10 Digital Spring-Cleaning Hacks to Clear E-Clutter

Tamar Weinberg
Clean out your digital life

You can most likely see the clutter that builds up around your house or office. But what about on your computer, smartphone or any other devices you might use?

Here I’ll talk about how to review your digital usage and clear out the clutter, both on your devices and on your online footprint, so you can start making better decisions

1. Delete Inactive Accounts

Ask yourself this question: are your digital accounts active? If you don’t actively use them, make a request to close them. Most online services have a Settings or Account page that allows you to deactivate and fully delete the account. 

Sometimes the “delete account” option could be hidden. In that case, your best bet in this case is to Google “how to delete my account on [service]” — and chances are, it’s been asked quite a few times and you’ll find official documentation or user-generated content on how to complete this task.

2. Know Which Services Have Access to Your Accounts

Services such as Google, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter all work better with the help of third-party apps--but you may not necessarily be using those third-party apps any longer, yet they still have access to your data. Or worse, those third-party apps no longer exist and therefore they don’t need access to your data anyhow. 

Comb through your list of third-party apps. Look up the companies you forgot about — or just delete them — after all, you forgot about them, right? Keep the ones you need, but trash the ones you don’t. 

3. Update Your Devices

If your computers and handheld devices can support updated operating systems, take time to update these devices. Not using the most recently patched version of any operating system leaves you open to remote flaws or exploits, and it’s always safer to go with the newer versions. 

While you’re at it, check your apps and make sure you have the latest versions of those too. For those you can update for free, do so. For those that have a paid update, if it’s worth it for you, go ahead and do that as well.

4. Aim for Inbox Zero

I know, you’ve been wanting to get around to it ever since you opened your email account 10, 20 years ago. But postponing it any longer is probably just adding a tremendous amount of stress. So just do it.

I became Inbox Zero in 2011 and have maintained it for 9 years. To get closer to Inbox Zero, stick with a few tried and true methods:

  • Use a service like sanebox.com or unroll.me to opt out of unsolicited and unwanted emails. These services will identify the newsletters you subscribe to. Find them in your inbox and hit the big ol’ trash can.
  • Archive your emails once they’re read, but don’t delete them in case you need them again. With most email providers operating in the cloud, this is the safest way to keep them without seeing them. If you search, they’ll come right up.
  • Filter messages that you want and need. Use folders to feed those filters. For example, let’s say you’re a heavy traveler. All travel itineraries from a specified domain can be filtered with a Travel tag and then handled immediately, so you know exactly where they are and don’t have to hunt them down later. If you’re a parent dealing with dozens of emails about your kids from schools to playdates to whatever else, add a Parenting tag to your email, and filter emails from your kids’ school to immediately be filtered into the Parenting group. If you’re using Gmail, you can color-code those tags so they stand out more prominently in your inbox.
  • Use your email client’s Snooze button to hide messages you might want to act on later but may not want to see right now. Being out of sight, out of mind makes for a much more stress-free day.

5. Delete Unnecessary Files

Not only is this good for your mental sanity (what, a clean desktop? I’ve never seen one of those before!) but it’s good to improve the performance of your devices. Here’s what you can do: 

Click through files and apps that you no longer use or need, deleting the ones you no longer require. 

Check the extensions on your browser and remove the ones you no longer need.

Uninstall the apps you don’t use any longer.

According to new research, 52% of Americans have never deleted anything from their devices in their entire lives. Don’t be the 52%. You’ll be happier for it. Trust us. 

6. Back Up Everything

While not a cleanup, we’d be remiss if we didn’t suggest that you backup your applications, photos, documents, media, and any files that are important to you so that you don’t lose your data in an accidental hard drive crash; hard drives typically only have a 3 to 5 year lifespan, so if you’re nearing that, you are at a greater risk. Use a cloud-based service that enables you to access your data anywhere from any device. Google Drive and Dropbox are painfully easy to use. 

7. Get Rid of That Old Device

Before you toss the devices you’re not using anymore, consider giving them to an e-waste recycler — or sell them for extra cash. You can also donate them to a local institution. And be neighborly: You might also wish to give them away for free on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, Nextdoor, or your local Freecycle. 

8. Reassess Your Old Passwords 

Haven’t changed your passwords in a few years? Still using your birthday or pet’s name? Now may be a good time to give your passwords a once-over and update any obvious or outdated passwords. While this is more of a security measure than a cleaning hack, it does provide a good excuse to revisit all of your accounts and subscriptions and cancel any services that are no longer useful. 

9. Consolidate Paper Clutter  

Just because we can theoretically store everything on our devices doesn’t mean we always do. Chances are if you work in a dedicated work space, especially at home, you have sticky notes, notebooks, or other scraps of paper on your walls or in your drawers with information you scribbled down in a hurry. Go through these scraps to see what you can digitize and what can be shredded. 

10. Go Through Your Office Drawers

Sure, you can’t store apps or electronic files in your drawers, but that doesn’t mean there’s not a connection between e-cleanliness and tangible clutter. Many of us have that trusty “old electronics drawer” filled with old cables, useless adapters, dead batteries, and out-of-date manuals. Sorting through these and disposing of what you don’t need will not only help your physical comfort but also save you time sorting through useless accessories when you need to find that one cable or manual that is still relevant. 

Making It Work

Yes, our digital lives are already all-consuming. But set aside an hour — time better spent than surfing social media —to give yourself mental clarity that you can truly benefit from after things are tidier and cleaner in your life. 

We absolutely assure you that you’ll be happier!

Now you know how to declutter your devices, you should consider looking into a VPN, which can help keep your browsing behaviour private, disguise your geo location and bypass blocked websites. Check out our list of the best VPN services to see which one works for you.

Tamar Weinberg
Tamar Weinberg is a professional hustler, digital marketing strategist, and freelance writer who contributes to Top10.com. She is also the author of the bestselling O'Reilly book The New Community Rules: Marketing on the Social Web and Penguin's The Adoptee's Guide to DNA Testing: How to Use Genetic Genealogy to Discover Your Long Lost Family. Her work has been featured on leading publications such as Mashable, Lifehacker, Namecheap, TechGenix and Techipedia.