Ok, we are approaching the end of June, and I haven't written yet about the Simple Year 2017 topic for May, which was Digital De-cluttering. One of the reasons is that the launch of my Arbonne business required a lot of focus this month, the other is that a few years ago I started tidying up my email inbox and file system on a regular basis. As with all de-cluttering projects, it is persistence that allows water to carve the stone. Since I published my book Downsize with Style, I have spoken and written a lot about de-cluttering. What applies to the physical world does also work for digital items.

It’s quite overwhelming to look at your screen when you have over 1,000 emails in your inbox (I know someone who is in this situation most of the time); or, if you have thousands of photos in your digital library (this is one of my outstanding projects, which I keep postponing and will need to tackle at some point). However, I first addressed my physical photo albums a couple of years ago and scanned some of the most important images to my hard drive. When I started, it was hard to throw out photos but now, looking back, I don’t mind because I hardly looked at them anyway. I also copied old VHS tapes to an external hard drive and got rid of the tapes including the video camera.

3 Tips to get started

No matter what digital de-cluttering projects you are facing right now, here are my tips to get started:

  1. Commit to your de-cluttering project

Change your mind, and you will change your life. Let go of old assumption and make de-cluttering a regular habit. Commit to it and make it a priority; otherwise, you won’t get anywhere. Yes, I’ve said that before, but it is one of the biggest reasons why we procrastinate. We hang on to our old beliefs and let them prevent us from moving forward and from exploring what we could discover if we only let go.

2. Schedule time to do it (15 min a day can get you a long way)

Establishing a routine is one of the most powerful levers to achieve results. Therefore, I suggest you find a time when you can easily carve out the 15 minutes without interrupting your daily routine too much. For some, this might be first thing in the morning, for others the lunch break or maybe late at night. You know your daily schedule.

3. Show up and do it!

Set your alarm for 15 minutes a day and dedicate these 15 minutes to your de-cluttering project. You have to be disciplined and stop doing what you’re doing when the alarm goes off. In the Simple Year programme, they suggest moving all your existing photos in one folder to start from a clean slate. Then, sift through your folder on a daily basis for 15 minutes and delete, label, and order your images in new folders. Save them in Dropbox or on an external hard drive as a backup. And hit the Delete button often, as we tend to keep each and every photo we have ever taken thinking someday we might need it. Believe me, this day almost never arrives.

Find a system that works for you

When it comes to your digital inbox, I found a system that works well for me using colour-coded flags to mark my emails. It’s quite simple but, as I am a very visual person, it gives me an overview of what the email is about and what I have to do with it. I use

Red = Email requires immediate action today or tomorrow
Orange = Email requires action within the next seven days
Yellow = Material to read whenever convenient
Green = Emails related to my Arbonne business
Purple = Emails related to my copywriting business

Once the emails are actioned, I either delete them or move them in my archive folders, which have the same nomenclature as my desktop archive. Once or twice a year, I sift through these archive folders and delete what I don’t need any longer. Again, it is the consistent action that keeps your digital world clutter-free.

For more tips on digital de-cluttering listen to my podcast episode DWS 33: How to Organise Your Paperwork and Digital World.

What is your system to manage your digital world? Share your tips in the comments below.

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