The One Important Space You’re Forgetting to Declutter

Your house is neat and tidy, but what about your digital space?

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We’re online now more than ever. However, while most people are conscientious about scrubbing and decluttering their homes, they rarely think about the burden of a messy digital space. Research suggests there may be a link between stress and digital hoarding. But many people can’t seem to pare down their files, photos, and online mementos. The way people react to digital clutter is similar to how they approach in-person disorganization. Once it’s passed a certain point, the prospect of tidying up feels overwhelming. It’s true that if you’ve let the problem fester for a while it might take some time to get files organized, but once you’ve sorted, deleted, and backed things up, you’ll feel so much better. Here’s how to get started:

Organize Your Google Drive

Google Drive is a handy tool for managing and sorting files. If you’re the kind of person who just dumps everything in a single folder, it’s time to do a bit of organizing. Using several different cloud file storage systems is the surest way to lose precious files. Stick to one and don’t deviate.

Don’t use confusing folder names. Take advantage of color-coding options if you’re more of a visual person. If deleting items outright spooks you, create an OLD FILES folder for files you plan to trash when they’re definitely no longer relevant, or you run out of space.

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Cleanup Your Desktop

If icons have taken over your painstakingly chosen background, it’s time for a surface-level desktop cleanup. Tidying a desktop environment is one of the easiest ways to reduce digital clutter. It’s an instant makeover that provides immediate relief. Sort files into folders—create folders in your Documents folder to further reduce desktop clutter—and delete liberally. Yes, that funny meme from weeks ago can go straight into the trash.

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Back-up Important Files

Do yourself a favor and get an external hard drive. Frequently backing up files means you can delete those in your immediate digital environment. Backups also offer protection if a computer or laptop goes kaput without warning or something gets accidentally deleted from Google Drive.

Purge Extra Files

A constant phone alert that storage is low isn’t just irritating. It’s also stress-inducing. You’ll kick yourself for forgetting to clean out your phone storage when it’s time to snap a photo or save an important file. Thankfully, most modern smartphones allow users to check what’s taking up storage and easily delete unnecessary bloat.

You can do the same on your computer. Empty the trash or recycling bin. Permanently delete old emails. Run antivirus software that can detect large, unused files and delete them with your permission.

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Tackle Your Inbox

The most stressful form of digital clutter is probably the overflowing inbox. But deleting an email means not having access to potentially critical information later on. An invoice for a purchase. A note from your boss with essential login details. We save a lot of vital info in our digital mailboxes. Instead of brazenly blasting every email into non-existence to clear out your inbox, create folders. Every time an email comes in, sort it. Label the important ones so as not to accidentally delete them later on. Only keep emails in your inbox that require immediate attention. Otherwise, into a folder they go! Create folders to triage emails that require different levels of follow-up. Start these folder names with special characters—like ‘!’ ‘@,’ or ‘#’—to ensure they’re always visible at the top of the list. Regularly delete emails that are several weeks, months, or years old—the timeframe you decide on depends on your comfort zone.