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