If you’ve ever heard about Feng Shui, you’ve heard about decluttering. The art of letting go of ‘things’ that no longer serves you. Decluttering doesn’t just apply to material life. You should also declutter your digital life!
This is a process that has greatly helped me over the years. It has enabled me to start new phases of my life with a clean slate, space for new energy and new projects. And making space is a great achievement when starting a New Year!
I discovered Feng Shui, a few years back, when I lived in London. Even if I’ve never mastered or even understood all the Feng Shui principles, I did find that a lot of the basics had to do with common sense and, well, especially the decluttering bits. Seriously, everybody feels better when their house is clean and organized, don’t they?
Decluttering is a bit like having a super housekeeper, although obviously it does go a step further.
Now in this article, I want to first talk about decluttering your digital life. Why? Because it’s just as important and is something we rarely do or think about.
Why you need to declutter your Digital Life
Let’s first be clear: Decluttering should be the first step toward a more organized life, a more organized digital life in this case. Decluttering shouldn’t be the end goal otherwise it’s like going on a diet to loose weight and then eating pizza everyday once you’ve lost some… not just useless but a waste of time and energy!
Let’s take 2 examples of what digital clutter might be:
You probably have thousands of emails in your inbox or inboxes, part of them you’ve never even opened. Maybe they are notifications from various social networks, newsletters that aren’t news anymore, promotions that expired a long time ago… Maybe you have an aunt who has just discovered emails and keeps on sending you things she finds funny but you don’t… It doesn’t matter from where those emails come from, the result is an over saturated mailbox where you can’t find anything when you need to.
You also probably have thousands of pictures on your computer and phone. The really good ones but also the not so good ones, the ‘I can’t remember what that is‘ ones, the overexposed or underexposed ones, the ‘I will learn Photoshop and do something artistic with it‘ ones, the ‘it’s blurry but I still like it‘ ones, the ‘who is this?‘ ones, the ones which you took 5, 6, 10 times just to be sure you get one… and they all take space on your computer or phone.
Emails and pictures are just 2 examples of things we all have too many of.
These things take space and the accumulation of them may seems innocuous but in reality it isn’t. You probably spend as much time looking for that specific email or picture that you spend looking for your keys for example. And if you think in Feng Shui terms, such digital clutter weights on you.
If you need one more reason to declutter your digital life, think about this: your thousands useless emails, added to mine and everybody else thousands useless emails represent millions, billions or probably trillions of useless emails which are all backup on servers somewhere. One tiny email alone is nothing, but added to all the others, it represents huge quantity of data which require, at the end huge, quantity of energy to be saved. If you don’t want to delete those emails for yourself, do it for the planet!!
So let’s get to it, shall we?
How to to declutter your Digital Life
A few words of caution:
- Don’t try to do it all at once or you’ll probably spend your whole week-end and end up making harsh decisions you’ll regret.
- Start by one corner of your digital life and work you way through before moving onto the next one.
- Don’t over do it. You can always come back and do some more.
- Don’t be overly sentimental either.
- Check your progress and congratulate yourself!
1- Your inbox
Start by the obvious! Permanently delete the emails that are in your trash and all the spams. Feels good, doesn’t it?! That’s just a warm up!!
Update your Social Networks set up & delete all emails
Go to your social network tab and before deleting those emails, consider what’s in there and what you really need. Twitter summary? YouTube notifications? Facebook or Instagram notifications every time you get a like?! Go through each of those, amend the corresponding notification service and then delete all these messages in bulk.
Update your email subscriptions and delete all emails
Do you still shop at this store? Do you still like this ‘guru’ motivational quotes? You’ve been to this hotel once, do you need daily offers from it? Edit your subscription preferences and once you are done, delete all the emails you have received in the past.
File your invoices if you must
Do you order a lot online? Have you registered to receive only online invoices for your phone, electricity bills and so forth? Then file those into a separate folder if you must keep them. But think of it first. This invoice from 3 years ago, for an Amazon book which was free anyway, is most likely useless!
File the rest of your emails
What should be left in your inbox, at this stage, are emails from real people. OK and maybe also a few recent newsletters you actually intend to read and one or 2 offers that have not expired.
For emails from real people, it’s hard to say what you should do. If they truly mean something to you, if they are work related, if they contain useful information, by all mean, keep them. If all they contain is a smiley or a thank you note, then please delete!
What you intend to keep, you should file in a separate folder. I have separate folders for family, friends and work related emails and it’s a good start. Keep it simple. It always work!
Congratulation, you know have a clean inbox and because you have managed all your subscriptions, it should remain this way!
If you’re really scared of missing out, take baby steps and choose weekly notifications instead of daily notifications. That will still result in far less emails in the future. Do also consider other means to get informed. Maybe you can follow this brand you kind of like on Facebook instead of receiving emails?
2- Decluttering your Social Networks
Do you like your Facebook / Instagram / Twitter timeline? Do you get so see so many posts from Buzzfeed, companies, Upworthy, news from people your barely know,… that you missed the announcement when your favorite cousin gave birth to the most adorable princess? Then do something about it!!
Let’s take Facebook as as example, even if we love to hate it. Your Facebook timeline can become great with just a little bit of effort:
- Go to your profile, click on “more” and manage your likes in each sections (books, sports, tv shows, groups…) and most importantly the pages you like. Delete all the ones that you don’t like anymore, simple!!
- Regularly click on the little arrow next to these posts you don’t like and select ‘I don’t want to see this’. What your friends like might to be relevant to you.
- You can also choose to see less of what certain of your friends post (click on those little dots next to your News Feed)
- When everything fails, you can unfriend your ‘friend’ but unfollowing them is a lot less harsh.
These actions have tremendously helped me to curate a feed that I enjoy seeing when I’m on Facebook. There is one more thing I need to do and it’s to go through all those saved articles!
Each social network has it’s own way of working but the principals are the same. If you don’t like it anymore, just unlike. The Earth isn’t going to stop turning.
3- Decluttering your bookmarks
There is one additional thing you can do before reaching Ninja level of Digital decluttering and it is to do some cleaning amongst your bookmarks!
- Delete all sites that you bookmarked and never went back to.
- Delete all bookmarks to sites that don’t exist anymore or haven’t been updated since 2015.
- Do you use BlogLovin’ to read your favorite blogs or do you follow them on FB? Than you don’t need to book mark them.
When you work on a project and bookmark pages for this project, just create a specific folder that you can delete once the project is done. This is for when you are planning a trip, a party, or working on a personal or professional project.
One simple rule here: Only keep what really makes your life easier!
4- Decluttering your computer & your phone
Decluttering your computer and phone is ninja level because it is so hard!!
One “no so good way” to handle it is to buy an external drive, save everything on it, delete all from your computer and forget about it! Clean slate indeed but not ideal.
The better way is to take the time, once and for all, to clean the space and get organized.
I find that starting by deleting all the apps I don’t use anymore is the easiest first step. Yet so satisfying!!
The next step, you’ll then ready to conquer, is to go through all the other type of files like pdf, Words or Excel. All the stuff you download, meaningfully or accidentally, all the documents you created for whatever reasons. Filing appropriately what needs to be kept is of upmost importance here. Deleting everything else, especially all the different versions saved, is then easy.
The final step, and quite frankly the hardest for me, is to handle pictures. It gets easier and easier because I go more and more organized over time and now regularly delete and file appropriately. If you are doing this for the first time, do it methodically. I recommend creating a ‘trash folder’ where you put all the pictures you intend to delete. Before deleting permanently, review it to ensure you are not parting with anything precious.
File the pictures you are keeping appropriately, set up a filing method and stick to it in the future. Filing is a personal thing. Some work better with dates. Some prefer folders and subfolders by events or places. Others let apps like iPhoto do the work… Whatever you decide, the important part is to find what works for you.
Congratulation! You reached Ninja level of digital decluttering!!
Keep it up through the year and next January, you’ll be impressed how little time you have to spend cleaning out again.
In part 2, I’ll talked about decluttering stuff in real life…
What are your tips on Decluttering?
Do not hesitate to share them