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Digital Declutter- 8 ways to Regain Control of Your Digital Life

Updated: May 19, 2022

Want to declutter your digital life? You’ve come to the right spot!

Our smartphones and laptops are increasingly becoming an extension of ourselves now, almost like an extra detachable limb… or brain? We use our digital devices to work, communicate with friends and family, pay bills, shop online, game and do a variety of other activities. Through online groups, messengers, and social media, we can also discover inspiration, joy, encouragement, and support from others. While they undoubtedly are a great tool, they can also be a source of nuisance and added stress.

If your phone screen is cluttered with apps you don't use or you fear going through your computer files, here are a few easy, bite-size tips and tricks to help you declutter your digital life.

1. Organize your desktop and home screen.

When you turn on your phone, tablet, or computer, the first thing you see is your home screen or desktop, so make it the first stop on your digital decluttering as well.

Move programs to other screens or folders, as well as files and desktop shortcuts to various directories, to keep your home screen (or desktop) as clutter-free as possible. Only keep what you absolutely require. Take this strategy to your workstation as well, for even more impact. On my laptop, I actually like to leave my desktop completely empty, this makes it feel as though my laptop is a blank canvas and I am not distracted or overwhelmed as soon as I switch it on.

2. Delete any apps that you aren't using.

Uninstall any apps or software that you haven't used in the recent few months.

There are some exceptions, but for the most part, if you don't use it on a regular basis and wouldn't notice if it disappeared, it's fine to uninstall or delete. It not only takes up screen real estate and adds to the sea of icons and clutter on your screen, but it also takes up physical space on your phone or computer. Getting rid of unnecessary apps, software subscriptions, and files makes room for more of what you do use. This strategy is simple but effective.

3. Turn off all unnecessary notifications

You regain control of your life (digital and otherwise) by turning off notifications for your apps.

You can select when to check and answer your emails without being bothered by that tiny red dot, and you can even pick up your phone when you want, rather than only to see which notification has lit up your screen. Endless alerts and the need to check them might make you feel overwhelmed, but turning them off gives you the freedom and control to select how and when you interact with them.

4. Create folders for your apps and files.

After you've deleted all the unnecessary apps, you can organize the ones you do use. It's up to you how you do this. I keep my categories simple i.e. travel, finance, socials, health, etc.

Keeping your documents organized on your computer hard drive is even more important but also more difficult because it's all too simple to save everything to that one default folder you use all the time – in most cases downloads or desktop. Going through digital files takes a bit of time, so if you can find a quiet time, sit down and build a filing system that works for yourself, and make it a healthy habit moving forward.

5. Make deleting unnecessary photos a habit

Getting the perfect photograph can take a few tries, so you wind up with a few blurry photos, some not so pleasant and others that just seem like duplicates. Or at least I used to! I now make sure that if I’m ever taking photos, I end up actually deleting the ones that didn’t turn out that great or seem too similar. Personally, I find this task very gratifying because the more I clean up the more I see more of what I like. It can initially be a time-consuming activity if you haven’t done this in the past but there are apps like Smart Cleaner or Gemini Photos, but if you decide to do it yourself just make it a habit so you don’t have to do large batches in one go which can seem very daunting.

6. Aim for zero emails in your inbox whenever you can

Our email inboxes fill up every day with messages from people we care about, appointments, companies we've subscribed to, as well as other stuff that we have no clue how they showed up.

Personally having unread emails is very distracting for me, as I feel like maaaaybe there’s something important waiting for me to do something about it. When I find myself continuously deleting emails from companies without even reading them- I know it is time to unsubscribe from their newsletter so I am only receiving mail that really does concern me in the long run.

7. Close the tabs!

How many tabs do you have open on your browser right now? And on average, whenever you’ve left so many tabs running in the background, how often do you go back to them? I know that the moment I am not able to read the titles from the tabs- there is no going back and I actually close the entire browser and start again. Not only does having so many tabs open slow down the speed of your web pages loading but it’ll also make you feel as though you constantly have some unfinished task to go back to even if you most likely don't. If you want to refer to something at a later point just save it as a bookmark and come back later.

8. Back up your data to the cloud.

Have you ever lost your photos, a very important presentation or your thesis after a technical failure that wiped out everything before you could rescue them? We’ve all been there, especially if you’ve ever used USBs. This is why I now save everything to the cloud since they're safer from technological problems and device failure. Another advantage of cloud storage is that you may access your files from anywhere. It also makes keeping your desktop or laptop free of digital clutter easier – but you should attempt to keep everything organized there as well! I personally use Google Drive but OneDrive or Dropbox are also some good options.

Just like cleaning our homes has its tedious moments, so does digital cleanup. I advise breaking up the tasks or doing them while waiting for a friend or in a queue so you can use those wee moments to good use. I hope this digital feng shui helps your workflow and peace of mind!

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