by Susan McCarthy
Everyday practice: Remember that digital clutter can feel just as overwhelming as physical clutter, so ask yourself if you really need a piece of information for reference before saving it.
Storage capacity is always expanding, so, is there any reason to declutter the invisible information stored on your computer, smartphone, (and) or tablet? Technologically speaking, no.
However, if you’ve felt uptight because you couldn’t find a document you knew was on your computer, or you regularly feel overwhelmed by the files and documents filling your screen, the endless emails, and the randomly bookmarked pages, then you can delete, or at least organize this information and make your digital world a calmer space.
In the same way you don’t have to fill every cabinet, closet, and shelf in your home with physical objects, just because you have the space, you also don’t have to store meaningless information in the cloud.
When keeping digital information, consider your reason for doing so. Are you really going to reread (or read) that eBook, make those recipes, return to those bookmarked webpages, review the handouts from that course you took three years ago?
Just as with tangible objects - Do you need this piece of digital information? Do you want it? Do you enjoy it? If you’d declutter the physical version, why would you keep similar versions in digital form? (And, I’m not talking about the papers you can shred because you know you have them backed up on your computer.)
For example, a few years ago, I noticed that I never used the crochet patterns I’d so carefully printed from the Internet, slipped into page protectors, and sorted into five(!) 2-inch binders that I stored on my bookshelves.
One evening, I slid each pattern from its page protector and popped it into the recycling bin. I kept a few of the printed patterns because I was going to make those items. A year later, most of those papers were binned, the projects unmade.
Last week, while preparing to write this series of articles about digital decluttering, I opened my “Crafting” folder, clicked on “Craft Patterns” and realized that I was hoarding hundreds of crochet patterns. Most I’d downloaded for free from online. A few I’d bought. There were several free downloaded books of patterns, each with a dozen or more patterns within its pages.
Most of the patterns reflected my good intentions – I’d never made most of the items. I’d used maybe ten-to-twenty percent of the patterns I’d collected.
I had computer space to spare, so what harm were these patterns causing? None. Still, I deleted all but two patterns. Most of the patterns I’d downloaded from big yarn companies and if I needed the pattern, I could download it again. Of the patterns I’d bought, in most cases, I could go to the designer’s website and download the pattern again simply by signing into my account. Chances are, I won’t.
Although I’d tossed nothing tangible, I felt lighter. Although I couldn’t see these patterns unless I clicked open a file, I felt relief. I no longer expected that I’d need or use all those crochet patterns.
I’m not saying that I’ll never need another crochet pattern, that I’ll never craft a gift for someone I know. But, as I’ve decluttered my possessions, I realized I couldn’t keep gifting items, particularly handmade items that someone might hesitate to toss or donate.
While friends and family had received many practical items – afghans, hats, scarves, gloves, shawls – I’d veered toward funny animal hats and crocheted food and animals. Fun for me to make, but I wanted to stop burdening the people I cared about.
Doing a digital declutter reinforced decisions I’m making in the tangible world.
You can start now by considering what information is important to you – do you look up information that you’ve saved on your computer or do you do a new search on the internet? How do you use your digital files?