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Delete, file, repeat: 3 weeks to less digital clutter

Clear space and stress — a little at a time — with these tips

My smartphone is out of storage space — again. Where’s that online receipt? I have how many photos?!

Sound familiar? Could be time to take control of the digital clutter in your life. Increase your virtual space — and reduce your stress — with this step-by-step approach.

Week 1: Delete the obvious first

Trash or uninstall anything that’s not needed. Look for easy targets like these:

  • Unneeded or duplicate files or email messages
  • Old bookmarks and shortcuts
  • Rarely or never-used apps and programs

What about your vast volumes of photos and documents? Don’t get hung up trying to sort through the hordes. Tackle them as separate projects. For example, you’ll see we take on photos in week three. 

Bonus points: Be decisive. If it helps you keep moving, create a “Possible trash” folder. But only use it when you really can’t make a decision. You can revisit it later in the process.

Week 2: Develop a clear digital filing system

Create a folder structure that’s easy to understand and use. This can help with cleanup — and with finding what you need later. For example: 

Swipe to view plan levels
Main folder Subfolder 1 Subfolder 2
Receipts 2016 09-2016
Photos 2016 08-2016 - Vacation

Give files simple — but specific — names too. A little detail in the name makes finding stuff a snap. The file name “List” isn’t as helpful as “2016 – Holiday to-dos.”

A quick tip: Use numbers for months. That way files and folders sort in chronological order. So you don’t end up with April at the top of your list instead of January.

Bonus points: Now that you have a good filing system, it’s time to revisit your “Possible trash” folder. File what you want to keep — then delete the rest, including the folder.

Week 3: Pare down your pics

Our digital photos and videos can be a source of joy — and stress. To tackle an unruly collection:

  • Time for a trash bash! Selfies gone bad. Accidental shots of the floor or wall. Thirty takes of the same sunset. Keep the best — and discard the rest.
  • Is your collection overwhelming? Set a timer for short sessions — so you’re not glued to a screen for hours.
  • Have a solid backup plan. Protect your cherished photos — and all your important files — by saving copies to disks, external hard drives or a cloud-based service.

Bonus points: Learn more about preserving your digital memories at DigitalPreservation.gov(Opens a new window).

Stay organized

Did you make it through this initial cleanup? Congratulations! Take a moment to appreciate your tidy technology. Then make a plan to stay clutter-free, including:

  • Delete or file new documents or emails as soon as possible — before they pile up.
  • Try to spend even five minutes a day using the decluttering tips you’ve learned to keep your devices tidy.

What to do next

Get more strategies to help simplify your life. You can also pick up practical pointers from Organized Audrey’s online seminar: “Being organized in being balanced.

Resources

Here’s a printable checklist to help you get the job done! 

Checklist: 3 weeks to less digital clutter

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