I have a confession to make: I’m a hoarder. I hoard photos, documents, emails, bookmarks, and e-books on my computer and on external storage devices. Some of it is sorted, a few items have been deleted but overall I have accumulated a lot of stuff. Digital stuff but still stuff.
I don’t like admitting it but in order to get to the bottom of an issue, I need to admit it first. So, I’m doing it. I have too much digital clutter.
And I’m sure I’m not the only one. Storage has become so cheap that it’s easy to keep stuff rather than delete it. A new hard drive or USB stick can hold a lot of data and there is a good chance I have already forgotten what’s on each one of them. So, let me break it down where my clutter lives and maybe you find yourself in that, too.
The number one source of digital clutter for me is my inbox, or rather my archived inbox. I use google mail which comes with a handy and yet toxic little button called ‘archive’. Whenever I have read an email I archive it. Even emails I don’t read go into my archive. This default button is very easy to use.
Right now I have almost 38 GB of emails in my account. That’s a lot of stuff. Imagine that printed on paper…
The easiest way to reduce unwanted emails is to stop receiving them in the first place. I have started to unsubscribe from newsletters, turned off notifications, and deleted emails which don’t hold any important information. It’s a couple of clicks and the load is already less.
Since we have a paperless home office we have a lot of documents scanned. I also still have all of my school and university documents somewhere on a drive. And I have no overview of what is where and how I would access it if I ever needed it again. There are times when this fact really annoys me and other times I forget I even have that problem.
The easiest way to get on top of old and new documents is to develop a decent digital filing system. There is no right or wrong here as long as the system allows you to find anything again should you need it. This task is still ongoing for us.
Before we moved into our tiny house I digitalised old photographs. I had multiple (I think about five) photo albums packed with photos. It was a massive trip down memory lane for me but I felt very relieved when it was done. However, that tasks wasn’t even the most difficult one. All the photos where pre-sorted. My digital photos look nothing like my photo albums.
I have somewhat started to sort my photos at least according to the year they were taken in. I’m still a long way from sorting them along the lines of nice and not-nice photos. That’s actually a task I’m shying away from because it’s just too much.
One area I have been making progress over the last few months has been my e-book collection. I love finding new books to read and whenever I find a book that sounds mildly interesting I send a sample to my kindle.
Unfortunately, that meant that the first three pages on my Kindle were filled with samples (which makes more than 30 samples). And that doesn’t even include the books I have bought after reading the sample and liking it.
Over the last few months, I have held myself back from getting new content and have only been reading what was already on my kindle. The easiest trick for me was to turn off any internet connection on my kindle. No internet means no new books and samples. And I made it to less than twenty books on my kindle only, more than half is still samples but I’m getting there.
The last area I have issues with is my collection of bookmarks. Whenever I find a website I find interesting, I bookmark it so I can come back to it later. Well, I hardly ever do. But my habit means that I have folders with old bookmarks for pages which don’t even exist anymore. Every now and again I get a spurt of energy and look through one of these folders. Sometimes I delete individual bookmarks, more often I delete the whole folder. The reason is simply that I don’t need that kind of information anymore.
Digital clutter in general though remains an issue I have to consciously tackle. It’s not something I see every day (and drip over) so it’s very easy to forget about. But the thought that my kids have to one day sort through my old digital life makes me cringe. So I keep on sorting and deleting.
And now it’s your turn. What is your largest source of digital clutter?