25 Areas of Digital Clutter to Minimize
by Joshua Becker
originally published on Becoming Minimalist
“An internet user and his leisure time are soon parted.” – Author Unknown
A clean, uncluttered room breathes fresh energy into your home and life. In the same way, an uncluttered computer results in a more enjoyable, fresh, and productive experience. Don’t underestimate the value. The benefits far outweigh the time investment that is required.
To keep your digital clutter to a minimum, try attacking these 25 Areas of Digital Clutter to Minimalize.
1. Inbox Messages – You remove the mail from your mailbox everyday. Apply the same principle to your Inbox. To accomplish this, if you can answer an email in less than two minutes, do it right away. If it will take longer, move it into a “work in progress” folder.
2. Old Documents – Do you really need to keep everything that is in your Documents Folder? Doubtful. In fact, you could probably delete half of those documents and never regret it. If you don’t want to delete them completely, consider moving them into an archive folder so they don’t clutter your most-used document folders anymore.
3. Old Software/Program/Apps – Uninstalling is different than deleting a shortcut. Uninstalling programs frees up space on hard drive—simply deleting shortcuts doesn’t.
4. Desktop Icons – Remove as many icons from your desktop as possible. It is the equivalent of working at a cluttered desk. A clean desktop clears your workspace and allows you to concentrate on the task at hand.
5. Folder Structure – Unless you don’t mind searching every time you need a saved document, you’ll need a good folder system. To get you started, rename any folder named “New Folder,” delete any folder with nothing saved in it, and develop a good structure that works for everybody who uses the files.
6. Photos – Refuse to keep photographs that serve no purpose. You wouldn’t put bad photos in a physical photo album. Likewise, you don’t need to keep them just because there is space on your hard drive. Holding onto poor quality photos makes it more difficult to find the high quality ones when you need them. Always delete them before/during the import.
7. Music/Movies – One of the best things about digital media is that you can have every song/movie in your library available at your fingertips. Unfortunately, one of the worst things about digital media is that you have every song/movie available at your fingertips. To keep them from cluttering your library, delete unused ones permanently. If you can’t find the strength to delete them, move them to a different folder where you can recall them manually if you need to (you won’t need to).
8. Time On-line – Log on less. Your kids will thank you. The following article is a must-read for every parent: Plugged-in Parents Alienating Their Kids?
9. Facebook Friends – Too many friends on Facebook makes it more difficult to keep up with the ones you truly care about. Finding out that your old friend from high school is taking her three children out for pizza might be interesting, but the never-ending flow of information is distracting you from the people sitting next to you. At first, it is fun to join the popularity contest to see how many friends you can get—but it is important to realize you are not in high school anymore.
10. Facebook Time-Wasters – Join fewer groups, play fewer games, poke fewer people, and chat less.
11. Twitter – To improve your entire Twitter experience and to keep it productive rather than distracting, read Leo Babauta’s Minimalist Guide to Using Twitter. You’ll never use Twitter the same way again.
12. RSS Subscriptions – Unsubscribe to blogs that are no longer updated or relevant to your life. If your reader has really gotten out of control and no longer saves you time, read How to Declutter and Streamline Your Google Reader Inbox.
13. Internet Bookmarks – Delete bookmarks that are no longer needed. It is as simple as Right-Click > Delete. For the remaining bookmarks, use a folder system for quicker navigation.
14. Cookies – A cookie is a small packet of text saved by your web browser that stores information unique to you and your browser history. Generally considered harmless, a large percentage of targeted advertising comes from information gleaned from tracking cookies.
15. Old Contact Information – Delete contacts no longer needed. Update contact information that needs to be updated. This will keep your contacts folder clutter-free and efficient.
16. Passwords/Log-Ins – I use 1Password. It provides me with the security of choosing unique passwords for each of my protected accounts on-line without the headaches of trying to remember them. You’ll never go back to trying to remember them all again.
17. Email Marketing – Unsubscribe to newsletters / advertisements that no longer add value to your life. Don’t just delete, unsubscribe. It should take only a few seconds by clicking the “Unsubscribe” link on the bottom of the email.
18. Email Accounts – Nobody needs more than two e-mail accounts (work/personal). One is even better.
19. Desktop Background – Appreciate the simple beauty of a minimalist background. A background that does not clutter your eyes or mind will improve your productivity and attention span far more than you think.
20. Temporary Internet Files – Control Panel > Internet Options > General > Delete Temporary Internet Files. Done.
21. Internet Home Page – How many times have you hopped on-line just to get a small piece of information only to be sidetracked by political news, sports scores, or celebrity gossip? Probably countless times. Here’s a quick tip: Change your Internet homepage to the minimal, unpersonalized google.com. There are no tangent headlines battling for your attention.
22. Disc Clean-up/Defrag – A four-click solution on most computers. Start > Accessories > System Tools > Disc Clean-Up. To get really serious, read How to Analyze, Clean Out, and Free Space on Your Hard Drive.
23. Upgradeable Digital Devices (Cameras, Thumb Drives, MP3 players, Cell Phones, External Hard Drives). If you’ve been making the most of technology for any length of time, chances are you have a small pile of old devices that you no longer use. If you can’t find somebody who would graciously accept a hand-me-down, recycle them properly.
24. Cables – Your desktop is where you use your computer most. Don’t allow it to be overtaken by things begging for your attention and personal space… especially cables. Perhaps the solution for cable-clutter is not as difficult or expensive as you think.
25. CD-ROMS / Hardware Manuals – If you no longer use the program, you don’t need to keep the CD. Likewise, if you no longer own the hardware, you don’t need to keep the manual. And to reduce even more paper clutter, see if your hardware manuals are available on-line (in pdf format, for example). If so, discard them entirely.
Tackling all 25 areas of digital clutter will almost certainly take more time than you have available right now. That’s alright. There is probably plenty of room in your bookmarks folder for this post. Just save it under “Work in Progress.”
Joshua Becker is the Founder and Editor of Becoming Minimalist, a website that reaches 1+ million readers each month inspiring people to live more by owning less. He is the Wall Street Journal best-selling author of Simplify, The More of Less, and The Minimalist Home. He is the Creator of Simplify Magazine and Simple Money Magazine. Also, he is the Founder of The Hope Effect, a nonprofit organization changing how the world cares for orphans.
Note from Editor: If your house and office are overrun by clutter, I highly recommend Joshua’s Uncluttered Course. I took it at the beginning of the year and it truly changed my family’s life. We can finally find things and our home is refreshingly clean. The course was like a breath of fresh air in our lives!