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Clear out your digital hoarding to declutter the chaos in your life

(EDITORIAL) Marie Kondo inspired us to clean out our closets and keep what only what gives us joy. Let’s apply that declutter to our digital lives too.

Declutter paper folders

When you can’t get your car into your garage, you know it’s time to declutter and organize or hold a sale. The extra stuff in your house is easily identified. You know that you need to whittle out the kid’s toy box when it’s overflowing or store winter clothes when you can’t put anything else in your closet. I would bet that when you do clean up, you get a really good feeling because you get a sense of freedom and productivity.

Digital clutter is clutter

When it comes to physical items that take up physical space in your house, office, or car, you actually see what to declutter. It weighs on you until you take care of it. But have you thought about the other space where you live? Think about how much of your life is stored digitally, either on your phone or computer. This information may not take up physical space around you, but you still feel as if you have a mess when you have 500, 1,000, or more emails in your inbox.

When computers first came out, disk space was very limited. I remember our first computer, a Tandy 1000 series. We had to save everything to a floppy disk that held about 1.44 MB of data. We had to be picky about what we saved and how. Everything needed to be labeled, or you might not ever find it. Or someone might write over the data without realizing how important it was.

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Ample space in the cloud

Today, I have an iPhone 6s with 64 GB or almost 64,000 times more data than that little floppy. I rarely think about how much storage space I have for pictures or apps. If you were to look on my phone right now, you’d see pictures dating back to 2011. In Google docs, I have paperwork going back even farther.

You might even call it digital hoarding. We hoard photos, emails, newsletters, eBooks, and bookmarked websites that we never use. Rarely do we go back through our phones and computers to straighten up our digital lives. You may not think of it as harmful, but it can really do a strain on your mental health. 

Take action to combat clutter

This clutter can affect our online presence, just as physical clutter affects our home life. You may not see digital clutter, but when you get frustrated over not finding the last picture you took of your Great-Aunt Sandy, you know it’s time to do something.

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Taking action involves commitment. You can’t clean up your garage in one hour or two when you haven’t touched it in months. If your email is out of control, it will take time to get it down to a manageable problem.

My recommendation – get rid of all emails six months or older that you haven’t read or acted on. Then, start sorting and saving the current emails in some fashion.

You can do this with subscriptions, articles you’ve saved, and your stack of eBooks. Declutter your digital life much as you do your personal space. Live free without hoarding in cyberspace.

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Dawn Brotherton is a Sr. Staff Writer at The American Genius with an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Central Oklahoma. She is an experienced business writer with over 10 years of experience in SEO and content creation. Since 2017, she has earned $60K+ in grant writing for a local community center, which assists disadvantaged adults in the area.

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