Getting your digital clutter under control
The days of bursting file cabinets and desks buried under paper may be behind us, but that doesn’t mean our 21st-century lives are any more organised. With wireless technology integrated into our daily routines, many of us have simply traded paper clutter for digital disarray. You might take it for granted, but it’s there: Your overflowing inbox, that mess of files on your desktop screen, and those alerts that your phone’s storage is at capacity. The shift from working in the office to remotely from home during the pandemic has blurred the division of personal and business files even further, making organisation that much more of a challenge. “When one of the digital areas of our life is getting full, it can feel overwhelming,” says productivity coach Clare Kumar. Here’s a step-by-step guide to getting that digital clutter under control.
Set aside time for a digital clean-up
Don’t expect to clean up your digital clutter at the end of a workday when you’re already feeling fatigued. It’s best to schedule this task for a day that you’ll have the time and energy to complete it, just as you might set aside a day for spring-cleaning your house. “As with any organising project, it takes some mental energy, strategic thinking and planning,” says Kumar. It’s also important to tune into how satisfied you feel after doing a bit organising – that will motivate you to keep going. If you find that a periodic mass clean-up of your devices is way too overwhelming, figure out what frequency works for you. Like putting your clothes away at the end of the day, it might feel easier to delete unwanted photos right after you take them.
Expert tip: Think about organising your digital clutter from a legacy point of view. Your next of kin needs to be aware of what you own – passwords, finances, legal documents – and where these files are located in case of an emergency.
Establish priorities for what you want to keep – or delete
According to Kumar, the first thing to do when you’re setting out to organise all your files, whether they’re online banking statements or videos from your last holiday, is to think about what’s important to you. In the same way that you would sort through physical clutter in a room – think junk drawers, old magazines, day-old dishes – imagine it’s your spam emails and outdated documents that are taking up precious space in your digital environment. “You do want to be intentional about this because it’s quite abstract,” she says. The key questions to ask yourself are: What files do you want to keep and how do you want to use them? For example, if your passion is photography, you’ll want to make sure that you have enough room on your devices to store photos, and an organisational strategy to find them again.
Expert tip: Start by dividing all the files across your devices that you want to organise into broad categories like photos, work and taxes.