Are you a digital packrat? Need to digitally declutter?

We all have to periodically declutter our closets, our desks, our kitchen cabinets, our cars.

But what about our digital spaces? Have we become digital packrats?

“Human beings have created more information in the last ten years than in all recorded history prior.”

Just in time for the new year, I finished reading this marvelous book, 10-Minute Digital Declutter: The Simple Habit to Eliminate Technology Overload by S. J. Scott and Barrie Davenport.

I could hardly bear to keep reading it because I wanted to start doing it.

It’s motivating; it’s explanatory; it works.


I’ve already begun 10 minutes a day as part of my goal to clear off my old PC, to organize my digital photos, to open up more iPhone storage, and to keep from developing bad habits on my Mac.

Authors Scott and Davenport begin with some preparatory chapters about the importance of digital decluttering. We know much of this intuitively—we daily live with the mess we’ve created with backlogs of emails and folders and data on every digital device we own, spreading onto the cloud for extra reassurance.

The meat of the book follows in the next chapters, explaining how to do it. They include decluttering

  • your social media activities
  • your email inbox
  • your computer
  • your smartphone and tablet

Next is a section on protecting your digital life. The book ends with how to maintain your digital declutter action plan.

Here are a few sample questions asked in the book to assess your current digital situation:

  1. Is your list of bookmarks so long you feel too overwhelmed to get to any of them?
  2. Do you have emails from over five years ago?
  3. Do you have project files and unneeded documents from over five years ago?
  4. Do you use more than one email account because of all the storage you need?
  5. Do you have many duplicates of photos, and is it difficult to find a photo you need?
  6. Is your hard drive or phone storage 75 percent full or more?
  7. Do you have many apps on your phone you never use?
  8. Is your desktop cluttered with icons?
  9. Do you have folders or bookmarks of stuff waiting to be read that you never have gotten around to reading?
  10. Is your computer running slower or having problems as a result of all the data stored?
  11. Do you have more social media “friends” than you can possibly keep up with?
  12. Have you failed to change your passwords in the past few months?
  13. Do you avoid addressing your digital clutter because it feels too overwhelming?

If you answer “yes” to several of these, you may have areas you need to digitally declutter like I do. Go it on your own, or read this book and map out your plan. I’m a fan of baby steps, so while it may take me awhile, I’m devoting a minimum of 10 minutes a day to at least make a dent. You do what works for you.

Here are a few tips straight from the book:

  • Make quick decisions.

If it’s an app or download that you can easily download again, then go ahead and delete it if you don’t use it on a regular basis.

  • Create a holding pen

Create a file on your computer titled “Maybe” and store every questionable item there until you can come back and make a final decision.

  • 4 D’s of email

Whenever you open an email, you have one of four decisions: Delete it, Defer it, Delegate it or Do it.

  • Do it now

Do it. If it takes less than 5 minutes to respond to an email or complete the required task, then take care of it immediately.

  • On folders

Create a Main Folder. Then create six to ten 2nd level folders. Create as many 3rd level folders as needed. Store old projects and documents in an Archives folder

  • Delete or archive video files

The only videos you should keep are the ones you plan to watch frequently—like the video of your daughter taking her first step. Everything else should be deleted, stored in the cloud, or transferred to your computer.

  • Rule of Three

Make three copies of anything you care about, such as family photos, tax records, or digital souvenirs. Basically, anything that is truly important to you should have three copies.

* * *

Have you accumulated digital clutter too? What space would you like most to clear out or get organized? Please share in the comments.

My thanks to author Steve Scott for the review copy of this book. You can read more from Steve on his webpage, Develop Good Habits.

21 thoughts on “Are you a digital packrat? Need to digitally declutter?

  1. Linda Stoll

    Oh this sounds like a must-read, Lisa. I’m so technologically challenged, I probably wouldn’t understand half of it …

    But that doesn’t negate the fact that there’s some stuff that I COULD understand and do something about.

    Thanks for this thumbs up!


    1. LisaNotes Post author

      You would understand far more than you think, Linda. Their writing is clear and instructional. I’ve been needing a better system to digitally declutter for quite awhile so this book has been an awesome help AND motivator to get on it this year.

  2. Bill (cycleguy)

    I’m a dinosaur in some ways Lisa. I am not on social media except my blog. I have a stupid, I mean, smart phone (or is that a phone smarter than me to make me smart?). I have a computer at the office but not at home (for several reasons). I hate a full inbox so I trash emails a lot and eventually empty the whole thing at a certain number. I don’t even have an iPad. I try hard not to need digital decluttering. But it sounds like an interesting book for those with the struggle.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Sometimes I wonder if stupid phone = smart person; smart phone = stupid person. ha. I was joking with Jeff last night that we won’t need our memories much longer; we’ll just Google. 😉 I like how you’re keeping it all under control, Bill! Good for you and keep it up. I like to know it’s possible.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Transferring to a new computer is always fun but also daunting! Enjoy the process and yes, this is a great time to use some of these strategies. I’m trying too. 🙂 Best of luck to you, June.

  3. Ceil

    Hi Lisa! This is so timely for me. My blog was acting up, and I couldn’t figure it out. My son (who is a computer engineer…worth every penny of his education!) told me it was a ‘cache’ problem. Uh..sure it is!

    There was just too much on the blog, so it refused to update. So, time to dump some cache. Yes, yes! I need to clean things up on my computer, no doubt. Thanks for being my confirmation!
    Happy Thursday,

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Ha. I’d have had that same reaction, Ceil…um, if you say that’s the problem, I agree! 🙂 Glad you’re getting a return on your investment. Hope you get everything running smooth and fast again soon.

  4. Susan Nowell @ My Place to Yours

    What a timely post, Lisa! I am totally busted… too much digital clutter in my life! I spent awhile the other day deleting pictures on my computer, but I barely made a dent. Have been thinking I need to come up with a system for cleaning up and keeping it that way. Sounds like this book is a “must read” for sure. Thanks for the suggestion.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Those pictures…that’s my biggest nemesis as well. I used to print pictures and scrapbook (years ago); now, I don’t even print. Sigh. But that’s my end goal of this project—to figure out the best of the best to print and get hardcopies in an album (won’t even think about scrapbooking). And get back lots of space on my computer again! ha. Good luck to you too.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, I’m much more apt to do something if I think all I have to do is 10 minutes worth. And if I end up doing a bit more, then that’s fine too. 🙂 But it’s amazing how much you can get done in just 10 minutes a day if it’s consistently done.

  5. Jean Wise

    oh this just went to the top of my reading list. I need this sooooo badly. I would start with my email files. I take care of my inbox pretty good but tend to keep things in the sidebar in folders, many i never use. I also have a bunch of clipped articles in evernote that need organizing or deleted. Thanks for the inspiration.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Oh, those folders. 🙁 I keep my inbox at zero most all the time, but the folders? Egads. And Evernote hasn’t worked out so wonderfully for me because I use it as a junk drawer. It’s become a scary place. ha. Let me know how it goes for you. I’ve begun with my photos and I’m making progress, but no light at the end of the tunnel yet because I let the tunnel grow so long.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      That’s wonderful, Beverley. It’s good to establish habits across all the areas of our lives, not just segments. I keep my house fairly decluttered, but my digital world has grown very cluttered.

  6. Lynn D. Morrissey

    You are the book-review Queen, Miss Lisa. Very helpful. I’m going to see if the library has this or will purchase it, but as you might suspect, I am drowning in books, sometimes another form of clutter… *sometimes*! 🙂 Wow. Yes, so much junk has accumulated for me digitally. And imagine this: Your computer crashes for over a month, so now I have to go through now about 1,000 emails. So I don’t. I just go through what comes in. But the backlog feels like weight. Mike said just dump them, but I can’t bring myself to do it. I know there are many outdated (info that is past), but i’m concerned about those I should have ans’d personally. Anyway, thanks for these great tips.

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