Documents, and then dump all your files into those folders without creating multiple sub directories. When you want to retrieve a document from those folders, use your desktop search app to locate it, and open it. CLICK HERE for 5 Best Desktop Search Applications according to Lifehacker.

Declutter Your Computer

10. DO YOUR CHORES

Treat your digital chores like your weekly grocery shopping trip. Combine several items that need to be done and do them once a week. This might include paying your bills online, uploading pictures and videos, emailing your friends, backing up your files, etc.

Also schedule regular purging sessions (at least once every 6 months) on your calendar to clean up old digital items from your system.

Okay, I know the title says TEN tips…but here’s a bonus:

Declutter Your Computer

DISCONNECT!

Disconnect from your digital world one day a week. You really don’t need to be connected ALL the time! Saturday or Sunday are good days to disconnect from the digital world and spend time with nature, friends, and family. I’ll try it if YOU will! :-)

What is your favorite tip to simplify your digital life?

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  • Before people starting signing up for Unroll Me, you need to be aware that they collect and sell your data. In fact, it was discovered that Uber purchased Unroll Me data from Lyft users in order to use that information against Lyft. VERY shady business practice.

    In general, if an app is FREE, it means they are going to track you and sell your data because, as a business, they have to make money somehow. You can either pay for a service or hand over your privacy to them to get it for free. And once they’ve given away your information to a third-party, it is completely out of your control. That’s why you can open a brand new email account and within a day or two, your inbox is already clogged with spam. Free apps are the biggest spam-generating machines on the Internet.

  • Thank you! Where has OneTab been hiding out? As I was reading your post I also had multiple tabs open, and then opened more to find out what the extensions were all about. I love OneTab! I am so excited about it I haven’t even tried any of the others yet.

  • I prefer “inbox” also by gmail as it lets you organize your emails into folders, pin importantones to the inbox, delay them & much more. I now ignore the mess of gmail’s giant inbox.

  • This is such a great email. I’m 63 and putting it into effect is not going to be an easy task, but I’ll try. I have a special folder for ALL your helpful tips–see I was smart in that aspect. Not an overly neat person but this will help control some of the clutter on my laptop and phone. THANKS AND KEEP THEM COMING.

  • I am a serial un-subscriber! I like to have a super clean inbox and the minute I receive to email, I read it ASAP (or at least try to!) MY desktop has only what I use on it and my files, apps (both laptop and phone) are organised, can’t live without folders!
    It’s really important to switch off every now and then.

  • Thx for this good article and guide. I’m not a computer genius . Found this helpful! Now if you’d write one on how to use gmail…I find this email “server” difficult to figure out and difficult to see…lots of issues with it but do not want to lose all my contacts again and start with another email service!

    • Just go to you pinterest profile, where you can see all of you boards. From here, you just click and drag the boards to move them around! :-)

  • Thank you for Unroll Me!! I was subscribed to over 150 emails! I just cleaned it up and now will get only about half of them in my inbox. :)

  • Hello – am having problem viewing your “one good thing by jillee” emails – so I unsubscribed to try to rectify the problem and now won’t let me RE-subscribe – please HELP – I LOVE “ONE GOOD THING BY JILLEE”!!!

  • I love reading your ideas! They are so helpful!! Do you have any tips on how to organize photos? I spend so much time searching, it drives me crazy!! Thank you again!!

  • Thank you! These tips help a electronically challenged person do things they want and to do the way to do it. Directions are simple to follow. I really need that! Thanks again

  • Thank you, this is the most helpful information I have read in a long time. I will be sharing it with all my friends.
    I am a 21 tab person and it drives me crazy. Yes, someday I am going to read or listen to all those tabs but not today. Thanks to you that is now taken care of.

  • Oh, Jillee… Once again you have proven how important you are to me. This morning I was thinking how I need to clean up my phone and my laptop and start putting stuff into this “cloud” thing everyone speaks of. So I open your site to review your previous post on the cloud, and what do I find… Today’s post on how to clean up your digital life. Brilliant. One of my favorite things about your site is that previous posts are easy to find so that if I can’t read or use an idea immediately, I know I can find it later (armpit stain remover and shower spray come to mind). I’ve said this before but I’ll say it again… THANK YOU for all the hard work you put into this site. You are so very appreciated. Please keep it coming… I need you.
    Your biggest fan,
    Cathy

  • any opinion about putting desktop “stuff” on a flashdrive ? there are some things I just do not want to have to search for such as quarterly tax things so I have them on the desktop. crazy ? paranoid ?

  • This is good. My brother in law tried to help us clean some stuff out, but kind of messed a few things up in the process. My main problem is after I return from work my email is out of control. I’ve sent a bunch to unsubscribe. I’m thinking maybe some of these groups must share their email lists. I did a few years ago have to unfriend some on Facebook because she was always being critical of someone and very negative. Also one those folks whose missing a few bricks.

  • Hello i am kavin, its my first occasion to commenting anyplace, when i read this post
    i thought i could also make comment due to this sensible article.

  • […] If you saw my computer screen full of icons, my internet browser full of open tabs, or my email with thousands of unread emails, you’d know I really need to follow these digital decluttering tips! […]

  • All great ideas but I would have to install Google Chrome, am on a Mac and have Safari and don’t want to install Google Chrome. Am sure there will be alternatives. Yes, I am guilty of having 14 or more tabs open at the same time! Great post, thank you.

  • Thank you, THANK YOU!!!! I’m a lady without youngsters about to help me with this “new fangled” computer stuff! When I first compter-ed in the 1980’s, and all I had to remember was “which keystrokes do I hit to “save” stuff.
    No mouses, no internet, no IT, no smart phones. I asked my grand daughter how to text and got an “OMG” look from her (and still don’t know how to text!) Guess she thought I was kidding.
    So again, THANK YOU!!! (((HUGS)))

  • Sorry, I’m going to need a cite for your “desktop cluttered with icons will actually slow down your computer” advice. In Windows, your desktop is a folder like any other, and it really doesn’t care how many icons you have (to a point: I mean, yeah, 5,000 desktop items CAN slow your computer down; 500? No.)

    Also… 14 BROWSER TABS? AT ONCE? I have 48 open at the moment, and know plenty of people who routinely have 100+ tabs open at once.

  • It may seem a little redundant given the topic of this post, but I actually have two separate gmail accounts – one with a personal email address that I give to friends and family and personal business contacts, and a second that I use when I am filling out online forms, contests, etc. All of my subscription emails and “spam” email goes into the second account and the ones I really want to see are in the first.

  • So…. I didn’t get an e-mail august 18th–to find out who won the Blentec blender….does anyone know? I got the email about the JCPENNY giveaway……….

  • I love this post and signed up for unroll me for gmail! Almost 90% of the emails were spam. Outlook slows down when emails are left in the inbox. In a business setting, you can turn on “show archive folders” and create archive folders by client or by date or whatever is relevant. Then drag and drop relevant emails to that folder. Or, once a week, sort by “from” and highlight a block of emails and drag and drop.

  • Absolutely love this blog. . . this topic is a much needed reminder. I just used the unroll,me and it is FANTASTIC! Did not nor will not ever ‘unsubscribe’ to OGT! lol

    Thank you for today’s post. I only wish I could print it out to look at it later. .

    • You can, I do it all the time.
      Simply highlight what you want to save (I tend to skip most pictures as it takes up less space on my computer), then right click, then choose “copy”. Open an office program like Microsoft Office or the free Open Office program and paste the information into that document. Give it a name, click on “file” (at the top left-hand corner of either office program) and chose “save as…” Then choose where you want it to go. I’m a fan of nested folders, but then I did a lot of office work when I was younger and that works for me, but I acknowledge that other things work for other people. Go with what feels right for you. (searching has never given me the results I want very quickly nor accurately). Anyway, either choose a folder or create a folder, highlight the folder name and then click on save. You’ll then have the info where you can refer to it again.

  • This is brilliant and as a not very savvy computer user I am so grateful, it’s just what I need and I am going to forward it to my husband Immediately!

  • Show you are committed to you being in charge of your life and not at the beck and call of every e-mail, notification, or alert on your phone….set it down and walk away from it for 30 minutes every 30 minutes. If that is easy for you, go for longer stretches of time. Get up and move, stretch, look at something that doesn’t have a screen, connect with someone in person.

  • These are all great tips! I’m going to incorporate a lot of these suggestions into my own digital world. I have been wondering if it is possible and how to sort emails in gmail for a quite a while now, so WOW thank you for that tip!!

  • Photos can be a big headache to store or organize. I simply save photos I download from my camera on the date I do it. Early November will get Halloween pics while late December will yield Christmas photos.

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