Digital Decluttering

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” — Leonardo da Vinci

I sit down at my Mac and, on the majority of times, I still hear my mom’s voice saying (screaming): Could you please tidy up? In other words, the digital decluttering was meant to happen, sooner or later.

I’ve always been a messy person who could find her mental order in the physical chaos but things have changed a bit. The culprit is not the age (please don’t say that). The problem here is the quantity of mess that can be created by four chaotic people in one little apartment. However, like everything in life, when it’s too much, it’s is too much: after a while, you stop enjoying even your favourite cake.

I started to de-clutter small physical parts of my life and the benefits have been huge. Not for the space I have created itself, although getting rid of things you don’t use anymore feels good. Most of all, I’ve enjoyed decluttering for the satisfying sense of peace that gives me after I finish cleaning up.
Digital decluttering is another way to simplify your life and to make your workflow easier and faster.

This week, I write about digital decluttering in its practical form. I will walk you through all the operations to perform to delete what we don’t use and to arrange the content on our devices.

As for wardrobe or house decluttering, I do not agree with the KonMari method. This approach suggests to tide up as quick and complete as possible.

What I personally reckon is that decluttering is a process. Even if you won’t reach minimalism frontiers in re-ordering your place, it will take you time to adjust to a new way of living your life. Above all, decluttering is not related to something you do, but to something you will be or already are.

What I agree with Maria Kondo is that a good practice is tidy up by category and this is how I am going to approach this digital decluttering post.

To de-clutter or not? YES!


To me, the fundamental principle of decluttering is: less is more.
For instance, you need to think of what you can eliminate if you like to add value to your day.

An example: for me, a major point is avoid multitasking when I work. This is because I am already on multitasking mode all day with my kids so I do not need distractions while I work, otherwise it takes me forever to finish a task.
Above all, interruptions lead me to considerable stress and to the idea it takes me 3 days to finish a job (while it is ‘only’ a 6 hours job I I find myself forced to break up).


Here are my tips for efficient digital decluttering:

Remove notifications
Apart from texts and phone calls, remove all other notifications. This way, you will be uninterrupted and more focused on what you do: the pulsing alerts on your phone are off and you are in control.

Another good tip I can give is to place the phone away from where you work (another room will do) so as to avoid any distraction altogether. One more tip to block out distractions is to work in full-screen mode. 

Reduce the number of folders
When I used to open up my computer, it looked like a jumble of thrown-up icons on the screen. I didn’t even know where to look to find what I needed.

Try to organise everything into bigger folders, for example, ‘Work’, ‘Personal’ and ‘Play’ and search inside each one of them when you need something.
Remember to give relevant names to the folders or files you label: a week from now, you won’t recall what zetabetacoffee.pdf is all about.

Don’t own, just access
There are tons of information available out there and the temptation to download everything is strong. However, ownership brings stress so why don’t you simply access what you need. Do not save everything on your computer when you can access it online. Do you need a song or a video, a movie? Stream it.

Be ruthless
You need to be unmerciful with all the random files you see on your desktop. Drag as many data to the bin as possible and delete them once and for all.

Reduce the number of apps you own to a minimum trying to identify what you really use more frequently. Check for any other software unnecessarily installed on your computer and remove it. 

Sort the remaining files by kind and send them to the appropriate folders.

Group your photos
In 2017 we took around 1.7 trillion photos. Since then, there have been no signs of slowing down and yet, somehow, we look at our pictures less and less. Pity.
It is important to be organized if we want to minimise the mess.
My personal struggle with photos was not having a workflow set up. Once I captured my images, I didn’t use to organise them on my computer or iPhone.

I personally use Photos on my Mac now and share my images them through iCloud. You can create a structure for My Albums and titled the folders the way you like to have them organised (Blog, IG, etcetera).
Whatever structure works for you, just create it.

Most important of all: remember to back it all up from time to time (I do it quarterly).

Sometimes, a part putting into practice the above general indications, a more technical decluttering might be in order too.
If you know how to put your hands on the machine (most of the time these type of operations are quite feasible for everyone), you can easily find online resources that can help you with.

I leave you here with a few links I found useful.
For photo decluttering:

For cleaning out and free some space on your hard drive:

For generic cleanup tools:
Windows users > https://windirstat.net
Mac users > http://derlien.com

Hope this can help you in your first step towards a simpler time spent on your electronic devices.
This February, while I will be with the kids during the Sports Ferien, I will write another post about digital decluttering, where I will focus more on how to optimise the screen time spent online. Sore button for the majority of us!

A little Wake Cup is waiting for you to be downloaded.

So you have two full weeks to get your desktops ready and pretty before we dive into the topic together: how? 
Download here a simple, unobtrusive desktop cover I have created for you. No clutter attached: just a pretty wallpaper.
I hope you like it.
xo, Chiara

About the author
Hi, I’m Chiara, an Italian landed in Zürich in 2011. I like to help people finding their way to the sustainable use of social media, without sacrificing results. I like to write about mindfulness and all things real.


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