Does It Spark Joy? It’s Time to Spring Clean Your Digital Life

April 20, 2020

With many of us relying more on our devices during these uncertain times to work from home, stay motivated and connect with friends and family, here are a few tips to help you digitally organize your world. Hey, every little bit helps!

Most of us have embraced an increasingly digital life as we carry on through this coronavirus crisis. We are leaning more heavily than ever on our devices to help us work, eat, exercise, socialize and more. For instance, T-Mobile’s President of Technology, Neville Ray, says the company’s network has seen a 30 to 60 percent jump in usage over the last month, and is holding steady there.

All of this extra time spent online leaves the door open for more than a few bad habits to trickle in when it comes to staying digitally organized. That’s on top of the typical amount of cyber clutter that piles up over the course of any normal year (which clearly this is not), and it can really weigh you down (which you certainly don’t need right now). So, along with that deep-cleaning of your physical living space, now’s the time to address your digital environment, too.

Here are a few easy steps you can take to digitally declutter your life, and make your day-to-day navigation of this stressful time a bit less so.

Delete your old docs, sheets, slides, notes, etc. When’s the last time you sifted through Word, Google Drive or Dropbox and actually deleted things you don’t need anymore? Version 1.0 of your resume, a lease agreement from three apartments ago, college essays — what are you saving these for? Most of us don’t even realize we’ve become digital hoarders until it’s out of control. While some things are definitely worth saving (we’re literally looking at you, photos!), there are probably just as many files — if not more — that could head to the trash to free up space and declutter your drive.

As for those photos? The patron saint of decluttering — Marie Kondo, of course, author of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up and star of the Netflix show Tidying Up with Marie Kondo — recommends saving photos for last, “as these are often among our most sentimental digital files.” Sniff! So true, Marie Kondo!

Clean those screens!
Consider your computer’s desktop an extension of your desk, and think about what your physical workspace would look like if it resembled your default computer screen. Send old screenshots or PDFs to the trash, and create an archive folder to store anything you might want to save. Strive for no more than three folders or icons on your desktop to keep your mind at ease when you open your laptop or boot up your monitor to start work.

The same principle applies to your phone. We all have that friend or family member who has what seems like a million apps on his or her home screen (maybe that person is us, shhh). It can be overwhelming, distracting and productivity-killing if every time you see your screen you’re inundated with apps — many of which you might never even use. Delete anything you haven’t opened in more than a year. And your device likely comes with an extras folder to store any apps you don’t open that often or just don’t want on your home screen — use it! Drag and drop any seldom-used apps here, or slide them to the side of your home screen to store them in a secondary slot you’ll have to swipe to access.

Unsubscribe to thrive!
Chances are you’re on a number of mailing lists you never even realized you’d signed up for, or subscribed to newsletters you no longer need or want to read. Take 15 or 30 minutes to go through your inbox’s spam folder or promotions tab and hit the unsubscribe button. Also, apps like Unroll.Me can save time by helping you mass unsubscribe. A little bit of pain today will make for a more peaceful tomorrow!

Get sorted!
Many major email platforms provide the option to automatically sort your incoming messages by categories, such as promotions, social, work, travel and more. (For Gmail users, there is a handy guide to email sorting.) There are also a number of third-party apps that can help sort your inbox automatically, saving you time and keeping your day on track.

Now that you’re digitally decluttered and have a Spring refresh, steal a moment to relax and smell the flowers. Then check this out: “Expert Advice on Achieving Mobile Mindfulness.”