As consumers, we are bombarded with advertising on a daily basis and promotional freebies (or enticing discounts) are often present, but make no mistake, they are not gifts from companies. They are clever marketing tools that quickly become trash as very few “giveaway” items can be recycled or composted. If businesses focused on paying their smiling employees well, who in turn delivered outstanding customer service, I know that it would be money well spent. Who needs a rubber ducky with a logo on its side anyway? Or another pen? Or a magnet for the fridge?
If you feel trapped into all the taking and giving, let me remind you, that you are not obligated to take part in a consumerist game – overproduction is not the answer to finding happiness and peace worldwide, nor will it help us discover a sustainable future. Strive to be a customer who cannot be so easily bought, and sooner, rather than later, you will begin to recognize clutter before you bring it home and you can stop it before it enters the door.
The ability to collect clutter takes no special talent on our part, however, getting rid of it does.
In the digital world, things can get a bit more complicated, because we cannot see the amount of space our virtual stuff is taking up. Instead we see percentages “You are currently using 201 MB (1%) of your 15360 MB“. Digital files add up slowly, but surely, whether you are an office worker, blogger, writer or everyday user. We create and collect our own messes and yet there are still opportunities for us to collect online freebies, that often add little value to our lives. Those are the opt-ins of signing up for newsletters, the printables, the offers – the online marketing. Not that it is all bad, some of it is informative, well-written content, but you don’t need to keep it forever! After you have read it, decide in a split second whether you imagine reading it again. If not, DELETE.
Chances are, that your digital junk drawer may need a thorough cleaning out if you are having difficulty recovering your files, or if you are spending too much time searching your hard drive just as you search your home for car keys and missing socks. If digital items are playing hide and seek, then it is time to recognize what kind of digital clutter you have and start taking the steps to get rid of it.
Digital clutter can be disguised as:
- Old emails
- Document files
- Browser bookmarks
- Social media favorites
- Saved printables
- Music files
To successfully unclutter your digital junk drawer, you will need a strategy, as it is easy to get lost in a maze you cannot clearly see.
Your strategy may differ, depending on what you are ready to let go of, so let’s tackle a few topics below and if you have further questions you can ask them right here.
DELETE old emails – start with the most recent and purge them critically. Just a note to say hello or what to bring to the next meeting? Delete. Work your way backwards in time and mark each box for deletion. Don’t just remove items from your inbox, remember to delete the messages from your trash as well. You may have to work your way through years of emails to get down to a handful of meaningful and important messages.
Set aside 30 minutes each day to get started and stick to a deleting routine till your inbox is nearly empty. (Insider tip: it feels absolutely wonderful to see just 3-5 emails in storage!)
DELETE photos – go through all of your folders of pictures, one by one, with a discerning eye. If photos are blurry, out of focus, you can’t remember where they were taken(?), badly proportioned, or you simply have too many of the same event, go ahead and start eliminating them. Of course, it is hard to get rid of pictures of babies, children and loved ones, but in digital version pretend that they are physical items and ask your self – “would I pay money to have this picture printed out?”.
While it is lovely to reminisce, remember that the digital world is still storage – and however organized you are, stuff is still stuff, stored not in your home, but often on a server somewhere in the world. The more you store in a cloud, the more energy you require to store your “life” every minute of every day. From an environmental standpoint, we should all be looking at reducing our digital footprint. While the digital world may seem infinite to many of us, and we assume that we can fill gigabyte after gigabyte, when you begin to treat your online life as you do your physical reality, you will realize that too much is way more than enough.
Keep all what you need and get rid of the outdated rest.
DELETE bookmarks – if you found what you were looking for once, chances are likely that you can find it again, maybe not from the same website, yet your browser will point you to relevant information all the same – and with a new search you may even find something better than what you discovered before! If we are always saving articles to read for later and we know we will never catch up, then why are we left with 400+ saved links? A remedy to prevent digital clutter is to set a weekly or monthly routine – a digital house cleaning of sorts. If anything irrelevant to your life has snuck its way since the last time you uncluttered, don’t be afraid of the DEL button. Become friends with it and trust that it will save you time and energy in the future, the time you could rather be spending with real people in real time.
How many files do you have to delete today? Let us know your digital uncluttering strategy in the comments below!