Physical clutter is one of the most noticeable forms of clutter and can make it hard to even move about your home quickly. While physical clutter is a constant reminder of tasks you still need to get done, think about the last time you tried to track down a file or search through your email for something.

Digital clutter can be just as challenging to manage as physical clutter, and having sound systems in place is more critical than ever. Here is an easy guide to organizing your digital clutter.

Set Up A Schedule For Going Through Your Digital Clutter

A closet packed full of clothes, or a drawer that won’t shut are great reminders that it might be time to declutter.  However, it’s not until we see the dreaded notice of storage limit reached that we even consider going through our digital clutter.

Set an appointment on your calendar each month or week if needed and go through your digital items. Don’t wait until it gets out of hand to go through it.

Sort By Category, Not By Location

It can be tempting to tackle your digital clutter by area and start with the first thing you see. However, if you clean by location, you may miss files, or forget to put them in the appropriate folder later. If you are cleaning by category, you can quickly deal with all of your files at once and purge based on what you don’t need and not by what you think is stored elsewhere.

Keep Your Folder Organization Simple

For each category you plan on storing, you should have a folder that goes with it. However, make sure that the way you organize these groups is simple and straightforward. The more complex your system, the less likely you will keep these items in the folders.

Start With The Easiest Category First

When organizing your digital clutter, you want to start with the easiest category and work your way up to the hardest one. Based on this, here is the order you should use when organizing your digital clutter:

  1. Media Files
  2. Digital Documents
  3. Programs and Applications
  4. Internet Browser
  5. Email
  6. Photos
  7. Social Media

Sort Your Items By Last Modified Or Last Accessed

When you go through your files and documents to declutter, it can be helpful to sort your things by last modified or accessed. This will help you determine whether or not specific items you’re holding on to are being used. This can be especially helpful with documents and programs as these tend to stay past their welcome. You won’t be able to use this method for social media. However, you can use this same tactic for handling emails as well.

Declutter Your Digital Past

When you’re working through these categories, you may find it trying to figure out how long to hold on to something. Once you’ve gone through based on the last time you accessed it, you may still find things worth holding onto. When it comes to tax info and other items, you may not access them regularly, but you should still be holding onto them. Here are a few general guidelines for things you may be unsure about keeping:

  • Credit card and bank statements: one year
  • Loan agreements and insurance policies: until inactive
  • Tax records: seven years
  • Credit reports: one year (however, you can view your credit reports online without needing these)
  • Medical records and vital records: permanently

Backup Your Files Frequently

After you have purged through your digital clutter and organized them into folders. You should be left with only the files you need and the ones that you need to keep for essential reasons. Once you’ve limited your digital files to just these items, you need to make sure you have stored them safely.

You should save any critical information in at least three locations. An example would be storing them on your computer, in a cloud service, and an external hard drive. However, whichever three you choose, just make sure they are safe and can easily be accessed if needed.

You may not interact with digital clutter every day, but this doesn’t make it any less real. When organizing your items, don’t forget about the things that you don’t physically see every day.

YOUR TURN: Let me know in the comments below, how many unread emails are in your inbox?

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