How to do a digital declutter – plus a free checklist download
With our phones, tablets and computers playing such a huge part in our lives they’re the perfect place to start (or finish!) your decluttering journey.
Here are some tips and healthy habits to adopt for a digital declutter.
We increasingly live with our phones by our sides (or, in my case, always in my hands!) and while they’re seriously useful they can also be a source of negativity too. Our phones, tablets and computers are a door to exploring the wider world and in most cases enhance our lives.
The digital ecosystem allows us to stay in touch with friends and family, pay bills, shop online, and lots of other useful things. They’re also where we can find inspiration, joy, encouragement and support from others through online groups, messengers and social media.
Technology is AMAZING for so many things… but our digital lives can very quickly become as cluttered and full as our homes.
If your phone screen is full of apps you don’t use or you dread sorting through all your computer files here are a few simple, bite-size ways to DIY your own digital declutter.
1. Clear your home screen and desktop
Your home screen or desktop is the first thing you see when you set eyes on your phone, tablet or computer – so make it the first stop on your digital declutter too.
Keep your home screen (or desktop) as minimal and clutter-free as possible by moving apps to other screens or folders, and moving files and desktop shortcuts to different folders too. Keep only what you need and nothing else.
2. Get rid of apps and software that you don’t use
If you haven’t used an app or piece of software in the last few months – uninstall it!
There are some exceptions here for things you do use but only yearly, but for the most part if you don’t use it regularly and wouldn’t notice it was missing then it’s safe to uninstall or delete. Not only is it taking up space on your screen and adding to the sea of icons and clutter, but it’s taking up physical space on your phone or computer too.
Getting rid of apps, software and files you don’t need frees up space for more of what you do use, love and enjoy.
3. Delete apps which make you feel bad
This one’s huge – not only because it saves space on your devices, but because it has a positive impact on how you feel as you go about your life.
If an app makes you feel bad, drained, stressed, uncomfortable or overwhelmed – delete it. Be ruthless. If what you see on Instagram isn’t making you smile and you don’t have time at the moment to address that by changing who you follow, remove the app from your phone. You can always reinstall apps later and rekindle your positive relationship with what you see on them or how you use them.
4. Turn off notifications
If you only do one thing from this digital declutter list, make it this one.
Turning off notifications for your apps puts you back in control of your digital life. You can choose when to view and respond to your emails without that little red dot nagging you, and even pick up your phone when you want to and not just to check which notification has lit up your screen.
Endless notifications and the desire to check on them can cause that overwhelming feeling, so eliminating them gives you space and control to choose how and when you interact.
5. Organize your apps and files into folders
Once you’ve deleted any apps you really don’t need it’s worth organizing the ones you keep. It’s up to you how you’d like to do this, but personally I have a few different screens on my iPhone featuring folders by category – e.g. photography, media, games.
On the computer, keeping your files organized is even more important as it’s so easy to end up saving everything to that one default folder you always use. I find that sorting through digital files takes time, so if you can find a moment of quiet sit down and work through as much filing as you can to create a healthy habit moving forwards.
6. Start a habit of deleting photos you don’t want to keep
Getting the right shot can take a few goes, so you end up with a few photos that are blurry or not quite right don’t you? But do you ever delete them? I know I don’t!
Our photo libraries can become filled up with photos that we have duplicates of or that we don’t love or need to keep, so getting into the habit of regularly deleting them frees up space on your phone (or computer) and means you don’t have 10,000s to trawl through to find something you love.
7. Aim for inbox zero (or whatever feels comfortable)
Emails! Every day our inboxes fill up with messages from people we care about and companies we’ve subscribed to, as well as other things that we don’t care about or need in our lives.
I know that having unread emails in my mailbox gets distracting for me, and I end up anxious if I haven’t cleared them in a while, so I try and keep my inbox at zero (or at least, zero unread/unactioned). If this style doesn’t work for you find one that does, and try and keep on top of emails so you’re in control and they’re not feeling like a burden.
8. Close browser tabs as you go
How many browser tabs do you have open right now? I know that on my laptop I have 9 (mostly blog posts I want to read) and on my phone it’s probably upwards of 35.
On our phones especially it’s easy to leave a web browsing app to do something else and forget to go in and close tabs you’re finished with. These then mount up and, if you’re anything like me, one day you end up with 99+ open tabs and wonder why your phone battery is dropping fast. If you close tabs as you’re finished with them you won’t end up there (hopefully!).
9. Consider storing your files in the cloud
If you’ve always stored your files and photos on your laptop or desktop, maybe it’s time to think about switching to a cloud-based storage system instead.
One of the benefits of cloud storage is you can access your files anywhere, and they’re more protected against technical issues and hardware failure. It also makes it easier to keep your desktop or laptop free from digital clutter – although you should try and keep everything organized there too! My personal favourite is Google Drive but there are a few other options like DropBox and OneDrive.
10. Be more intentional with your device time
While it’s not so much a decluttering habit itself, being more intentional with the time you spend on your devices means less time to build up clutter and a less overwhelming experience.
If you find yourself almost addicted to picking up your phone every few minutes or checking in with Facebook constantly, creating a few rules for yourself can help to break that. Maybe even try a digital detox and avoid non-essential use of your devices for a weekend or a week and try and find the right balance for you and your life.
Bonus: Create time each month for a digital declutter session
Once you’ve made it through the steps above and you’re feeling confident and calmer about your digital life, make sure you create time in your calendar to keep it that way.
It’s easy to start feeling overwhelmed again and reverting to old habits, so blocking off an hour or two each month to continue your digital declutter is a great way to create a new, positive habit and stay on track.
Don’t have time to start your digital declutter now?
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New – download my free digital declutter checklist!