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Let’s look at some simple steps we can take to digitally declutter and increase our mental energy as a result.
Work through this list, and then for some of the steps you’ll want to continue to do them occasionally as needed.
Within this 10 steps I’ve included ways to declutter your digital world specifically, as well as a few ways to use digital solutions to declutter your non-digital world, starting with the mailbox.
1. Unsubscribe from credit card offers
This is quick and easy to do at optoutprescreen.com. You will still get offers from banks your currently have accounts with, for better or for worse.
2. Unsubscribe from catalogs
If you don’t look forward to them, and read them at least monthly, let them go.
You can unsubscribe easily from any catalogs at catalogchoice.org. Create a free account, and search for each catalog you no longer want, then click the button and fill out the form. Read and check any boxes about opting out of additional offers.
3. Unsubscribe from email lists
As you use your email, watch for which lists are useful or energize you. These may be to blogs, websites, or possibly companies. Does the content fit your values, are the calls to action typically aimed at developing a relationship, helping you solve problems, or getting your money?
Look at your email for the last week and for all the emails that don’t contribute meaningfully to your life, open them, scroll to the bottom, and click the unsubscribe link. Pay attention to the page that opens in a new tab. For some you will need to take an additional action.
For the email subscriptions you decide to keep, try to find a good way to integrate them to your schedule. If they consistently come on a certain day of the week, plan time into that day to read them. Alternately just save them for the times during the week that is best to read them and the content they link to.
4. Set up bills on automatic payment
Either change them all right now, or set up automatic payment the next time that you pay each one. You’ll want to then schedule a time to check that they got paid. This should be as simple as checking your bank statement once or twice a month which you should be doing anyway.
5. Sign up for digital bank statements
Anything that reduces the amount of paper on the kitchen table or counter is a bonus, right? Login to your bank accounts, find where you view your statements and set the delivery method to digital.
6. Streamline your passwords
Pick one place that is paper or digital to record all your family’s passwords. This will save you headache and stress every time
You can look up the many online options and find one that works with your computer and browser, but I recommend starting with a password log book. I started using one this year and love it. I do save many passwords in Chrome, but my log book is great for those I didn’t, for when the browser lost it, and for knowing what the password actually is in case I need it on a different device or my husband needs it.
7. Organize your browser bookmarks
Either find a bookmark tool you like, or try to save links to web content in another format such as Evernote or Pinterest that is easier to view and organize than a long list of links.
My ultimate favorite tool for this is Google Keep. It’s a multitasking app, good for a lot of other things, such as grocery lists, and it syncs between my phone and my laptop.
To use it for bookmarks I simply open it as a tab and then right click on the tab and Pin it in my browser so it stays open on the left without taking up space. Then when I found a site or page I want to come back to, I put it in a new Google Keep note or one that I’ve already started on the topic. In notes you can easily group links together, give them headings and add any notes about them, either now or later. And for notes with links in them, Google adds little bars to the bottom of the note. Here is a screenshot of some of my notes in Keep.
8. Delete bad photos
Open your phone. Go to the gallery and spend a few minutes deleting bad photos. Or if you sync Google Photos (which I highly recommend!) or another free online photo storage, open your photos there and you should be able to check a bunch at once and delete the bad ones.
This will make it much easier to find the good ones later. Try to start making it a habit to delete bad photos as soon as you or your kids take them.
9. Find a photo that makes you happy and put it on your home and lock screens
I recommend a pretty landscape, and then you can add pictures of people – probably your kids – on one of your screens using a widget. But as always, do what fits you, what will energize or relax you – depending on what you need!
Consider how often you look at your phone’s lock screen every day. You have that many opportunities to affect your mood with a well-chosen photo.
10. Change the apps on your phone’s primary home screen
I want you to try removing most of your apps from the home screen. This just means that when you open your phone, you will have to swipe left or right to see them.
First remove all the apps from the primary home screen and then add back the ones that make you happy and are for important but not urgent activities. You could also include short cuts for frequent activities such as texting or calling your husband, best friend, babysitter, etc.
Determine which ones you are putting back and give yourself a good reason why. Include apps that you want to use more often, that should fill your spare time if you are on your phone.
Here are the apps on my home screen and the reasons why:
- Amazon Kindle – because reading makes me happy, and it is an app I should use when I have a few minutes or maybe a small chunk of time,
- Google Keep – this is where I add to my grocery list, and save any sudden inspiration or fun ideas that I have while away from my computer
- Google Drive – for easy reference to rough drafts of blog posts in case I have time to work on them or have an idea to add
- Workflowy – holds my full, more organized checklists of ideas and tasks
- A link to the blog – seeing it makes me happy and then icon is three blue hearts (you can do this too for this blog or any website by opening the site in your phone browser and then clicking up on the right and selecting ‘Add to Home screen’)
- Google Photos – best way to view all of my photos, either for reference for an idea or to show someone a picture – either of the kids, or to the kids
- camera, calculator – innocent, “energy-neutral” apps for easy reference
- Pandora- this would be a great option too, it’s on my second screen because I didn’t want to start a third row, but I may switch it out with the calculator
On your next screen or two include all of the apps you use frequently but that are more ‘energy-heavy’, that represent things you need to do, places to go, people who need you, etc. This can include perfectly useful apps that imply obligation. For me this means: email, calendar, bank app, weather, google maps, facebook, my morning alarm, short cuts to call my husband, text the babysitter, etc.
11. Scan your kids’ artwork
If you have piles of your kids artwork hanging around, here is what to do with it. Start by using the PhotoScan app by Google to scan each piece. Then put a few on the fridge, keep any that will be missed or are special in some way. The rest you can throw away now, or after some period of time. Then as new artwork is created or comes home from school, scan it immediately (just takes a second with your phone) and then you can display it, store it and then eventually trash it without guilt or worry.
I scanned an entire large box of the last couple of years’ of my two oldest boys’ artwork. It was amazing. I kept a few strategic pieces and trashed the rest.
12. Buy a real alarm clock so that you can stop reading your phone before bed
The only good reason to charge your phone at your bedside is to use it as your morning alarm. Go buy yourself a basic alarm clock and charge your phone in the kitchen.
Here are the biggest two reasons to do this: 1) looking at the phone screen before bed interferes with your sleep, and 2) we never use the time well when we’re on our phone before bed.
One of the things we learned about willpower is that it is depleted throughout the day. So we need to prepare ahead of time and give ourselves strategic triggers to guide how we spend our time at the end of the day. Since phones are one of the hardest devices to use wisely, this means almost anything else is a better activity before bed than being on our phone. A few obvious options are quality time with your kids or your spouse, reading a good book, and simply getting more sleep.
Bringing it all together
Taking the time to intentionally declutter your life in any way typically has a myriad of benefits. If you follow most or all of the above steps you should save time and money, and increase valuable brain space.
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