Dealing with Digital Clutter

How’s your email in-box? If you’re like many of the people I’ve worked with, you are not alone if you have hundreds or even thousands of emails sitting in your in-box. Some people I know have even declared “email bankruptcy” meaning they simply shut ’er down and then opened a new email address. (Not a solution for work related emails!)

Email is only one aspect of the digital clutter we accumulate. So much of our lives are online now. From social media to webinars to shopping on Amazon to research and so much more, our computers and phones have moved into the realm of necessity.

Which is why it is more important than even to proactive with managing your digital life so it doesn’t become another area of stress. We have enough distractions already, right?

Like so many of the things I teach, creating a routine or system is the key to dealing with the clutter and keeping it from coming back. So, let’s start with something really, REALLY important.

YOU control your digital life. Not the other way around. And I think a good way to start this is to set limits on how much time you spend staring at a screen. I know, I know. Taking a day off sounds unrealistic. How about starting with meal times or setting your phone to “do not disturb” mode between 8pm and 7am?

Minimize your notifications. I had lunch with a friend the other day and I was shocked at the amount of chirps, dings and bells her phone kept emitting. Not only was it disruptive to our visit, I couldn’t imagine living in that constant state of interruption. It would be like have a roomful of toddlers tapping you on the arm nonstop asking for something.

When everything is important – NOTHING is important.  It is insanity to think we can be online 24/7, work our jobs, get interrupted with notifications constantly and feel like we have to immediately reply to every text and email that comes our way.

Your email is another biggie.  Start with unsubscribing to all the junk that lands in your in-box.  If you have a pile of “read later” emails, dump them. It will feel SO good when your in-box is lighter. If you’re flooded with blog posts, pick your top three and ditch the rest. Use a feed burner so you get them delivered all in one email.

To organize my emails, I use the folders on Gmail extensively.  I use it for things like receipts, household management, online subscriptions, client testimonials, etc.

Speaking of in-boxes.  If you don’t have a generic throw away address to sign up for things go get one right now. I use one for Craigslist or other places that require an email address in order to gain access to something like an article.

I encourage you to zero out your in-box every day.  I know that may sound daunting.  By finding a few minutes here and there, you can peck away at the mountain.  I will do this sometimes when I find myself standing in line or while watching a program.

If your computer or phone is running slow, your downloads folder may be bursting at the seams and may need to be emptied into a virtual dumpster. (Oooooh!  I do love dumpsters!)  Do a quick Google to remedy that in short order.

Take a hard look at all the apps on your screens as well.  Delete the old ones.  Use folders to group others with like, ie, “rarely used apps.”

Dump old files, like your resume from 10 years ago. And yes, I know you likely have photos in the thousands. Again, tackle the mountain in little bits.  Photos can go quickly because chances are good that you took 15 pictures of the same moment, and 13 of them are unflattering or of poor quality.

After you’ve had an unclutter session with your computer, be sure to take out the trash and empty your recycle bin.

These are just a few of the things you can do to tidy up your digital clutter. Do you have a particular area of clutter with which you struggle?  Hope over to my Facebook group and lay it on me!  I love reader questions.

Theresa Winn Lode is a junk thrower outer and a writer.  At the time of this writing she has too many emails in her in-box and depends on coffee to help her power through the task of uncluttering it. She loves dumpsters and empty in-boxes. Find her at

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