Purge Clutter From Your Digital Life in 5 Simple Steps

Purge Clutter From Your Digital Life in 5 Simple Steps

Cleaning out your inboxes, documents, photos, and other digital junk can reduce stress and improve your personal productivity. Here’s how to streamline and declutter your devices.

I’ve been contributing to PCMag since 2011, at times as an analyst and currently as deputy managing editor for the software team. My column, Get Organized, has been running on PCMag since 2012. It gives advice on how to manage all the devices, apps, digital photos, email, and other technology that can make you feel like you’re going to have a panic attack.

Purge Clutter From Your Digital Life in 5 Simple Steps Image

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A few times a year, I get an urge to purge. Whether it’s spring cleaning or taking a moment to archive last year’s emails, I find it incredibly gratifying to dump (or sometimes simply put away) stuff I don’t need. There’s a whole lot of hippie rhetoric about how clutter-free environments lead to clarity of mind, and I’m not necessarily saying it works for everyone, nor is it guaranteed to improve your productivity, but I sure do feel less stressed and more able to focus when the junk is gone.

As kids, most of us learn to clean our rooms, tidy our desks, donate or throw out items that we don’t need or want, and put away our physical stuff. As adults, however, many of us never learned to do the same thing with our digital material. It’s no surprise we never learned. Who would have taught us? If you’re an adult now, you’re part of the first wave of people to figure out how to do it and teach these skills to younger generations.

If you enjoy a good purge and have https://jiji.ng/ a messy digital life, here are five places to start:

Files on your computer desktop

Messages in your email inbox

Photos on your phone

Apps on your phone

Your open browser tabs

Here’s some advice on how to do it.

1. Clean Up Your Desktop

Sometimes we place a file on the computer desktop so it’ll be in our line of sight and we’ll remember it. Then we repeat this action a few more times. Before you know it, the principle defeats itself. How can you see and remember a file among a messy heap of others?

View Desktop Files in List View

The easiest way to clean up the desktop is to start by viewing your files in a list rather than in a graphical representation of the desktop and file icons. In other words, open a Finder window in macOS or File Explorer in Windows. This view can make it easier to see which files you can delete or put away.

Make a Few Folders

You don’t have to trash all your files to clean up your desktop. Instead, make a few folders with names like In Progress and Photos to help you sort what you have.

Don’t think too deeply about the correct classification for each file. Keep it simple. Folders called Work, Personal, Fun, and Old are fine. Or you might have one folder for PDFs, another one for Photos, and so forth.

The method I use to sort files is by year. I have one folder for every year, and within those folders, I have whatever subfolders make sense. Why do I organize this way? Because I think about my work and personal files based on when they happened. So, I have a 2020 folder and within it are subfolders called 2020 PHOTOS, 2020 TAXES, and so forth. Putting files into folders is similar to archiving them. They’re out of sight, but I can find them if I need them.

Sort Your Files

Now, using the list view to your advantage, sort your files into the folders that make sense. With the list view, you can see and sort by file type, date created or last edited, or by size. Turn on the preview option for images, PDFs, and other files if you need to glance at them before deciding.

Don’t leave your folders on the desktop. They’ll only create more visual clutter. Tuck them out of view but somewhere you’ll remember, such as within the My Documents folder or maybe in a file-syncing folder, such as the main Dropbox folder.

2. Empty Your Email Inbox

Ready to trash everything in your email inbox? No? You’re not alone. A lot of us hesitate to throw away emails because we’re afraid of missing a million-dollar opportunity or an important message. OK, so don’t! You can clear your inbox without deleting any messages or tossing them into the Archive abyss.

This method relies on the same concept we used to clear the desktop: Sweep those old emails out of sight by moving them into folders.

Create a Folder or Two

Start by creating a new folder…or two or three. It depends on how many messages you have to clear out. If it’s fewer than, say, 100, one folder will do. If you have many hundreds or thousands of emails, putting them into one folder will move them out of sight, and if that’s all you want to do, so be it. In that case, you might as well archive all the messages because putting them into a folder won’t help you cope with the messages later. Sorting your mail into folders will.

Create a new folder (or in Gmail, a label) and name it for the current year. Or you could name it the year and the quarter (2021 Q1) or the year and the month. Choose a system that works best for you. Make additional folders if you need them for other recent years, quarters, or months. Home buyers are defined as those who make their livelihood by making purchases directly from homeowners. Buyers might come in the form of either individuals or businesses. They provide a solution that is both quick and uncomplicated for those who are interested in getting rid of their properties and are looking for an alternative to the traditional approach of selling a property. Visit https://www.cashoffers.com/rhode-island/cash-offer-burrillville-ri/.

The reason I like time-based folders for email is that they remove the need to make additional decisions. Every email message or thread has a date when it started, so you make fewer decisions about how to sort the messages. Fewer decisions means easier, faster, and more efficient cleanup. They practically sort themselves. Sure, if a thread spans several weeks or months, you may have to decide whether to file it by the first message date or the most recent date. Still, you’d only have to make that decision once and then apply it across other threads. Done and done.

Bulk-Move Messages

Now move messages en masse into the appropriate folder, based on the date of the message. Depending on what email program you have, you might be able to move them by creating a rule. Otherwise, just sort your inbox by date, select all the messages in a certain year, and drag them into the new folder. Easy.

You’re not deleting anything. But you’re restoring the Inbox as a place for new, incoming mail. You don’t have to deal with every unopened or unanswered message to get a fresh inbox. All you have to do is bulk-move old messages.

Develop New Inbox Habits

Now that your inbox is decluttered, it’s an excellent time to develop some new, positive email habits. If you take a little bit of time to set up some new rules for managing email and stick with them, you might find that email doesn’t have to be an unmanageable mess.

Remember, we’re not trying to be perfect in how we manage email. The goal in decluttering is to ease the stress associated with having an unmanageable inbox and perhaps feel a metaphorical weight lifted. We tidy up because it makes life easier going forward.

3. Transfer Photos From Your Phone

Nothing says purge like removing photos and videos from your phone. Nearly everyone hangs onto them, but clearing them out not only frees up space on your phone but also makes it easier to find the images you choose to keep there.

Use a cloud storage service, such as iCloud, Dropbox, or OneDrive (this is usually the quickest method).

Transfer photos directly to a computer (using a cable).

Transfer photos wirelessly to a computer (using Wi-Fi or Bluetooth).

Physically remove a memory card (not all phones have this option).

Share images to a social media account or email.

You don’t have to remove every photo. That wouldn’t be practical. Keep a few dozen images, including any headshots or selfies you use for online profile pictures. And keep the pictures and videos that make you happy! Keep the ones you love to share. Not to get all KonMari, but if a picture or video sparks joy, keep it! If it doesn’t, move it somewhere else.

You can always put a copy back on your phone any time you want. Sometimes just remembering that your images are available satisfies the urge to keep them all on your phone.

The Best Graduation Gift Ideas for Tech-Savvy Students

Whether your graduate is finishing high school or departing college with a degree in hand, they deserve a little something for their hard work.

Graduation 2020 is a little different. COVID-19 means high school and college grads are accepting diplomas via Zoom, saying goodbye to teachers from their cars, and putting off big bashes until it’s safe to gather in large groups.

But while it may not be safe for your graduate to walk in person this year, that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve something special. PCMag reviews thousands of products each year, and only a select few earn the designation of Editors’ Choice. These are the best of the best, and are sure to delight your graduate. From speakers and headphones that will help them concentrate and relax to computers and tablets that will come in handy as they start new jobs or head college in the fall, we’ve got you covered.

For Alexa Fans Who Want to Pump Up the Jams

If you’re looking for a smart speaker, the surprisingly robust Amazon Echo Studio delivers just as much power as smart speakers that cost twice as much. It is an Editors’ Choice and a great option for music lovers, thanks to the speaker’s Dolby Atmos-compatible directional audio.

A Sleek Wireless Speaker That Won’t Break the Bank

The second-generation Sonos One is also a versatile wireless speaker with excellent sound quality, support for multi-room audio, and Amazon Alexa voice control.

Stay Focused With Impressive Noise-Cancellation

Sony’s WH-1000XM3 headphones feature some of the best audio performance we’ve heard paired from a pair that also boasts excellent noise cancellation.

Portable Tunes for (Socially Distanced) Summer Gatherings

A portable outdoor speaker is a great item to have for socially distancing in the backyard, local park, or beach. The Sony SRS-XB12 packs a powerful punch for such a tiny speaker, and its waterproof build adds value to its already affordable price.

AirPod Style on a Budget

If your grad has been looking for a good alternative to Apple’s AirPods, get them the Soundcore Liberty Air from Anker. There might not be anything flashy about these true wireless earphones, but they deliver better sound performance than some earbuds that cost twice as much.

For Cord-Cutting TV Fans

On the entertainment front, a subscription to YouTube TV is a great alternative to paying for cable. The service offers an excellent variety of channels, top-notch DVR features, and solid performance, making it our top choice for live TV streaming.

For Windows Fans Who Need a Lightweight PC

For the grad who needs a lightweight computer, the Surface Pro 7 2-in-1 is a laptop that doubles as a tablet. As an Editors’ Choice for college students, it’s a worthy upgrade from past iterations, thanks to a USB-C port and peppy Ice Lake CPUs. Unfortunately, the keyboard comes separately, but there are some solid options.

Chrome OS for Less Than $300

If you’re shopping for a Chromebook, the Asus Chromebook C523 is out Editors’ Choice for students. Its sleek design and big 1080p touch screen is an unusual bargain in this space.

Protect Your Grad’s Gear From Malware

Protect that nice new PC you got them for college with strong antivirus software, like our Editors’ Choice Kaspersky Anti-Virus. It swept the anti-virus testing labs, with excellent scores across the board in protection against malware and phishing attacks.

Protect Your Grad From Prying Eyes on the Web

Everyone should be using a VPN to protect their privacy online, but it’s a good idea for a college student who might be tapping into insecure Wi-Fi connections. A subscription to the easy-to-use TunnelBear VPN will keep them safe while online.

For Grads Looking to Get or Stay Fit

The Fitbit Charge 4 fitness tracker builds on its predecessors with the addition of standalone GPS, Spotify support, more sleep tools, and Fitbit Pay.

Monitor Your Fitness Journey

Keep track of your fitness progress with the QardioBase 2, which adds some welcome improvements to one of the smartest scales on the market.

An Apple iPad That Won’t Break the Bank

With its larger display, support for Apple’s Smart Keyboard, and iPadOS, the least-expensive iPad is a terrific tablet and potentially even a laptop replacement, making it a top choice in the field of cheap tablets.

Apple iPad (2019)

With its larger display, support for Apple’s Smart Keyboard, and iPadOS, the least-expensive iPad is a terrific tablet and potentially even a laptop replacement, making it a top choice in the field of cheap tablets.

A Slimmer Switch for Nintendo Fans

Reward your grad! The Nintendo Switch is the home console that can also double as a mobile gaming system, but it’s the less expensive and slimmer Switch Lite that we recommend for a new grad. As a dedicated handheld device, it’s ultra-portable and gets better battery life than the original model. The Switch has enough games to make this gift last a long time, but here are our favorites for the Switch Lite.

A Solid Camera for Shutterbugs

A creative grad needs something to create with, so why not a brand new digital camera? The Canon PowerShot SX70 HS captures views ranging from ultra-wide to extreme telephoto. It’s a solid camera for wildlife observers, families, and shutterbugs in search of a lightweight bridge model.

For On-the-Go Grads With Power-Hungry Devices

Hopefully your grad will soon be walking around a busy campus or traveling in a big city, and when they are, they’ll need some power while on the go. A power bank makes for a great gift, if it means their phone, tablet, or computer can get a little extra juice. The Anker PowerCore II 20000, for example, is a reasonably sized battery with lots of power for charging two mobile devices at once.

An Affordable Robot Vacuum for Your First Apartment

If your graduate is moving into a new place, help them keep it clean with a robot vacuum. The Ecovacs Deebot N79S offers powerful cleaning, app control, and Alexa voice command support for an unbeatable price.

The Ultimate Splurge

If you really want to spoil your grad, the particularly pricey Apple iMac Pro is a beautiful ode to creative professionals, combining remarkable computing power with the same brilliant 5K display and sleek design of the iMac. It’s an Editors’ Choice among desktop workstations, and the only macOS device to make the list.

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About Jason Cohen

Jason Cohen

As PCMag’s editor of how to content, I have to cover a wide variety of topics and also make our stories accessible to everyday users. Considering my history as a technical writer, copywriter, and all-around freelancer covering baseball, comics, and more at various outlets, I am used to making myself into an expert.

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