Digital Decluttering 101: Everything You Need To Know

When you think about decluttering you probably think about cleaning out your cupboards, getting rid of things in your closet, or going through that dreaded junk drawer. Decluttering is such an important thing to do from time to time. There are lots of benefits of having a cleaner space and less stuff! But, when was the last time you did a DIGITAL declutter? 

You know… your phone, computer, inbox, etc. I have always had this type of decluttering in mind. I always thought about doing it but never did. Why? Because it’s freaking annoying and I knew it was going to be a task and I just didn’t want to get involved lol. However, I started noticing my email inbox getting *really full* (like over 1000 unread emails) and started to notice how hard it was to find receipts and other important things so I decided enough was enough. 

It started with my inbox but kind of snowballed from there. It’s still ongoing and always will be btw which is again, annoying, but it feels good to have my digital life a little more organized!

If you are on the same page as me and need a little digital declutter in your life then just keep reading. 

What is digital decluttering?

Digital decluttering is when you sort through your digital spaces and get rid of the things you no longer need. 

At first, I thought this was mostly about emails, pictures, and things like that. However, I realized it’s so much more than that. It’s also the apps you use, the websites you save, notifications on your phone, and much more! 

My inbox problem started looking like no big deal when I started looking at all the stuff in my digital life that I was going to have to look through and organize. I won’t lie to you – it was a little overwhelming. I mean, I hadn’t even considered digitally decluttering ever so I had a lot to go through. 

I made a plan (sort of) and started to just tick things off the list over time. So if you are sitting there thinking you’d like to do a digital declutter too but feel super overwhelmed, don’t stress! It is doable and I will share how I did it!

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Where to start your digital decluttering

As I mentioned before, when I realized how much goes into digital decluttering I was overwhelmed. Picking a place to start seemed impossible… so I did what any Type 9 enneagram would do and made a list. I made a list of all the things I wanted to declutter. My list looked like this:

  • Phone apps
  • App folders
  • Email inbox 
  • Photos (on phone and computer)
  • App notifications
  • Notes app 
  • Bookmarks on computer
  • Subscriptions 
  • Social media 

So now I had a place to start. I just made a quick decision on what list item I would check off first and I went with the email inbox. It felt like something super long overdue and also something mindless that I could do when I watched TV (I mean, you gotta have a little bit of fun doing this right?).

There are obviously so many other places you could do a digital refresh so feel free to make your own list with your own personal needs. Just remember that it doesn’t need to happen in one day. Once you get started and create systems for keeping up with the organization and decluttering it will be a lot easier moving forward! 

The dreaded email inbox 

I know some people have thousands of unread emails in their inboxes (these people are CRAZY btw, sorry if that’s you but damn that’s a lot of emails). I had about 900 unread emails. It felt like a lot to me. I also have about 3 different emails and they all had roughly that many emails so I had quite the task on my hands! 

I picked my most used email to start with and just got to work. Here is how I would suggest decluttering and organizing your inbox.

1. Unsubscribe from email lists

Obviously, the first step is to clean out the inbox. Look for any subscriptions that you have and unsubscribe from the ones you never open. 

Hint: you will easily be able to see this when you scroll through your email and look at UNOPENED emails. 

For example, I subscribed to a few bloggers and other content creators because I wanted a freebie they offered at some point but then never really cared about their daily emails. So, I just went through and unsubscribed. 

I also noticed that I literally never ever open the emails from brands like Bed Bath and Beyond. So I unsubscribed from those too. Chances are I will somehow end up back on their list but for now, it minimizes the clutter!

2. Delete, delete, delete

I am too anxious to just hit the “select all” button and hit delete because I worry I’ll delete something I need (even though I haven’t looked at it in ages and probably will never need it lol). 

What I did was use the search bar and type in brands or names of people I get a lot of emails from like Bed Bath and Beyond. Once that pops up then I can select all and delete all the emails from that one person. I did that a few times and then it was much easier to look through the others and see if there was anything I needed/wanted to keep!

3. Folders

There were some emails I wanted to hang on to for the time being but I didn’t want them just floating in my inbox ready to be lost again so I made a folder

I just named it “emails to keep” so I know there are possibly important emails in there and to review at the end of the year. You could also make folders for work-related things, receipts, emails from bloggers you enjoy and would read again, etc. Whatever works for you and is functional!

The multiple pages of phone apps 

Anyone else download an app on their phone and then look at it once and then never use it again but KEEP it because who knows? I am so bad at this! 

I don’t know why I struggle to part with things (especially apps that can be redownloaded – talk about a scarcity mindset). My phone had an embarrassing amount of pages for my apps. They had no rhyme or reason. I couldn’t find things. It was something I have thought about fixing but just never wanted to. 

BUT I made the decision to declutter so, it had to happen. Let me tell you how I did this…

1. Delete the apps

Be real with yourself and just delete the apps you don’t use. I had multiple photo editing apps, clothing apps, games, etc. I did not need any of these things so I just started to mass delete and see what I was left with.

2. Folders 

Folders are your friend! 

I created a bunch of folders like social media, food, banking, photo editing, games, and whatever else I needed for the leftover apps. 

Pro tip: there are some apps you can’t delete because the phone needs them but you will literally never use them so I made a folder called “don’t use” and just put them all there so they don’t crowd up the app pages! 

Once you have the folders the space will look much cleaner and then you can decide on what to do with the apps that don’t really fit into a category. I left those ones out and just filled one full page with them. Once I get over a page then I know I need to reevaluate or put some new apps into the folders (or even create new folders if a new category pops up).

Decluttering social media 

I don’t think a lot of people think of social media as something you need to declutter but it is! 

1. Social media review

When was the last time you went through the people you follow on Instagram? You might see someone pop up on your feed every now and then (or even all the time) that posts things that just piss you off or doesn’t align with you anymore. Why keep them? 

2. Unfollow

Set a date every 6 months to go through your social media and unfollow anyone who doesn’t serve you anymore. Also, have a look at your own posts. Maybe there are some things you’d like to delete. 

I personally do this with all my social media apps but pick one to start with and go from there. 

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Deep dive into your notes app 

I wouldn’t want anyone to see what’s in my notes app. It’s such a personal look into my entire life… I swear I just put anything and everything in there. Can you relate? 

In the past, I never would have considered going through my notes app but I think it’s beneficial for a couple of reasons. One, it clears up some space on your phone. If you’re like me you have a RIDICULOUS amount of notes!! And two, you might revisit something useful! I’ve found recipes, blog ideas, and even passwords I had been looking for. Honestly, your notes app could be a gold mine! 

So how do you declutter your notes app? 

1. Skim through the ones with no titles 

Usually, if I title a note it’s something a bit more important. So if there isn’t a title I will look and see what I bothered writing. 

Most of the time it’s an old shopping list or an address to somewhere I needed to remember. 

2. Consolidate notes

If you realize you have 10 different notes with Christmas gift ideas for different people, merge them together! Title it “Christmas gifts to buy” and then put all the information into one. 

Same thing for passwords if you keep them in your phone but just title it something other than passwords and whatever you do, don’t leave too much obvious information in the note just in case someone got ahold of your phone!! 

3. Delete everything else 

Anything you thought was important before but you haven’t looked at in months (aka the notes at the bottom that never get opened or updated) you should consider deleting! 

Easier digital decluttering tasks 

Some of the other tasks that are a bit easier, although still tedious, include looking through your subscriptions, bookmark bar, and app notifications. 

Subscriptions 

Hopefully, you know what you are subscribed to and paying for. Examples of subscriptions are things like Netflix or YouTube Premium. 

Have a look at what you are paying for and cancel any unnecessary subscriptions. No point in throwing your money away each month if you don’t use a service or app. 

Bookmarks bar 

I save a lot of random stuff to my bookmarks bar in hopes I’ll check it out again. I think I revisit about 10% of the things I save there. 

So have a look at what you’ve saved and delete anything you don’t want or need anymore. 

Even better, create some folders (folders are your friend, remember?) and move things into the appropriate folder. For example, I have a folder called “Bloggers to read” which is just a list of bloggers I enjoy visiting and reading. 

App notifications 

I really didn’t like doing this one but oh my gosh it was life-changing! 

Do you get like a million annoying notifications on your phone from apps and social media? I was literally being woke up at night with the annoying notifications for things I wasn’t even using! 

Step 1 is obviously to get rid of the apps you aren’t using (see above) and then step 2 is to go into your phone settings – into app notifications – and set each one to what you want.

You can turn them off completely or change how many you receive in a day and other settings. 

I turned off the majority of the notifications and left the ones I actually cared about but still altered them so I wasn’t getting CONSTANT notifications because it’s just too tempting to look at each one as they come haha. 

How to digitally declutter your whole life
helpful tips for doing a digital declutter

Final thoughts 

So, that is my current journey of digital decluttering. I still have more to do and the upkeep is ongoing. One I’m not looking forward to is the photos… the photos will be the death of me for sure. But I feel good getting some major items done and it motivates me to keep going. 

It really is just taking one step at a time and remembering that not everything has to be done all at once. It’s allowed to take several days, weeks, or months to complete, it’s not a race!

I’m excited for you to get organized and feel just a little bit better about your digital spaces. You will be a digital decluttering expert in no time! 

What do you plan on decluttering? Do you have any tips to share? I’d love to hear them, share below!

Until next time,

Deanna

** originally published September 2022. Updated January 2024.

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