digital declutter

Why Digital Decluttering is a Must for All of Us

Some might call me a neat freak. Mr. H just calls me Hausfrau.

My pet name was coined, because my overly efficient and effective domestic care might seem borderline OCD to some. I have daily, weekly, and monthly cleaning rituals that must happen for me to feel relaxed at home.

Cleaning is my therapy—it’s one of the rare times my mind feels clear.

Dancer's Pose Natarajasana

When it comes to digital clutter, however, I tend to be a hot mess.

I have good intentions, I swear. I do my best with folders and whatnot, but when I’m writing and working away, well…my desktop gets covered in a sea of screenshots and my inbox gets so full that I barely know where to start reading and deleting.

Recently Mr. H cried out when he saw the number of emails in my personal inbox on my phone. 435 emails…and, puke.

It’s a sign of the times when we have to think about digital housekeeping. One important thing I learned from my love affair with Marie Kondo is that the only way to truly declutter is to get rid of shit.

That doesn’t mean finding a more suitable home for your shit, or reorganizing your shit annually, bi-annually, or whatever. It’s about changing our mindset, so we don’t have the “my shit’s everywhere” problem.

“Have nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” – William Morris

This was revolutionary for me when I finally realized how many times I had resituated the shit underneath my bathroom sink. Once I got rid of everything I totally did not need—and changed my buying habits as well—guess what? The shit stayed clean!

Okay, enough about shit. So, I applied this same method to my digital….stuff.

Because no matter how many clever folders and sub-folders I’ve fashioned, no matter how many bookmarks with kitschy  names I’ve masterminded, I still felt scattered in my digital environment. And that environment is already stressful enough, am I right?

While there are MANY methods for decluttering your digital life, here are a few things I did this past week that helped me clean virtual house and feel happier.

I Had an Unsubscribe Party

Sure, there are the mailing lists we end up on from that dry brush we bought online or that webinar we attended for work.

This party was more about the content I had voluntarily subscribed to—content I really love and I would really love to read, but…ain’t never gonna happen!

I’m lucky if I read one Yoga-related blog post in my inbox each week. When they’re sending me content several times a week? Haha, nope!

digital organization

I found that even though I wanted to read content that would inspire me—and ironically help bring more peace into my life with meditation tips—my inbox was stressing me out.

It was nothing against these brands, but I unsubscribed from all of them. Instead…

I Created Tidy Twitter Lists

Just because you unsubscribe from content doesn’t mean you have to tell it to kiss off. For many moons I’ve used Twitter lists to keep up with my connections, and organize content resources for social media marketing purposes.

Yet, I was still holding onto the inbox approach for a lot of the content I wanted to read. As I was unsubscribing from emails, I started a reorg of my Twitter lists. These guys should be organized in a way that makes sense to you.

lists for twitter

This is what works for me, with pretty straightforward naming conventions that cover my connections, brands, and resources. I keep my lists private, because I don’t want others to know who my prospects are and which Blogger Buddies tier they fall into.

Hint…if I keep up with you regularly on Twitter, you’re probably in my Blogger Buddies #1 list. : )

I Went the Automated Declutter Route

Big surprise. Unsubscribing isn’t as simple as it should be.

Whether companies have an ulterior motive or terrible email templates where you can’t locate a damn opt-out button, we have all been victims to the unsubscribe breakup from hell at some point in our adult lives.

I had heard about Unroll.Me months ago when I was on a productivity mission, but I was too cocky, thinking I had a good system with my inbox. I decided to take it for a test drive this past week.

I’m in no way affiliated with them, but I will tell you this tool is a godsend and it’s free.

Remember that unsubscribe party I had? I thought I got ’em all, and I definitely didn’t. Unroll.Me broke it to me gently that I had 50 subscriptions still. So, I had another unsubscribe party to get those sneaky bastards.

I signed up for a couple of Moz webinars this morning, and I had a notification right afterward to help me decide how I wanted to organize that. Unroll.Me also has a nifty rollup feature you can use to group your subscriptions.

Bigger companies whipping out tons of content should offer subscription preferences you can toy with when you want to refine the frequency or type. Unfortunately many don’t offer this feature, which is super annoying when they are emailing you every freaking day.

The answer…unsubscribe or rollup!

I Attacked My Blog Subscriptions

One of the biggest culprits in my inbox, this is where things get really tough for me. This year I’ve been struggling to stay on top of my blog reading. I’ve always been a big believer in relationship-building, and connecting with other bloggers is important.

This one will be a work-in-progress, but I knew I had to start somewhere. After four years of blogging, I’m following…drumroll, please…

wordpress followed sites

…679 WordPress sites! Yow!

Don’t worry, I didn’t have email subscriptions for all of those. But I had close to 100, so my blog culling went a little something like this:

  1. Turn off email notifications for blogs that aren’t a good fit for me. I had the auto email subscribe thing happening, so this got out of hand.
  2. Manage those spirited bloggers who post more than once a week by changing my emails to a weekly round-up. It’s better this way.
  3. Use my handy new Unroll.Me roll-up feature to consolidate blogs I follow even further to have a cleaner inbox. Woot!

(Shameless plug for Mr. H from the screenshot up there…Cooking Irreverence is his new food blog and you should definitely check it out!)

I Pinned my Bookmarks

Funny story. A couple of weeks ago Mr. H did a clean sweep of my laptop as I was transitioning out of my previous company’s system, and I lost all the passwords and bookmarks I had saved in my Chrome browser.

So, if you really want the secret to digital decluttering—this is it! Start over.

Honestly, he did me a favor because I was hanging onto a lot of my old company’s links that I needed when I worked for them. This was the best way for me to experience a true fresh start as I moved into a freelancing career…a clean digital break, if you will.

Because an old version of my Chrome bookmarks still lived on, I was reminded of how bad I used to be with random bookmarks until I discovered Pinterest. It’s especially a lifesaver for my recipes, but also I use boards for work stuff.

Less bookmarks, pretty visuals…who says social media isn’t useful?

pinterest board
And look—I even have a Hausfrau board, because I’m THAT crazy. I learned how to get the pickle smell out of jars on Pinterest, thank you very much.

Summer Cleaning…make it a thing!

I know you’re probably thinking…Britt, isn’t it supposed to be spring cleaning? It’s summer, I want to frolic outside.

I was feeling the same way, except that I never got to any of this in the spring. I started thinking I was going to wait until fall for a lot of my organizational projects that had been sitting there when I realized how badly I wanted my home to feel spacious and free—just like the feeling you get during summer.

So, take it outside. Not a digital declutter, but I worked on my tan one weekend while purging our files. Ta-da!

organize files

What tips do you have for digital decluttering? I’d love to hear them!

21 thoughts on “Why Digital Decluttering is a Must for All of Us

  1. You’ve got some great ideas here, Britt. I need to go through your list again and get organised! The ‘weekly roundup’ is a great idea (particularly when ‘spirited bloggers’ post more than one post a day) – I admire them greatly, but don’t know where they find the time 😉

    I’ve also got a second inbox I use when signing up in a clothes store for their ‘specials’ (they love doing that but it can get very spammy) and I only check that once a month 😉

    1. Awesome, Dianne! I figured I would pass along some of the things I’m learning during my own digital decluttering to help you guys if you’re experiencing the same woes. I love the few daily bloggers I follow, but it’s too much for me to handle. More power to them though, absolutely!

      Ooh…second inbox is a crafty move. Love it!

  2. Oh my gosh, I have NO tips on digital declutter. I’m the worst. My inbox makes your inbox look good, Girl. The one email, you know, from 1999, the one where all the things go. Oh it’s vile. I need to have an unsubscribe party, I know I do.
    I’m really good about the house. Truly. I’m a bit of a neatnik, a total purger, naturally organized, but digitally, Oh Lawd.
    Perhaps the universe needed me to receive this message.

    1. Haha, I’m glad I’m not alone with this. I started making a much bigger effort to organize my digital life when I had so much going on at my last job. I found that freelancing meant I needed to lock it up even more, because hey…running my own biz now. Grab your party hat—sounds like it’s due time for that unsubscribe party, hon!

  3. Because I’m moving out again, decluttering is my motto this week too. How shameful to promote living simply with less and realize I’ve managed to clutter my little studio again while living in Paris! 😦 It’s all taken care of now!
    As of digital declutter, as I’m following you and your good vibes of the summer and I want to get off digital this summer again, I’ll be turning off some of those blog alerts, at least for some time. And see how it goes.

    Happy decluttered summer!

    1. It happens, love! Must be why we call it “nesting” because we love to gather things to really make it a home, don’t we? 😉

      Good for you on the digital vacation! I think I’m going to have to take mine later in the year, since summer is slower with work. Might as well blog while I have the time!

  4. I’m pretty choosy to start with so it’s not a mega problem for me. If someone is tweeting non-stop I unfollow. If I follow a new blog I ditch an existing one. When my inbox gets too big I take a deep breath and have a deleting party.

    All my writing stuff is on Scrivener so I’m no longer searching high and low for drafts and stuff I know are hiding somewhere.

    And in the non-digital world I’ve just taken a whole heap of books to a charity shop so I can see surfaces again.

    Best wishes Britt.

    1. If someone is tweeting non-stop about their books/business, I definitely can’t take that. Otherwise, I’m fairly lenient as long as there is a healthy mix! Good idea on the one in/one out tactic, Roy. I try to do that with my closet, so I should try it with blogs some time.

      Yay on the book donating! I was worried I was going to have a meltdown a week after I did that, but I felt better all-around.

  5. In real life I tend to be cluttered, but online I’m Marie Kondo all the way! If there’s no spark, it’s gone. I save almost no email, subscribe to nothing, keep my Safari files in order by reviewing what’s in them monthly, and never use the WP follow system. Having deleted my accounts on FB, Goodreads + Pinterest, I now follow people only via Twitter or My Feedly. This works for me, keeping me sane and connected. Less is more.

    1. Too funny…Mr. H is SUPER tidy with his digital clutter. It’s impressive! Sounds like you two would get along splendidly. I could never delete Pinterest. I got on last year for work research and it sucked me right in. 😉

  6. Loving the clean, new look of the blog – fits in so well with this post too! You’re the one who taught me about twitter lists when I first signed up; so useful!

    I’m good about keeping emails organized (answering and deleting them as much as possible) but I bookmark websites too often. The pinterest idea sounds like a good solution to this!

    1. It brings tears to my eyes to hear that blog compliment, because I have been slaving away for a couple of weeks. Still have a few minor adjustments to make, but the appearance feels much better with my current path.

      Yay for Twitter lists! Just wrote about that on LinkedIn today. It’s pretty common that people/businesses get confused by Twitter until they start rocking the lists. Super important!

      Warning that Pinterest is addictive, but it’s the one social channel I use for selfish purposes rather than social convos. It helps me organize my life and inspires DIY projects, fashion/food ideas, etc. If you get on, we should definitely be Pinterest buddies!

  7. Though I can be a bit of a slob sometimes in my house (especially when I’m marathoning a particular show, haha), I am very VERY meticulous regarding my digital clutter. I never leave an email unread beyond a day. I always, always clear out my junk folder.

    When it comes to social media, I only follow a few people because I don’t have much spare time to spend on networking, so I’d rather my feeds are only filled with posts from people whose content I’m interested in. I even go on a sort of spree every once in a while, and unfollow blogs/accounts that no longer resonate with me.

    I think it might make me seem a bit aloof/self-centered to some, but I have so much on my plate, and I’d rather spend my time on people/things that matter to me. Never any ill intentions. 😦

    1. You ain’t kidding, Zen! You are VERY meticulous. That’s great though…less chance for clutter and stress if we only take on so much at a time.

      I think my marketing career makes me more susceptible than most, since I need to stay up on pretty much everything. 😉

  8. I had to laugh about your tip for decluttering to “Start over”–even though this is a hellacious experience. I had to get a new laptop this spring and even though I had most files switched over (because I’d been backing up), my email subscriptions didn’t make it. At first I was dismayed, then I was psyched! 🙂

    I am renovating my study this summer, so I have already begun to purge my desk and bookcase and files of crap. It’s a long, drawn-out process because I simply can’t devote a whole day to it. If I had a weekend to myself, it’d get done no prob. But I have these things called “kids” that kind of mess up any planning like that. 🙂

    I like your Twitter list suggestion. I have a few lists, but I really need to take it more seriously so I can actually get use out of them!

    1. Yeah, it’s funny how a technological mishap can be a godsend. I know that cleaning off my laptop that way helped me wipe the slate clean, so I could move on from some baggage I was carrying around. Feels so good!

      Twitter lists are a lifesaver! I’m trying to be better about them too.

  9. Some great tips here Britt and you sound so energised by all this digital de-cluttering 🙂 I’m not too disorganised digitally, but I could always do with a summer clean….

    1. Any kind of decluttering energizes me. But I definitely procrastinate with the digital version, because the constant messiness overwhelms me. Maybe we should trade. I clean your house, you clean my laptop! 🙂

  10. You’d be totally stressed out at my house. I am surrounded by clutter. 😦 I have been going through some of it and pitching it. My problem is that I keep everything I *might* need someday because I’ll be damned if I’m paying for it twice!
    Some of my clutter (books and papers) makes me happy. Other stuff I need to trash.

    Digital decluttering isn’t too hard for me. I keep nearly everything I write, but have no problem deleting anything that has no relevance anymore. The Delete button is my friend.

    1. Haha! Though tidy, I had a packrat problem until reading the Marie Kondo book. Have you read it? I told my mom to read it too, because it helps to expand your horizons a bit when you’re hanging onto things “just because.” I’m mainly such a sap, so I was always bad about keepsakes. Some that I recently got rid of are pretty embarrassing!

      I need your deleting superpowers! Still working on that.

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