Digital Clutter Confessions

by Tammy Strobel on August 23, 2011

The more I let go, the more time I have to focus on the stuff that matters, like writing and spending quality time with friends and family. Decluttering excess stuff, in both the physical and digital world, is emotionally freeing. I didn’t realize how much my digital clutter was weighing me down until I started to hit the delete button.

It would be possible for me to save every photo, song, movie, letter, or conversation that I’ve had because I can save my files on a device the size of a deck of cards. Or I could put all of my digital junk into “the cloud” and it wouldn’t take up any physical space!

Even though digital documents aren’t physically obtrusive they still cause emotional angst. For example, have you ever sorted through hundreds of digital documents because you can’t find a specific file or photo?

A Little Background . . .

My digital clutter resembled a big pile of stuff that hadn’t been touched in years. Earlier this year, I decided to stop procrastinating and start organizing my digital files. I cleaned up the archives and deleted over 400 posts! And I’m still not done sorting through the old content. Why purge so many old articles?

Most of my posts in 2008 weren’t useful and about 30% of the articles contained ridiculous cat photos. Cat photos aren’t inherently bad. But they are much better when paired with an appropriate article.

A Blank Slate or Reorganization?

I considered “blanking the slate,” but decided against that option. (At least for now.) Rather than deleting everything, I decided to keep the good stuff and purge the bad.

In addition to deleting old posts, I cleaned up my hard drive and trashed essays and research papers from graduate school. I kept my eBooks, music, photos, and my current writing projects. I also changed the organizational structure of my files again.

Right now I have five folders where I save my writing. The folders are: 

-Blog Posts
-Book
-Letters
-Tiny House
-Archive (When I’m done with an essay it immediately goes into my archives folder.)

Deleting my digital clutter wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. It took about eight hours to go through all my old blog posts, essays and papers. On the surface, eight hours seems like a lot of time. Organizing my documents is worth the time because it will save me many hours in the future.

A Few More Projects

Over the last week, I deleted 9,000 pictures from my photo library and kept 250. Why? Every time I opened up Lightroom, I was totally overwhelmed. Most of the photos weren’t very good and I didn’t tag them appropriately, so it was hard to locate what I needed. As I move forward, my photo library will be limited to my best shots and I’ll be tagging my pictures too.

My next big project is figuring out what to do with all my flickr photos. Right now I have about 10,000 pictures on site and I’m considering deleting a lot of the photos.

In addition, RowdyKittens is being revamped. I’m decluttering the blog so that the main focus is on my writing and photography. You’ll probably notice some changes over the next few months.

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If you’ve been thinking about decluttering your digital world, here’s a quick and easy guide to get you going:

  • Inventory your digital files. Go through your documents and figure out what you use regularly and what stuff has been sitting on your hard drive for way too long. If you haven’t opened a file in more than a year, you probably don’t need it. So hit the delete button.
  • Tell someone about your goal. Whenever I set a big goal, I tell my close circle of friends and I write it down too. The physical act of writing out my goal and telling someone about it holds me accountable. I’m more likely to follow through if I have support from friends and family members.
  • Start fresh. If you’re brave and bold, you can always start fresh and delete all of your old documents to make room for the new.
  • Finally, make the process fun! Clearing out the digital clutter feel so good and refreshing.

Do you have any tips to add to the list?

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