We spend an average of 3 hours and 15 minutes a day on our phones. On top of that, we often also spend time on laptops, desktops, or tablets. During all these hours, we accumulate quite some clutter on our devices. Your digital clutter needs a digital clean up.
All this clutter is hidden in places like apps, folders, and email. They make your devices slower, take up your storage, and sometimes it looks just very messy.
Like a cluttered physical environment, a cluttered digital environment can impact your focus and mental clarity.
This post is your guide to do a digital clean up of your smartphone, tablet, email, social media, and laptop/desktop. Let’s dive in!
Apps on your phone and tablet
Are your phone and/or tablet filled with apps all over? Have a scroll through your apps. How many apps had you forgotten about because you don’t use them?
Perhaps apps you downloaded for a one-time event or stopped using after a free trial. Or simply didn’t like or needed to use the app.
You can safely delete the apps you don’t use, as they are just taking up space on your device. Believe me, you won’t miss them.
If you do need them at some point in the future, you can simply re-install it then.
A way to find apps you barely use – this works for iPhones and iPads – is to go to Settings > General > iPhone/iPad Storage.
Here you will find the list of all installed apps and it shows the date when you last used it. Haven’t used a particular app for a few months? You can simply delete it and get back storage and peace of mind.
A lot of digital clutter is created by those damn notifications.
Whether they pop up on your screen, are listed, or show the little numbered dot on the app icon: it is clutter.
Notifications distract you from what you actually picked up your phone for, or interrupt you in the middle of a task. This distraction means you are in a reactive state – you let your environment control your time.
Become more intentional with how you spend your time by limiting your distractions a.k.a. switching off notifications. That way, you will open an app, email or message when it suits you.
I know FOMO (fear of missing out) is a real thing nowadays and notifications keep us in the loop of everything that is happening. But you should realize that it is no issue at all if you don’t open that new YouTube video immediately, if you check Instagram stories or Twitter a few hours later (your world will not come crashing down) or if you don’t check your (work!) email in the evenings.
Switch off your notifications and let me know how your experience is.
Fight the urge to turn the notifications back on within a few days. You might also find yourself opening apps a lot to see if there’s anything new. At least, that happened to me. But again, after a short while, you will automatically do that less.
If you don’t want to stop all notifications at once, you can turn them off gradually.
Start with notifications of games, stores or photo apps, move on to your social media and then email.
I have turned off all notifications on my phone except for Whatsapp and text messages, because I want to be able to reply to someone quickly if they need me.
My phone is much less a distraction now and I find myself not picking it up as much as I used to. Meaning I can spend my time on more useful things!
It is so easy nowadays to take photos, that we usually take too many. As a young kid, I remember that we still had a camera with a roll of film in it! You had to be intentional with your photos.
Then the digital photo cameras came around and wow, we could take so many photos! And now we walk around with high-quality cameras in our pockets all day long.
You probably have way too many duplicate photos on your phone and screenshots you only used once, all taking up storage.
Besides filling up your phone’s storage, it will also make it harder for you to look up a particular photo in the overwhelming amount of photos on your phone.
Schedule a 5 – 10 minute session weekly to sort out the photos you can delete and which to keep, for example, during your commute on Tuesdays or something like that.
If you’re an iPhone user, there is a very useful app that can help you clean up your camera roll.
- It scans your photos to pick the best one out of a series of multiple photos
- It finds blurry images, screenshots, and photos of whiteboards, notes, addresses etc. and then you can delete them in one click
- It allows you to sort through your photos quickly with a swiping mechanism. Swipe up to keep a photo and down to remove it
- Nothing’s actually deleted until you review it, so you have the final say.
The app is called Gemini Photos. Get started with a free trial!
No digital clean up is complete without tackling your email inbox.
Email marketing is very popular with brands, webshops, online services and bloggers, too.
If you’re like me, you give out your email address pretty easy: to receive a discount code, to receive a blogger freebie, and for online shopping of course. The result: an inbox overflowing of emails that are too many to read.
From time to time, it gets too much and I need to unsubscribe from mailing lists.
Each email has a button on the bottom where it says to unsubscribe. In Gmail – and perhaps other email providers as well – there is a button on top as well, to easily unsubscribe. That takes fewer clicks.
After you unsubscribed, select all the unread emails you still have left from the sender, you can filter this in the search bar. After selecting all unread emails, either delete them or mark them as read. That way the number of unread emails in your inbox will go down.
And believe me, it feels so good and satisfying to not see 99+ unread emails in your inbox!
Only keep yourself on mailing lists you actually read or regularly buy from. If you know you will most likely not purchase anything from a particular sender, do yourself a favor and unsubscribe.
A few months ago, I realized that I was spending (wasting) a lot of time on Instagram each day, even though I was ‘just’ doing my daily scrolling through my feed. But I also realized that I skipped many posts or didn’t really look at them nor read their captions.
If this sounds familiar to you, it might be time to unfollow some pages and do a digital clean up of your social media. I did that and since my feed is now shorter, I spend less time on it. Besides, it means that the pages I do still follow, cater to my interests.
Become more intentional with your social media usage, by unfollowing pages that:
- You don’t get value from
- You never really look at or read
- Make you feel bad
- Lead you to impulsive buys
The next few times you’re scrolling through your Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or any other social media feed, when you see a post, decide if you still want to follow that person or page.
A tip for Facebook: you don’t have to unfriend someone as in some cases that might be awkward. You can also ‘unfollow’ so you will remain friends, but their posts will not be shown in your feed anymore. In Instagram you can ‘mute’ posts and/or stories.
Desktop/laptop: Downloads folder
I just found out about this recently: your Downloads folder keeps a copy of everything you downloaded and saved somewhere else.
So when you download something and give it another file destination than Downloads, it will still make a copy in the Downloads folder as well!
All these copies take up unnecessary storage space, which make your device slower. When I cleaned up my Downloads folder, I got rid of 23 GB…!
You can clear out your Downloads folder manually and delete everything that had a one-time use or you know you will never use again. Files you have saved in another folder can be deleted as well, because you don’t need two copies of it.
Clean your computer
Your computer collects quite some junk in the background and needs a serious digital clean up every now and then.
You probably have noticed that your computer has become slower over time. That is because of all the stuff it stores in the background. Most of this junk is in some deep, hidden spots on your device.
To clean this up, you could do it yourself, but do you know where, for example, your temporary storage folder is? And if you have located it, how will you know which files to keep and which are safe to delete?
It’s best to clean up your device professionally, by going to a computer service center or using a program (which the computer service people will most likely use as well!).
Should you have a Mac, the cleanup programs of MacPaw help you get rid of useless junk on your device and boost its performance. Check out CleanMyMac.
The cleaner your device, the faster it is.
Let’s get started doing a digital clean up
Now it’s time to get rid of your digital clutter! Just as with the start of any deep clean, the first time you go through these tasks, it will take a lot of time. You should schedule about 1 to 2 hours the first time.
Unlike a deep clean of your home or any space, a digital deep clean does not require any physical activities, so let’s get started!