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5 ways you can clean up digital clutter

Unsubscribe, close, clear, delete, unfollow

Does looking at your messy desktop spark joy? Like the physical space around us, clutter builds up in our digital life too. Here are 5 ways to clean up digital clutter.

1. Unsubscribe from emails

Photo by Mick Haupt on Unsplash

Do you have 1,000 unread emails? How do you sleep at night? You weren’t planning to read them, were you?

Most emails are noise — notifications, subscriptions (newsletters etc.) and spam (most email services have already filtered this one out for you). They are flyers you wish you never had.

Unsubscribe.

I don’t mean all. But don’t be too merciful either. If you haven’t been reading a newsletter more than say 3 times, then it’s time to hit the unsubscribe button.

Unsubscribing gives you more space on the front page of your inbox for more important things.

2. Close all browser tabs

Photo by Russ Ward on Unsplash

Are you greeted by multiple tabs from several days ago when you open a browser? How long are they going to stay there?

Right now, you are starting a new browsing session and you got reminded of a different context from the previous session, which can be distracting.

Close all tabs once you are done browsing.

“But I want to read them later!” Add this to the browser’s reading list. Close it.

“Wait, don’t close! I’m gonna need this next time!” Add it to the browser’s bookmarks. Close it.

“I just want to save the search results!” You are a digital hoarder. The browsing history is there. The search engine is always there. Close it.

The browser tabs serve as your working memory. Having a clean working memory when you start browsing makes you more focused.

You can switch between tabs without having to accidentally switch it to a tab from last week, which can potentially switch your context.

3. Clear desktop items

Photo by Samantha Gades on Unsplash

Half of your desktop is filled with files and folders from different projects with different versions. How do you even search for what you want?

Your colleague asks you for a file so you open your laptop and look for it but you need to find it on the desktop first before you can search in other places. You can’t use the Search function because you forgot how you named it.

You are not a search engine.

Keep to 7 desktop items tops. Create an Archives folder.

Like the browser, having a clean desktop makes you focus on the current context, and not get reminded of the Excel file title final_report_v3_last.xlsx while you are working on a different report.

Clearing the desktop requires you to group multiple files into a folder, then group multiple folders into another folder.

I said 7 items but it is really just taking out the k most frequently used projects and putting them on the desktop. Other projects stay in the Archives.

The Archives technique works for me because I deal with a lot of projects (codebases) at work. Occasionally, I will move projects in and out of Archives because I don’t need to use them for the next say 4 weeks.

Try it for yourself!

4. Delete all downloaded items

Sometimes, we want to retrieve an item that we downloaded just now. But the downloads folder is full of other items.

Move items to the right folder. Delete items.

I don’t mean immediately, however. This depends on your download activities. If you download more files regularly, then you would want to organise the folder more regularly too.

Alternatively, when we download items, we can save the files directly into the right folder.

5. Unfollow

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

They have stopped posting pictures of cats reaching their paws out and started posting puppy pictures on Instagram, but you’re a cat person.

They start to tweet more about artificial intelligence, but you just want their daily quotes from Plato.

On social platforms, the type of content that some accounts post becomes noise to you, or adversely affects you or how you think (eg. materialism, pessimism).

People change (and so do their interests), so naturally, some things become more irrelevant to you.

Unfollow.

I don’t mean every account, though. Some accounts are still our friends, I’m okay to have their updates around.

Unfollowing these accounts gives content that is more relevant to you a higher chance to appear in your feed when you log on.

That’s all for now! There are more ways to clean up digital clutter, but this should suffice for most people for now.

I post on Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Programming Languages, Productivity (new) and Learning (new).

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Changelog:
6 Jan 2022 — Fix typos and improve clarity

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🇸🇬 Software Engineer at GovTech • Master of Computing AI at NUS

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Raimi Karim

Raimi Karim

🇸🇬 Software Engineer at GovTech • Master of Computing AI at NUS

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