Keeping and storing lots of stuff - personal or digital - isn’t a problem in itself. Some people can function perfectly well and be content with the knowledge that everything they ever need is somewhere safe. It might be difficult to find it when needed, but it’s there somewhere.
There’s a lot of psychology behind the notion of ‘clutter’, though. When does the stuff we own become ‘clutter’? In short, it’s when we start to feel overwhelmed
by it - it creates too much visual stimulation and makes us feel anxious, guilty or stressed because we feel like we need to sort it out. Conversely, decluttering and getting organised can relax us, make us feel more in control, and alleviate anxiety
Decluttering physical items, like excess clothing, can help enormously with making our homes feel more spacious, better organised and tidier. Decluttering our digital world can have the same effect on our work and make general life admin so much easier.
Here are some ways to declutter and organise your digital and online life
, which should help you to be able to focus on the things that are important and ditch old or irrelevant information for good.
What folders do you have for organising your email? Most people only have an inbox, sent items, archives, and drafts. Your inbox might have hundreds of items in it if you don’t routinely delete ones you’ve read or if there are emails and attachments that you may need access to later.
You can always use the search function to find items from a particular person. Still, that function can be limited when finding emails about a particular issue or with a certain attachment. If you know you have tickets in your inbox somewhere but can’t remember when you bought them or which ticket company you bought them through, it can be difficult to find what you need.
The key to organising your email is to create subfolders in your inbox. Call them things like ‘Holiday to France 2024’ or ‘Job applications’, ‘Receipts’ or ‘Theatre tickets’ - whatever categories work for the emails you have that you’ll need to keep.
Go through your emails, starting at the earliest date, and assign them to their relevant folders. If an email is about a past event or relates to an issue that has been resolved, delete it.
If it’s overwhelming, set yourself a reasonable target of a certain number of emails to organise each day and keep at it until you’re up to date.
Once everything is organised in folders, you’ll be able to find everything much more easily. Every so often - maybe every 6 months - go through each folder and delete anything that is either resolved or no longer relevant / needed.
Decluttering downloads and other documents
Declutter your desktop
Listen, this is very important. You do not need to store all your documents on your desktop. All those icons make it difficult to find what you need; you probably only use five or six of them frequently anyway, and there are tidier ways to store your documents online. If everything is on your desktop, you’ll be aware every time you turn on your screen that you have work pending or work waiting for your attention at some point.
These documents might be attachments you’ve been sent via email or documents you’ve created for work or fun. Whatever they are, file them all in folders that make sense to you.
You might have folders on your storage system (whether online or on your hard drive) called ‘Pension’ or ‘Insurance 2024’ or whatever works for you. Even just a folder called ‘Desktop’ would be better than having hundreds of icons covering your screen!
Periodically - once every 6 months or so - go through those folders and delete anything outdated and no longer needed.
Your download folder might be chock-a-block with things like restaurant menus, old cinema tickets, newsletters, and all sorts of PDF documents you don’t need anymore.
These can be tricky to declutter only because you’ll probably have to open each one to find out what it’s for - it might be obvious from the thumbnail picture, but it probably won’t! Delete anything you don’t use or need - organise the folders by ‘recently opened’ or by date to help you identify those you use.
Chances are, the documents you’ve downloaded have been used or saved elsewhere such as in your emails, and you don’t need to keep them here.
There’s a limit to how many photos you can store on your phone and (for free) in cloud storage. You might find you have to pay for additional monthly storage, and since the largest files will be photos and videos, it’s worth ditching any you don’t want to keep.
Go through your photos and delete any that are:
- out of focus,
- screenshots of things you don’t need anymore,
- duplicates or multiple photos of the same thing.
Then, consider the photos that are left. If you wouldn’t put a photo in an album, delete it from your online storage. Your photos are an aid memoir of events, friends or family - you don’t need to keep every photo you’ve taken of them, just keep your favourites.
If you have videos in your photo app or storage, it’s worth separating them from the photos. Watching videos - hearing loved ones’ voices or reliving an event - is a lovely way to enjoy your memories, and keeping them all in one place will make it easier to find them all. Watching videos of your children across different years is much easier when your videos are all in one place, too.
If you choose, you could have subfolders for your ‘Videos’ folder, which you could organise by year or event. For instance, you could have a file of ‘Birthday videos’ and then easily find and watch every video of your children blowing out birthday candles.
Decluttering message apps
Messages on apps like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and ordinary text messages can be worth keeping. They might be useful as a record of what was agreed or said, and you might like looking back through past messages between you and your partner or you and your children to remember funny or loving interactions.
There might be messages between you and utility companies, your GP, your hairdresser or any other life admin messages that are simply a record of appointments or requests for feedback/reviews.
Scroll through your messages and delete any threads from sources you know you won’t need to read again (e.g. messages from that AirBnB host telling you how to find their house). In the message streams you have left, delete any messages that are one or two words or that you’re not interested in keeping. You won’t need to remember, 10 years from now, that your partner asked you to remember to bring milk home.
Any message threads from people you don’t message regularly but want to keep can be filed in your ‘Archive’ folder so they’ll still be there but won’t clutter up your screen when searching for more recent or relevant messages.
Decluttering social media
You don’t need to make a dramatic announcement telling everyone you’re having a declutter and getting rid of anyone who hasn’t ‘liked’ your status or otherwise offended you. Just ‘mute’ them or unfollow groups that clutter your feed with too many posts each day and ‘favourite’ the people or accounts you want to see more of.
You’ll be able to spend less time scrolling, still see the content you’re actually interested in, and have more time to do things in the real world!
Declutter and feel better!
Decluttering your digital world will make a difference to your productivity
because you’ll be able to find everything much quicker, and you won’t feel overwhelmed or stressed at the feeling of having lots to do or think about.
Decluttering your home has the same effect, and if you think renting a self storage unit
could help you to be better organised and have more room at home, we’re here to answer any questions you might have about our stores, prices and sizes of self storage units
, so feel free to get in touch!