When we think of Minimalism we often think of physical clutter and possessions. But Minimalism isn’t just about the physical things in your life. Owning fewer material things allows you to focus on what’s most important to you in life. With less to maintain, you spend fewer hours working, cleaning, sorting, etc.
When you see less clutter in your surroundings, you feel less anxious. Experiencing joy from your possessions instead of overwhelm is priceless.
However, minimalism isn’t just about physical possessions.
It is actually more then you ever imagined. And there are other types of clutter that can cause you distress.
Did you know there is a such thing as Digital Clutter? Its true and it can have the same effect on you as physical clutter.
When the iPod first came out there were a ton of games and apps I instantly downloaded.
With-in a few days 98% of those apps and games were deleted from my new toy. Why? Because I have always been a Minimalist at heart. I have always hated clutter of any type.
Clutter has a way of “bugging me” until I do something about it. And that includes Digital Clutter.
Read on to learn about digital clutter and what you can do to minimize it, too.
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Digital clutter refers to the kinds of items you have stored on your electronic devices, along with the online activities that distract you from real life interactions.
Such things as emails, documents, photos, downloaded music, apps, and unused desktop icons are examples of such digital clutter.
Also included in this term are the types of online activities that take up your time like social media, RSS subscriptions, and online games.
All of these are just some of things that fall under this category. It’s truly a vast array of unnecessary chaos that takes up room on your devices, crowds your thoughts, and sucks your time.
Effects of Digital Clutter
It’s good to keep some of your items stored digitally, like books on an e-reader and electronic documents, as they save you from having numerous shelves and filing cabinets in your home and office.
However, even your digital clutter can get out of control and lead to negative results. Electronic overload can be just as detrimental as the physical kind to your productivity, concentration, and emotional state.
When your devices are full of unnecessary documents, programs, and apps, they slow down. It can also make it hard to find things.
Therefore, your productivity also suffers. Digital clutter can cause a similar sense of overwhelm and anxiety as physical junk in your environment. It’s a distraction.
The same is true for the time you spend online. When you don’t have a sense of balance, you can feel pulled in too many directions. You miss out on your real-life opportunities and commitments.
Just this morning I found myself searching Canva for a specific design I used before. Before I knew it nearly 10 minutes had passed!
Thankfully I was able to be conscious of my actions and quickly quit searching. After all it wasn’t even something that was priority.
This also made me realize the importance of folders in Canva. If I would have saved that very file to a folder In would have spent less time searching for it.
In fact I wouldn’t have searched for it at all because it wasn’t even on my To Do List to begin with.
Just knowing it was there when it crossed my mind would have gave me a since of relief and the thought would have passed on until the task became important.
Are you seeing Digital Clutter can so easily distract you in a moments time?Literally a thought can lead to an unnecessary time sucking task in seconds.
Ways to Manage Digital Clutter
Have you ever noticed people who have 209+ email notifications on their phone are usually stressed and/or anxious? This is because they don’t realize what the Digital Clutter is doing to them behind the scenes.
You can take control of your digital clutter and feel more at peace. A good place to start is with your inbox.
Find a system that works for you. Some people don’t mind having a few emails hanging out in their box, while others, such as myself, prefer to zero things out every day.
What’s most important is to reply immediately to the ones you can and to those of highest priority. You can create a folder for messages that need attention, if you must.
Below is a picture of my email Before cleaning it and organizing it. Notice how cluttered it is.
Delete what you know doesn’t interest you. Better yet, unsubscribe from unwanted lists. Archive or organize your unused documents next.
Here is a picture of how to create folders and move important emails so you can find them easily and don’t accidentally delete them.
Do the same with programs and apps you’re not using. You can repeat the process for photos and music.
Only keep the ones you use regularly and put the rest in an archive or other marked folders.
When it comes to social media and other online time, start cutting back in small increments until you’ve reached a daily amount that provides you balance.
This is merely an introduction to the concept of Digital Clutter. Hopefully, it will help you to begin to tackle the things that are taking up too much space on your devices and in your mind.
9 Digital Clutter Areas to Minimize
- Inbox – we touched base on this earlier
- Desk Icons – removing any icons you don’t need will clear up space and allow you to concentrate. A cluttered desktop is the same as a cluttered desk.
- Facebook – Facebook can be such a time sucker if your not careful. Delete or turn off any notifications to groups, pages or people you follow.
It isn’t the end of the world if you miss something. If you see something you want to come back to simple Save it to a Folder in your Saved archive.
Label your saves so you can easily find them when your return.
- Facebook Friends – Honestly I never understood the reason for 5,000 Facebook Friends.
I get it if you are using Facebook for networking but then and only then you should have a separate account. Other than that there is no reason to have 5,000 Facebook friends on your personal account.
Honestly do you even know 5,000 people? How many of those 5,000 Like your posts or actually interact with you outside of Facebook?
- Twitter – If you are a Twitter user then read Leo Babauta’s Minimalist Guide to Using Twitter . I’m not personally much of a Twitter user myself but I have heard goo things about the Guide.
- RSS Subscriptions – Okay I was really surprised to learn that people still subscribe to RSS Subscriptions.
First things first , unsubscribe to any Blogs that haven’t been updated in awhile or no longer fit your lifestyle and needs. A great resource for this is How to Declutter and Streamline Your Google Reader Inbox.
- Bookmarks – Ahhh this one hit home with me. I am terrible at deleting Bookmarks on my browser. I haven’t figured out how to make folders yet but I kn ow there is a way.
- Cookies – Delete cookies often! Have you ever noticed something you just looked at on the internet will appear in your news feed on Facebook or sometimes as a pop up or on a Blog you are visiting?
I haven’t quiet figured how to delete cookies from our thoughts yet. You know what I’m talking about, right? You think of something and suddenly it appears on Facebook. Creepy, right?
- Desktop Backgrounds – Try and use something simple. Busy photos tend to be distracting. The following photo is my current background. Simple yet motivating.