Virtual spring clean: 12 ways to declutter your digital sphere

The clutter on your devices may not take up physical space, but it is clutter all the same

(FILES) In this file photo taken on October 01, 2019 a picture taken in Lille shows the logo of mobile app Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook, Google and Messenger  displayed on a tablet. The biggest reputational risk Facebook and other social media companies had expected in 2020 was fake news surrounding the US presidential election. Be it foreign or domestic in origin, the misinformation threat seemed familiar, perhaps even manageable. The novel coronavirus, however, has opened up an entirely different problem: the life-endangering consequences of supposed cures, misleading claims, snake-oil sales pitches and conspiracy theories about the outbreak.
 / AFP / DENIS CHARLET
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You’ve reorganised your wardrobes, rearranged your home office, reordered the living room and cleaned out your bathroom cabinets. So what’s next?

It’s time to move your organising efforts to the digital sphere. The clutter on your devices may not take up physical space, but it is clutter all the same. If you’ve got too many things vying for your attention every time you turn on your computer, or are regularly frustrated because you can’t find what you need on your phone, it’s time for a purge. Here are 12 things to do to help you move towards digital minimalism.

Delete, delete, delete

Get rid of any apps that you don’t use on a regular basis. As a general rule, if you haven’t used an app in the last three months, it doesn’t deserve a place on your phone. If you miss it, you can always download it again at a later date.

In this Tuesday, May 21, 2019 photo, Franziska Lienert spokeswoman of the company which runs the food sharing app 'Too Good To Go', uses a tablet to find a restaurant participating with the food sharing community, during an interview with the Associated Press in Berlin. In Germany, growing numbers of people use modern technology such as phone apps to help reduce food waste. In an effort to cut down on climate-wrecking carbon dioxide emissions created by food waste, they build online communities to share food before throwing it away. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

Orderly apps

Organise your remaining apps in a way that makes sense. Perhaps you’ll want to divide things into work-based and social-based groupings. Or put them in order of use: if you routinely check the news and weather in the morning, keep those things up top, for example.

Purge those photos

How many blurry selfies do you have sitting on your phone or laptop, taking up space, never to be looked at again? It’s likely that with every photo you take, you try 20 different versions before getting the perfect shot. Go back and get rid of all but the best of them. Sort your favourite pictures into albums, so you know where to find them. And when you come across great photos with friends and loved ones from years ago, send them on to remind people that you are thinking of them, and looking forward to making new memories.

Be merciless with your inbox

If it’s as overcrowded as mine, your inbox is probably the source of considerable daily stress. Delete all those mails that you know you are never going to respond to and save all others in folders. Unsubscribe from any newsletters that you routinely delete anyway.

Email bankruptcy?

If you are feeling particularly brave – or overwhelmed – you could declare email bankruptcy, which involves deleting everything in your inbox, breathing a sigh of relief and then starting all over again. This is a method only to be used when you are truly desperate, though, as you’ll inevitably end up wishing you could remember what was said in that specific message, or frantically searching for someone’s contact details.

Say no to notifications

Your phone is probably pinging all through the day with notifications that you really could do without. Turn off all but the most essential.

Rethink your passwords

Many of us are guilty of reusing the same passwords for multiple things, which in this age of rampant cyber crime, is just asking for trouble. Go back and create new passwords. If you don’t already have one, consider signing up to a password manager, which will allow you to generate and store secure passwords and manage your login credentials across all your devices.

Person with credit card using a computer for internet shopping. istockphoto.com

Clear out your downloads

Who knows what’s lurking in that downloads folder, taking up valuable space. Get rid of everything you don’t genuinely need.

Embrace the folder

Set up folders on your desktop and save all your documents and images in them. Your desktop should be an orderly space. Maybe even think about introducing a new, inspiring wallpaper, since you’re likely looking at that image throughout your day.

Cull your social media accounts

Think about what you use each platform for. Twitter for news, Facebook for friends, Instagram for inspiration, perhaps? Start unfollowing people that clutter up your feeds and don’t add any value to your life. While you’re at it, why not start muting alerts from all those groups that annoy you on WhatsApp?

FILE - In this July 30, 2019, file photo, the social media application, Facebook is displayed on Apple's App Store. Facebook is launching a long-promised tool that lets users block the social network from gathering information about them on outside websites and apps. Facebook said Tuesday, Aug. 20, that it is adding a place where users can see the activity that Facebook tracks outside its service. If they want, they can turn it off. (AP Photo/Amr Alfiky)

Swipe your hard drive

Look for a programme that will clean your hard drive for you. Clean My Mac or Clean My PC are good options.

Trash talk

Finally, empty out all those trash folders. That satisfying whoosh as all that unnecessary stuff disappears will be immensely satisfying, we promise.

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