Day 20: Digital Cleaning

I talk frequently about clutter — having clutter, being tired of clutter, getting rid of clutter. As I look around, my clutter consists largely of piles of unshelved books, overflowing piles of papers, my children’s outgrown clothes that I need to store or donate, and (the ultimate irony) magazines and printed articles full of strategies to conquer clutter.

These kinds of clutter are always present, daily being shuffled from one place to another.

But the clutter that I often forget about is my digital clutter. The unfiled documents on my desktop. My email inbox full of everything from retail announcements, personal emails, read but unfiled emails, volunteer emails, (way too many) unedited digital photographs and videos.

I’ve tried the large pronouncements — by the end of x amount of time, I will have all my photos organized. I’ll go through all the emails in my inbox and do something with them. To no avail.

So last week I decided to stop trying to tackle the problem all at once. Instead, I decided to handle the clutter in small bits, piece by piece, one day at a time.

One area that I’ve focused on is the retail emails. I’d tried to start another email account that would only be for personal emails. But then my friends and family didn’t change my address in their address books, so that didn’t work. Then I started to forget passwords for retail accounts. So I set up replica ones using the new email. Now I was getting, for instance, two notices from amazon about discounts and special offers — and in multiple email accounts.

Now, I know, pointing and clicking to delete an email is not really a big deal in the grand scheme of things. But, all that pointing and clicking adds up — seconds into minutes, minutes into…well, you get the idea.

So, now, every day, I unsubscribe to one retail email. No more Target. Bye-bye Banana Republic. Adios Diapers.com. If I need something from those stores, I’ll check in for sales. I’m not really a quick pull the trigger kind of shopper anyway. So getting the notices about coupons and larger sales don’t prompt me to act in the moment. Instead, they just sit in my inbox as a reminder to myself that I often waste too much time making a decision about a purchase. And then the coupon expires or the sale ends. Then I’m left collecting seconds into deleting clicks.

Perhaps by the time my birthday comes around, my retail unsubscribing will be complete and I’ll be able to take all the time I’ve recovered from mindlessly deleting these emails to the gym.

How do you deal with digital clutter? What strategies have you used to save what you’re left with once all the clutter is gone?

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5 Responses to Day 20: Digital Cleaning

  1. John Burk says:

    I have a separate gmail account for all my mailing lists (AP-listservs, etc) and one other throwaway email—I know nothing important will ever come to that email. I have a third gmail just for signing up for deals from stores, and this email is set to mark everything that comes in as read, and if I’m feeling especially deal conscious, I’ll search it on my phone just before shopping to see what sorts of deals are out there. I do my best to keep my primary gmail account clutter free.

    For managing passwords, I use 1Password—it’s amazing and life changing. It remembers all your passwords, and makes them super secure. And it syncs those passwords with other computers/smartphones. It’s one of my very favorite applications.

  2. Sedef says:

    I am completely in the same boat and thought searching in my inbox and doing a mass delete was useful but they just keep coming back. I was not proactive enough to set a separate email either. But I like your unsubscribing method as well, it’s not like we are really missing anything is it?

  3. David K says:

    As far as those bullshit emails from retailers, I’m surprised it even took you this long to get rid of them. Gone gone gone! Don’t waste another minute of your life on those annoying retail emails. Your day of liberation has arrived.

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