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Digital declutter – a step by step guide

It’s not just your home that needs some tlc in spring, your digital devices do too! So if you are in cleaning mode, please take a look at this list and make sure you tackle the digital declutter as well. And with this step by step guide you’ll rock this digital cleanse for sure.

With day to day business, devices, apps and accounts get left behind in the tidying department. Most people can’t work well in a cluttered space, but we seem to forget our digital clutter. The physical presence of data is small that some people not even see it as clutter. Our digital space might have become overwhelming and disorganized, but it is very important to clean this out to be productive. Now it is time to focus on these digital parts of your life. So freshen up your online life and conduct a thorough cleaning of your cyber clutter.

Warning, if you haven’t decluttered in a while it might take some time…

1. Tackle the Digital Dumping Ground

⦁ File purge on your online files on physical devices: computers, phones, game consoles, and smart home gadgets. Hanging on to files you no longer use make it harder to find what you need and use space on your drives and might even slow the performance of your device. Remove the hard drive and take it to a firm that will destroy it or use a power drill/sledge hammer if you don’t want to recycle it.

Old smartphones can be wiped remotely when it’s connected to Find My iPhone or Android Device Manager. Review the digital records on your computer, phone and other storage devices. Eliminate duplicate files. Eliminate all old creditcard statements, pdfs or forms you no longer need. They all add to your (and other people’s) digital paper trail and expose you to all sorts of risks. And also take a look at your desktop: do you really need all these desktop shortcuts? Don’t know where to start on your phone? We do: start with the photo’s. There are screenshots maniacs and papparazzi among us. Sort through and delete.

⦁ Organize your emailaccounts, one at the time. Get rid of everything that is older dan 30 days. Important information or essential financial statements you can keep, but otherwise: delete! Organize all others in categories like ‘Needs action’ or ‘Awaiting reply’. Unsubscribe from newsletters you haven’t read for more than a month, in other words Marie Kondo the shit out of these. Do they still spark joy? No? Unsubscribe and delete them from your folder. Tip: use an alternate email for less secure websites that need your contact info. This way harmful tracking do’nt affect your primary accounts. Maybe even export old emails to the digital safe ground of your choice? After the review you back up.

⦁ Uninstall old computer programmes and outdated software. If you haven’t accessed it last year, chances are your don’t need it anymore. Mobile apps: review and optimize settings. Delete the ones you don’t use any more.

⦁ Keep your machine clean. Update the software on all devices (malware will mine your digital footprint for information and you need to match your protection to the latest version). So do not click ‘remind me later’ on an update and just do it now. Maybe you even want to make a plan for sensitive documents you want to keep. (Backing up on a cloud service? Password protect external hard drive?) Relocating them to another safe place does mean you no longer need it on the device it came from: saving space and cuts down the amount of stuff you have to sort through when you’re looking for something.

⦁ Keep the online gutter clean. Cookies are gunk, so clean up your browsers and download history. Tackle the bookmarks while your at it. It is nice to see they are a reflection of your ever evolving interests but it cleans your screen and adds to your productivity to keep them current/active.

⦁ Back up all of them after wiping them digitally clean.


2. Tidy up that digital footprint

⦁ Google yourself and see how you appear online. If you see something you don’t like: ask the friend or administrator to take it down

⦁ Take a look at all of your social networking accounts and online storage services (such as Google Drive and Dropbox): purge the out of use ones of your information and photo’s and deactivate/delete them. Make sure your photo’s aren’t backing up to five different services; do you really need that? Before deleting the software, clean out and close the account with the company that offers the software. Extra info: closing an account doesn’t always mean that the company deletes all your data, it might just only keep the account from being active and collecting new data. Update privacy settings on the accounts you’d like to keep.

⦁ Take a closer look at your social media and purge some more. If you haven’t interacted with someone over a year, you might want to consider deleting them. Unfollow pages: your interestst evolve and there is no point to waste time on accounts or pages that do not relate to your interests. And even trash your old photo’s:many of us use our social media as a public scrapbook, but think about it: is this the place you want to store your photo’s? You might want to consider to delete anything older than a year… There are tools (Facebook Timeline Cleaner and TweetDeleter) that erase old posts in a few clicks.

3. Safe keeping

⦁ Refresh your passwords. Use strong and unique ones and even two-factor authentication on accounts that offer it. We know you’d like to keep the old way in place as it is just easier, but make sure that they are very difficult to crack. Also passphrase protect your back up drives. Pro-tip: it’s convenient to sigh into apps and services via Facebook or other social services, but from a privacy perspective it is better to create a new account if you don’t want that particular service to acces information on your FB account it might not even need.

⦁ Review privacy and security settings on websites you use and see if they are still at your comfort level.

4. Future digital decluttering

⦁ After your data spring cleaning is done, try to remember your best practices because you will accumulate more digital clutter in the future. And try to do this at least once a year to keep up the cleanliness.

⦁ Some last minute pointers: to keep your email clean: take time every day to respond to anything that takes less than five minutes. Set aside time on a specific day of the week to reply to the longer responses.

So for now I’d suggest to put on some tunes and start your declutter process, happy cleaning!


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