One of the first things I do each year is a digital declutter. Decluttering excess digital stuff is just as important as creating uncluttered physical spaces, especially as more and more of our work, education and entertainment move to digital sources. For me, this is just another way to simplify and organise my life to prevent overwhelm and stay connected in ways that matter most.
Like zero waste and sustainable living, digital minimalism is something that comes fairly natural to me, as I ask myself “do I really need it?” in all areas of my life. This prevents me from accumulating excess gadgets, apps, tools, programs and large libraries, but still, there’s always work to be done after busy periods or changing life circumstances.
So, here are some areas where I have recently decluttered my digital life which you might like to tackle too:
1. Email – I have one email account to manage, as my blog email address is redirected to my personal email. First, I respond to emails that need responding to and then delete them, unless I need to keep a record of the conversation. In that case, I move the final email, which contains the trail of the conversation, to an appropriate Inbox folder I’ve set up. There’s no need to keep every email that went back and forth. Next, I block senders of spam and unsubscribe from newsletters that I no longer feel I get any benefit from. I delete emails from my Sent folder every time I use email, unless I am waiting for a response from someone. I delete everything from the Junk folder and Deleted items folder.
2. Contacts – I delete contacts I no longer need or contacts I don’t have the correct information for.
3. Desktop – I have a habit of saving documents I haven’t finished to my desktop so I made an In-Progress folder to store them in. I made sure I deleted everything from my desktop that was no longer relevant and then I deleted the deleted items folder (Recycle Bin).
4. Documents and Folder Structure – I make sure everything is organised with the correct name and in the correct location, and delete anything that I won’t refer back to or update in the future. I deleted everything in my downloads folder.
5. Photos – I organise my photos into folders using a system that works for me. For example, my blog is centred around every day actions at home, so I organise my photos by rooms in the house. Or, for my personal photos, by the year and the event. I don’t keep multiple photos of the one scene, just the one I like best. I don’t keep many of the photos that I have used for Gippsland Unwrapped as I can get them from the blog or social media if I really do need them later.
6. Music/Movies/Games/Books – Gaming and online music only entered our home for the first time a month ago (the radio has always been good enough for us) so our libraries for these are virtually non-existent and don’t require management yet. We don’t really have a movie library to manage either, because we use streaming services. Sometimes we record shows, but then delete them after we’ve watched them. My iBook library is very small because I never seem to have the time to read; that’s something I’m trying to change as I miss reading for enjoyment, not just for information. And, there are physical libraries to borrow all these things from too.
7. Social Media – I limit my Facebook friends to real life friends but I still unfriended about 30 people this year because I felt the distance between us had become too great and I wasn’t comfortable sharing information with them, or actually very interested in their lives. I also unfollowed some Pages and Groups that were cluttering my news feed. I reviewed the accounts I follow on Twitter and Instagram. Last year, I opted out of receiving notifications from all apps. I cleaned up my new feed further by going into News Feed Preferences and adjusting the settings to see more of what I wanted to see and less of the other stuff. This is more important to do for your favourite pages now that Facebook has announced fewer Page posts will appear in news feeds.
8. Internet Home Page – I set up my internet homepage so that I wasn’t distracted by news articles or celebrity gossip. Of course, there is google.com but you could also try www.ecosia.org which plants trees with its ad revenue.
9. Reuse or Recycle Old Devices – I did this when we moved house. We only had a couple of old phones and cables because we don’t upgrade often and are not really into gadgets.
10. Device Settings and Apps – I deleted all the apps that the kids have grown out of or that we aren’t interested in anymore. I made sure all the notifications for all apps are turned off and that Restrictions have been set for how I want (or don’t want) the kids to use the devices. We share our devices.
11. Digital Detox – I have really backed off social media over the past 12 months in an effort to be more present with my children, husband and friends. I had never used social media much before I started blogging a few years ago, but it was such a great source of information and a way to connect with people, that I began to spend a lot of time immersed in it. But I was a hypocrite, steering my kids away from too much screen time, yet displaying the opposite behaviour – and they definitely noticed! After a while I began to resent social media too, for taking up all my valuable time, like I didn’t have a choice. But of course, I admitted that I did have a choice and that I wanted to spend it with people in real life, preferably outdoors. It’s harder to maintain engagement levels on my social media platforms if I’m not there all the time, and I was a day late with some big announcements like when the supermarkets said they were going to ban single-use plastic shopping bags, but I got over it. Now I feel like I’ve got a good balance again between real life and online life.
We’re actually heading off to Thailand tomorrow for a two week holiday (a fairly last minute decision) and the only device we’re bringing is my phone, to take photos and for emergency phone calls. We thought it would be a good idea to see how we go with a more thorough digital detox, but we’re not putting any pressure on ourselves. I might post from my phone once in a while or I might not. I actually expect that we’re not going to miss our devices, but I could be wrong.
Stay tuned for the digital detox update as well as our Thailand adventures.