Don’t miss the digital declutter checklist at the end of this article.
I love digital spaces! A few of my favorite spaces include my inbox, Notes, and messaging apps. I wouldn’t have written the previous sentence five years ago, though.
In the past, I felt overwhelmed by my email accounts, calendars, photo library, and other digital tools. I had too many things to keep track of, and too many notifications demanding my attention! My digital world left me feeling distracted and unorganized.
After reading about digital minimalism, I began to slowly declutter my digital life. It’s been a game changer!
In this article, I’ll share a simple digital declutter checklist and guide. Both have helped me:
- reduce stress
- organize my digital spaces,
- consider how social media adds value (or not)
- spend less time on screens,
- and have fun with the process.
With that, let’s get started!
How To Declutter Your Digital Space: a step by step guide
I’ve decluttered my digital life by using a three step approach. I’ll share my strategy below. If these ideas resonate with you, please use them!
Let’s begin with the first step:
1.) What area of digital clutter is causing you the most stress?
Before I organize digital clutter, I ask myself the following question:
- What area of digital clutter is causing you the most stress?
I’ll spend 10-15 minutes responding to the question above in my journal. Writing helps me identify problem areas to focus on, like:
- an overflowing inbox,
- a photo library filled with duplicate images,
- ideas for future newsletters,
- my digital habits overall,
- and a desktop covered with documents.
When I know what’s causing me stress, I take tiny action steps.
2.) Create and maintain a simple organizational system.
In the past, I tried to organize my digital life by using folders, file names and some cloud storage. But, this approach didn’t make sense for my work life. I felt less organized and more overwhelmed.
My approach to digital clutter had to change. So, I used a few journal questions to create a new organizational system, including:
- How do you find information on your devices?
- Do you like searching by date, tag, or via the search function?
- What type of system feels intuitive to use?
By responding to these questions, I created an organizational system that works for me. For example, I archived most of my digital files. Now I use the search function, in programs like OneDrive and Lightroom, to find what I need. You might use other apps and storage like Google Drive, Dropbox or even an external hard drive.
I’d encourage you to answer the questions above. Figure out what works for you. If your organizational system is intuitive, you’ll be able to keep tabs on your digital life. With a system in place, you’ll spend less time organizing files. Instead, focus on deleting duplicate and unnecessary files, old emails (promotions, notifications from Facebook and Instagram), photos, and more.
And hopefully, you’ll have fun with the process!
3.) Have fun and enjoy the process!
Keeping my house tidy is a lifelong process, and the same goes for digital spaces. Typically, I spend 10-15 minutes a day organizing my digital spaces. To make decluttering fun, I listen to music or podcasts. Also, I use a checklist to streamline my tasks.
Your Digital Declutter Checklist (and tips)
To help myself stay organized, I created a Digital Declutter Checklist. Typically, I go through my checklist once a week. Some of the items on my checklist – like archiving emails and using secure passwords – are part of my daily routine.
You can use my checklist daily, weekly, or quarterly. Think of this checklist as a starting point. Feel free to modify or add to the checklist. Save it in your notes app or as wallpaper on your computer or tablet. The important thing is to make time for digital decluttering.
Here is my checklist:
- Delete mindfully
- Create and manage secure passwords
- Close unused accounts
- Unsubscribe from mailing lists
- Archive or delete emails
- Organize documents based on themes
- Create a tidy desktop by moving files to the cloud
- Upload photos and delete duplicates
- Uninstall unused apps
- Back-up documents
- Empty trash folder
- Take digital breaks
To give my digital declutter checklist context, I thought it would be helpful to share examples of how I organize some of my digital spaces.
Deleting files, documents, apps, and other digital tools is part of the decluttering process. However, I’m mindful of what I delete. If I’m unsure about deleting a file, software, or an app, I set it aside. I can always delete it later.
Furthermore, I have automatic backups through OneDrive. Backups give me peace of mind. If I accidentally delete a file, or my hardware breaks, I can recover what I need.
Create and use secure passwords.
Thanks to my family’s gentle encouragement, I finally started using 1Password. It’s a secure app that allows me to store, manage, and make secure passwords with ease. I resisted using this app for years. Now, it’s one of my favorite programs!
Archive or delete email.
A few years ago, I organized my emails into folders and tags. The system wasn’t working for me, so I decided to try something new. I archived all my emails and started fresh. Today, here’s how I manage my email:
- I respond to emails, then I archive or delete my messages.
- I delete spam and unsubscribe from mailing lists.
- I empty the trash folder.
- If I need to find an email, I use the search function in my email client. For me, searching for an email is fast. It took me longer to maintain a folder system.
- I check email on my laptop; not my phone.
During the work week, I follow this process. So far, it’s kept my inbox tidy.
I was annoyed by the number of apps on my iPhone, so I reorganized them. Here’s how:
- I made a folder called “Apps.”
- I placed the Apps folder on an interior screen.
- I moved all my apps into the folder.
- I deleted apps that I no longer used.
- I turned off notifications for most apps.
The result? My home screen is clean and distraction free! It contains my notes, camera, phone, and text messaging apps.
If I need to find an app, I swipe down on my iPhone and search for it. I love how clean and simple my home screen is!
I use a program called Lightroom to store, edit, and manage my photos. Lightroom sorts images by chronological date, so I don’t worry about organizing my photos into separate folders.
Plus, Lightroom has amazing search functionality. The software recognizes most items in a photo, so I can search for images by date, theme, or place. Typically, I can find photos easily.
Also, using the search function is fun! When I search for images, I find shots that I’ve forgotten about. Seeing older photos gives me the opportunity to reflect on joyful experiences.
Include Digital Breaks in Your Digital Declutter
A few years ago, Catherine Price–a journalist and author–wrote an article about phone use and long-term health for the New York Times.
Price said, “Regular breaks can be an effective way to rebalance your body’s chemistry and regain your sense of control. A 24-hour ‘digital Sabbath’ can be surprisingly soothing (once the initial twitchiness subsides), but even just leaving your phone behind when you get lunch is a step in the right direction.”
I’ve followed Price’s advice, and it’s been so helpful. Taking regular breaks from my phone–and really all screens–is a key part of my digital decluttering process. Breaks help me rest, play, and motivate me to stay organized. Now, I use my digital tools with intention.
Please save, share and enjoy this Digital Declutter Checklist
Looking for more inspiring resources? Here’s a short list to aid your digital decluttering efforts:
- Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport
- How to Break Up With Your Phone by Catherine Price
- Spend Less Time on Your Phone with These 15 Little Tricks by Courtney Carver
- Putting Down Your Phone May Help You Live Longer by Catherine Price
- Sabbath and the Art of Rest a conversation with Ezra Klien and Judith Shulevitz