Decluttering Your Digital Life
Terrified of checking your email because of the sheer volume of ads/notifications you have to deal with? Your computer maxed out storage space again? The task of finding a photo on your phone seems insurmountable because there are literally thousands and the one you want looks an awful lot like the 20 others you took that second? Friend, we need to have a come-to-Jesus talk. (Well, I really do want you to know about Jesus, but that's for another day.)
Right now it's time to stop the media madness.
If you think you're only affected by the physical clutter around you, think again. Our digital life requires just as much energy - if not more - to navigate. In order to dial back this area, we have to make decisions. So get cozy and quiet and set some uninterrupted time aside for your rapid-fire decision-making! We are not going to avoid this anymore...
The first and easiest stop?
No. 1: Your inbox.
You legitimately have emails to respond to and real people awaiting your communication. Those are non-negotiable. However, there are a ton of automated emails you receive that you can put an end to immediately.
Start with ads and promos. Gmail conveniently categorizes these in a folder called Promotions. If you ever bought something and gave them your email address (or a company sold your email address to another company) you most likely get a daily/weekly email from them. That adds up when 20 to 40+ brands are spamming your inbox. You may be somewhat interested, but I'm willing to bet if you know you're going to buy something online you're savvy enough to hop on their website or a coupon site to see if there are any good deals you can use. In the meantime, unsubscribe.
And unsubscribe from as many as possible. You may genuinely like a company's content so if it thrills you to see it, keep it, but if you have a sense of dread when you click, that's a sure sign it needs to go. And if you're willing to delete it without even opening that is a serious sign you need to unsubscribe!
Some of you may be saying "it only takes me a second to delete that email." That's true - but compounded over time that is minutes and hours, not to mention stress on your mental state. Equally, it takes a second to unsubscribe, so make the healthy choice.
Another facet of email is templates. If you are a business owner receiving multiple inquiries on the same subject, streamline the process by having a template you can customize. This eliminates the need for typing from scratch every time which improves consistency and gives you hours back.
No. 2: Social Media & blogs.
While on Facebook, it's easy to accrue "friends" - or more accurately, semi-acquaintances. The reality is that a good portion of my friends are not my friends and really don't need to see my life and kids, nor do I really care to see theirs. I sift this about once every other year to streamline who is in my circle. I also unfollow or hide certain people in my feed so I don't get overwhelmed by their junk/soap boxes. You get to control what you see for the most part.
I used to subscribe to bloggers through an RSS feed but I began feeling like I was falling behind new posts and then I began to dread opening it to see what I'd missed. When you begin to avoid something, you know it's time to address it. At first I unsubscribed, but more recently I've told myself I quit altogether and will just open the individual blogger's site if I really want to know what's going on in their worlds.
No. 3: Photos.
As a photographer, my hard drive fills up with RAW images for clients and myself, fast. I have an external hard drive I back everything up to as well as an online service to back up my files so I don't lose them, but it's amazing to me how quickly this accumulates. Every session I shoot requires culling so I am familiar with making rapid-fire decisions, but oftentimes my personal images build up and I'm torn. Keep? Delete? Every image is a decision. But if I just make one choice now I can eliminate the need for all future decisions and will get some memory back.
If you have a bazillion photos on your phone/computer, take an hour to begin deleting. You won't tackle it all in one go, so dedicate several small chunks of time to this endeavor, particularly because they fall under the category of Sentimental and you will spend time reminiscing and re-living memories.
While in my profession I understand the value of photography, as a minimalist I also understand the value of having space for what is really important - and what is really important is not having two dozen nearly identical blurry pictures. Get rid of those! Pick the one you want out of that set and move on.
When you're done, reward yourself! Make a beautiful book of your favorite images. Get your memories into your hands or on your walls. Enjoy ZERO INBOX (I live this). Breeze through your communications because you've eliminated sifting through hundreds of unnecessary choices that are vying for your attention. Give your brain some space to think.
Are you ready to declutter your digital life?