Many years ago I wrote a book on decluttering. It was one of the more popular topics on my old website. But that was in the days when it was all about sorting the physical world - making space in your home, clearing your desk, and so on. Since then digital clutter has become a big thing.
Physical clutter is very different to digital clutter. For starters, it’s easy to accrue it. Bookmark a website? Create a new file? Register with a bunch of apps and never use them? All it takes is a couple of clicks. It’s also easier to ignore digital clutter too, at least until your computer bogs down or you run out of memory.
In the good ol' days digital clutter was straightforward. It was just what was on your PC. Nowadays it’s in the cloud, it’s on your social media accounts, it’s on all those websites you’ve signed up to over the years.
So, every quarter I dedicate a few weeks to going through my digital effects. Why every quarter? I find that any shorter and it’s not really worth the effort. Any longer and it becomes a chore. But that’s just me. Different people, different needs.
I have a list of areas to work through so the whole process is organised. I won’t detail every last item on my list because it’s pretty lengthy and obtuse. But here’s a summary of key items:
Spotify These days Spotify is pretty much my sole source of music. My liked songs number over a thousand, with more added on a weekly basis. Left alone, this would quickly become a mess of tracks I no longer care about, wrongly saved versions (covers rather than originals), etc. So, during a digital declutter I work through my collection alphabetically, maybe doing A through to D in the first quarter, E to H in the next and so on.
Bookmarks My bookmarks are currently grouped by category, and like Spotify I go through a selection of them alphabetically each quarter. The most important area for attention however is the unsorted bookmarks folder which needs clearing out every time.
Websites I will go through sites like Amazon and eBay once a year, typically to tidy up wishlists, update contact information, remove delivery addresses I no longer use, delete expired card details, etc. I also look to delete accounts on sites I no longer use if possible (or replace my user info with gibberish if not).
Dropbox/Google Drive Obvious one, but an increasing source of potential clutter. Firstly, I do a quarterly tidy where I just generally arrange folders, delete unused files, etc. I also do a deeper declutter of one individual folder and its contents (I find there’s no need to go through everything each quarter).
Email Another simple one, though the focus here isn’t just on inbox zero, but also tweaking mailing preferences. Don’t need it? Don’t want it? Don’t just delete, unsubscribe!