Treading Lightly
Treading Lightly

Minsgame Week Four: Digital Declutter

It’s so easy to hoard digitally without realizing it. Files from college (guilty), blurry photos, emails from the past decade – they all add up.

After taming my physical clutter, I was ready to go after my online life. For the past few years I have made sure to keep my work and personal email inbox clear, but I couldn’t tell you the last time I cleared out my folders or archive.

The process took a lot longer than I expected. I spent hours (many hours) cleaning out cloud-based file storage, emails, and more.


Here’s how I tackled my digital declutter:

1. Online File Storage

I went through every entry in my Evernote and deleted every file from my Dropbox account (all 10 of them). I also sorted through my Google Drive and made sure everything worthy of being saved was in a folder. While tedious, this one had an immediate feeling of accomplishment.

2. Computer

I put this one off to be honest. When my computer died the last time, it was stuffed to the brim with files from high school and college. So instead of dealing with any of it, I slapped it all on my external hard drive and called it a day. Which is about how long it took me to get through it all. The high school work got the easy boot, but sorting through my stuff from college, and in particular anything I have had published, was a pain.

I saved more than I would have liked, but I had doubts about getting rid of notes and contacts for stories I have had published. It’s something I am going to keep coming back to when I have time.

3. Phone

I don’t have a ton of apps, but I deleted the few left that I hadn’t used in a while. I also backed up my phone and deleted a ton of photos and old notes. I cleaned out all of my missed calls, old voice mails, and deleted a ton of text messages/conversations (you’re never going to go back and read them all. Really). Since I use Spotify and I can listen to stuff offline through the app, I deleted the music I had put on my phone… and temporarily filled it with new podcasts to listen to.


4. Email

This was where I started. It was easy to clean out each inbox and then go through my folders one by one when I had a couple of extra minutes. I could delete emails in line at the grocery store on my phone, while watching tv, or in meetings at work. I cut all of my accounts at least in half, and it is so much easier to find things now. Bonus tip: your sent folder is stuffed with things you don’t need.

I also don’t have a lot of unnecessary email coming into my personal account (work is a whole other thing thanks to PR databases that let companies spam me with unwanted press releases and other junk). If you get hundreds of emails a day, I highly recommend unsubscribing from the things you don’t need/enjoy. I’ve also created filters for emails I have to hold on to, but that don’t need my attention (likely daily data reports and the like). I’ve also created filters for people who tend to send me chain mail and other things so I can scan through them all at once instead of having them jam my inbox.

An empty inbox makes it easier for me to focus at work and for emails to not bog me down. I never have to apologize for missing an email and I rarely forget to get back to someone with this system.

5. Social Media

I went through my Pinterest and deleted pins I’m no longer interested in or that I have cooked and didn’t turn out. This was an easy place for me to start because I don’t have any attachments really to my pins. From there I tried to delete my Tumblr account (and failed to get in after multiple attempts to reset my password. I gave up. It’s as good as gone if you ask me).

I hardly spend any time on Facebook, mostly because my feed is full of ads and weird videos I’d rather not see. I thought about massively cutting the amount of friends I have on the site, but I use it more as a way to be able to find someone and get in contact with them again in the future than a way to share my personal life. In other words, Facebook is the email I never use, but I’m glad I have when I want to reach out to someone from elementary school (or college).

Instead, I went to this link and moved the majority of my Facebook friends to “acquaintances.” I have yet to actually go to my feed to see the impact… but it’s nice to know it’s all cleaned up now.

On Instagram I took a quick look at the people I follow and I made sure they add value to my life. Lately I spend most of my social media time on Instagram, and I’d rather not waste it or spend excessive time. I’m also trying to be extremely conscious about who I follow and why in the future.

6. Photos

It turns out I had a lot of weird screen shots and other things I don’t actually need. I didn’t delete much here and I ran out of time to organize them like I had planned, but everything is off my phone and computer, which is great.

7. Browser

It only took a couple of buttons to clear all of my cookies, browsing history, and I don’t know what else in Chrome.


I got rid of thousands of files that were being invisibly hoarded. Not only will my devices likely run faster, but it’s easier for me to find what I’m looking for.

While I didn’t get the grand feeling of staring at a pile of things going away, a clean and organized device feels an awful lot like a newly minimized drawer.

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