I’ve been working on simplifying my life, both with decluttering and with mental and emotional stuff (yes, I can be quite articulate). While I’ve been trying to clear out all my physical belongings, and even let go of a few dying friendships, the other day I realized: why am I constantly adding new stuff digitally? It seems like my latent hoarder tendencies that I’ve worked so hard to suppress have simply migrated to the digital, while I was busy working on the physical realm. I needed to do a digital declutter as well.
I counted recently. I have 9 email addresses that I check regularly (not that I have any I don’t check regularly, not sure why I needed to differentiate). Who needs 9 separate email addresses?? In my defense, they are all consolidated on either Outlook or Gmail, but still, why do I need 9 separate email addresses? Since I can’t exactly get rid of any, because I’m not sure how to unravel all of them (there was no rhyme or reason), I did the next best thing: I emptied my inboxes.
It wasn’t as overwhelming as I expected. I created folders for the emails I needed to keep, and I ruthlessly deleted everything else. Most of it was forgotten emails that I had meant to go back to eventually, but we all know “eventually” means never.
I also unsubscribed from every mailing list I came across. Do I really need coupons and discount codes from all these different retailers when I’m trying to minimalize my life? Never mind the fact that I’m knee-deep in and wading further into debt. Also, I’m pretty sure about 30% of these emails are from lists I never signed up for. I won’t miss any of these; how much FOMO can you get from missing out on an email? (Don’t tell me!)
So all those email subscriptions I used to be a part of? They had a lot of reading material to download. Every time one of those emails said “Free eBook!” I was there. Any worksheets or lists of things or anything available to download, I downloaded it. Which means there’s a black hole of a folder on my desktop where all files go into and are never heard from again. Honestly, I don’t even know what’s in that folder. I’m not ready to conquer that obstacle yet; it might take months. But I’ll get to it…
I have so many photos. In the beginning, I didn’t take multiple shots with my digital camera; there might be two, maybe three takes of each shot. But with the advent of social media, I can take anywhere between 3-20 photos of the same shot. And I didn’t bother to move to different angles and new perspectives, no I didn’t. I HAVE 20 PICTURES OF THE SAME ANGLE. And now that the cloud is a thing, I can delete photos off my phone and never think about them again, knowing they are safe and sound.
I tried deleting some of the duplicates, but 1) there are too many, and worse 2), I started going down memory lane and it greatly hindered any hope of progress. So these are better saved for a later time, or done in batches or something.
When I first got Netflix, I went a little crazy with power. The world of film was now at my fingertips – I must watch them all! And given my varied interests, “all” was A LOT. I added anything that remotely caught my interest, as well as all the classic and/or popular movies I hadn’t watched growing up. But the thing is, I still didn’t want to watch those movies. And, you know, I only had so much time in a day.
Why was I keeping all these titles I would never watch? Who am I trying to impress with this plethora of Oscar-winning, Oscar-worthy films I didn’t and wouldn’t pay money to see in theaters? What are these random documentaries no one has ever heard of? So, I removed everything that was meant to portray me as an educated, open-minded, well-rounded, cultured person. Then, I started giving the titles that slightly interested me a shot. If I couldn’t get into it within the first 10-15 minutes, they were out.
I’ve been on YouTube since pretty much the beginning (as a viewer, though I did dabble in videos for a quick, embarrassing, second). As you may have guessed, this means I subscribed to a lot of sh*t. (No disrespect to the creators, they work very hard and create great content.) Like, every late night talk show, dozens of beauty channels, multiple ballet companies, so many food channels, all the TEDs, random musicians, and a bunch of no-longer-active niche channels.
It was kinda hard unsubscribing from people I’ve followed for close to a decade (also depressing to see how much their lives changed compared to how much mine hasn’t). It feels like we’re friends or something, you know? Like Facebook friends whose life updates I keep up with but never interact with beyond clicking “like” every now and then. But when their videos show up in my subscriptions week after week and me skipping the last 30 videos they posted? Yeah, they all gotta go.
I never cull my Facebook friend list. I only recently (in the last three years) began treating Facebook as a Rolodex rather than as an actual friend platform. Prior to that, I wouldn’t accept a friend request from someone I’d just met. We’d had to have talked at least three times in person before I would consider it. But once I started thinking of Facebook as a repository of contacts, it was easy to add everybody and accept every request (I still had to have met you in person at least once though).
Recently though, I’ve realized there are some people I didn’t want in my life, in any capacity. Unwritten and unspoken social media etiquette states that unfriending someone rude and antagonistic, especially if you know them in real life. But these people were beyond a simple unfollow; I didn’t want them knowing anything that goes on in my life. So, I unfriended all my extended family.
I had been trying to cut back on social media before I started business school, but once I did, that horse bolted. Seriously, people communicated on every social media platform, and a class even had working on our LinkedIn profile as an assignment! It’s also been hard figuring out which apps I can get off of and which are crucial to the rest of my education/career, especially since I started blogging. But I managed to get rid of a lot of the other apps I had on my phone that I wasn’t using.
Last, but not least (never least!), is my reading list. I used to keep a list by hand (on Excel, but close enough) of the books I read. It was completely doable, but it also meant I didn’t have a list of books to read. So when I rediscovered Goodreads, that all changed. I added any and every book that caught my eye, plus every classic and bestseller I thought I needed to read to be educated, open-minded, well-rounded, and cultured (are we seeing a trend here?). One day, I realized, I HAD OVER 300 BOOKS ON MY TO-READ LIST.
How did I let that happen?? This was like my file folder – books went on the list, but I never looked at them again. A quick glance showed that there were many books I was no longer interested in. So I set to deleting. After a couple of hours, I managed to get my list down by half #superproud
This was much longer than I expected. I was shocked to learn how much of my life is actually digital or online. I feel pretty good about the start I’ve made though. Ideally, I would like to cut back even more on all the things I do digitally and live more in the moment.
Have you tried a digital declutter? What are some things that are out of control for you?