Digital clutter… it’s one of my biggest areas of disorganization. I waste at least an hour each week searching for items on my computer. Yes, digital clutter is my dirty little secret. But I’ve got a plan, and I’m sharing it with you, so that you, too, can kick your digital clutter to the curb and increase your efficiency and productivity in the process!
Kick Your Digital Clutter to the Curb in 12 Steps
If you’ve never cleared your digital clutter, then this post will feel incredibly overwhelming. Don’t panic! Take these steps one-by-one, make a plan of attack and include deadlines, and you’ll have your digital clutter out at the curb in no time!
A quick note: I use one computer for both personal and business, so some of these steps might not apply to you. Just skip those steps and find the ones that you need to complete.
Okay, let’s kick your digital clutter to the curb!
It’s one of the first things you see when you power up in the morning, so make sure it’s a well-organized, clutter-free, refreshing sight.
Make sure you:
- Delete old, obsolete, or unused shortcuts.
- Organize remaining shortcuts into a file or two. Don’t go crazy here…remember, the point is clutter-free.
- Add a touch of your personality with minimal, whimsical, or colorful icons. Check DeviantArt (these are one of my faves) or do a search for “computer icons” in your favorite search engine.
- Change up your wallpaper. Search on Pinterest for more choices than you’ll ever need.
If you’d like the same well-organized, clutter-free, refreshing sight in your home office as you’ll soon have in your digital world, check out how to Organize Your Home Office in 8 Steps!
Oh, the documents folder….
Can you see me cringing? It’s one of my worst areas for digital clutter.
If your Documents folder is anything like mine, you might have to break this process down into a multi-step project.
But first, let’s talk basics:
- Delete old, obsolete documents.
- Move rarely referenced docs to Dropbox or Evernote.
- Develop a good structure for naming files and stay consistent.
- Organize your documents into files.
That all sounds doable, doesn’t it?
Until you actually get into your Documents folder and get completely overwhelmed!
But even if your Docs folder is a giant mess of folders, spreadsheets, and documents, you can restore order!
I started by creating a basic file inventory. You don’t need to write down every single sub-file in every single folder. Just write down the main ones, so that you can keep track of where you stop each time you work on this project.
You could also do screenshots, if that’s more your style. It’s definitely more my style.
And because I’m a freak like this, I used a Project Planner to break down my project, assign deadlines, and track my progress. If you want to join me in my freakiness (the more, the merrier), grab your own Project Planner HERE!
I also recorded my file naming system on my file inventory, in case I needed to refresh my memory somewhere down the line.
Take your time with this step and do a thorough job. You’ll be so thrilled that you did, and you’ll experience the benefits of increased effectiveness and productivity!
I talk about using a Project Planner, along with other helpful tips, in 8 Tips for Staying Sane When Working at Home.
Go through your list of hardware and software and uninstall anything that you don’t use or that is obsolete.
This should be a fairly quick, refreshing step after the ginormous-ness (yep, I just made that word up) of the Documents declutter.
You’re welcome. 😉
Disc Clean Up/Defrag
Run a disk clean up and defrag to get your computer into tip top shape. I have the newest version of Windows, so I used the Cortana search bar to find both.
Music & Movies
This process is similar to the one you completed for your Documents folder. Go through and delete anything you haven’t listened to or watched in a while.
Screenshots & Downloads
These two folders are almost as bad as my Documents folder when it comes to digital clutter, so I made a plan to clear the clutter for 15 minutes each work day to make it less overwhelming.
Make sure you move any screenshots or downloads you’d like to keep to an appropriate folder (if you haven’t all ready), then delete the item in the Screenshot/Download folder.
By the way, if I followed the process above for every screenshot and download I added, dare I say, made it a regular routine, then I wouldn’t have such a huge mess….
Just putting that out there.
Want to make routines (like clearing out your Screenshots folder) a regular part of working at home? Then definitely check out this post: How to Build Strong and Lastly Business Routines.
My Photographs (personal and business) are another big mess. Hello, rampant digital clutter! I’ll definitely need a file inventory and Project Planner for this one.
- Deleting cruddy, blurry, cut off , and duplicate photos.
- Developing a structure for naming files.
- Organizing your photos into files.
- Adding Tags, Titles, and/or Subjects.
- Keeping an inventory of tags and file naming structure, for reference.
- BACKING UP your photos! Don’t lose your precious memories. Do your research to find a back up system that works for you. Take it from someone who lost photos when a computer died. DO THIS STEP RIGHT. NOW!
I’ll be sharing my system for digital photo organization later this week in another post as a jumping off point for those of you looking for a detailed system that you can tweak and make your own. I’ll add a link here once it’s live.
Facebook is overwhelming. Period.
But you can make it a little more minimalist while still checking in with your FBBFFs.
- Unfriend and unfollow.
- Leave any groups that you don’t visit or that no longer interest you.
- Change up your settings, as needed.
- Turn off notifications within your settings and on specific posts.
You can take similar steps with all of your social media platforms!
I always end up with far too many of these, but it is a fairly quick decluttering step. Yay!
Delete your old, obsolete, and unused bookmarks.
On Chrome, it’s a simple matter of clicking on Home (in the upper right corner), hovering over “Bookmarks,” and clicking Bookmark Manager.
Then click on the folder you want, right click on the old bookmark, and click “Delete.”
I’ve also pinned a lot of my bookmarks, because I like the organization and ease of Pinterest better than Bookmarks.
Once you’re finished deleting old bookmarks, create a system for organizing your remaining bookmarks, and put them into folders.
Cache, Cookies & Browsing History, Oh My
These saved items use up space and cause your computer to run more slowly. Get those space sucking items cleared out!
On Chrome: Click on Home (in the upper right corner), hover over “More Tools,” and click on “Clear Browsing Data.”
A window with additional options will pop up where you can choose what to clear and from what time frame.
I always choose Browsing history, download history, Cookies, and Cache, then choose “the beginning of time,” but you can explore the other options.
Finally, click “Clear browsing data” in the lower right.
How many of you work on your computer with 5, 8, or 10 browser windows open?
Yep, that’s me raising my hand. I like to move back and forth from different information, but it bogs my computer down.
But I’ve found an amazing tool for those of us browser abusers! It’s called OneTab, and it’s a browser extension for Chrome and Firefox.
When you click the OneTab icon all of your browser windows are condensed into a list. As you can see below I have a
few, ahem, 13 browser tabs open.
One click of the OneTab icon in the upper right hand corner next to the Chrome home button, and….
My 13 browser tabs are condensed into a nice, organized list!
It’s seriously amazing!
You can pull them up again and delete them when you’re done.
**One note: Make sure you save before you click OneTab. It should prompt you to save before it condenses your browsers but better safe than sorry.
Email is a bit of a beast, and I’m still trying to get a handle on the best way to manage it. Plus, this post is all ready getting really long. So, I’ll cover email in another post and link to it here once it’s live.
Stay tuned for all of the nitty gritty deets on how to declutter your email.
A Regular Digital Decluttering Routine
It’s no coincidence that there are 12 steps in this post (once we add Email).
A good way to develop a regular routine of digital decluttering is to tackle one of these items each month or one each week for 12 weeks, then start the process over again.
Not only will your maintenance take you significantly less time, you’ll also keep your computer in tip top running shape, avoid searching for lost items, and increase your attention and productivity!
Now you know how to kick your digital clutter to the curb in 12 steps!
Just like in your home office, decluttering and organizing is an ongoing process. Make it a part of your regular routine, and you’ll avoid the overwhelm that you’ll likely suffer during the first round. And as a result, you’ll be more efficient, effective, and productive. You’ll also decrease your stress level significantly.
Related Posts You Might Enjoy
If you enjoyed today’s post, you might also find these post helpful!
Have you cleared your digital clutter before? What tips or tricks did you discover?
Thanks for joining me today!