Removing Digital Clutter Too

You likely know that I am a minimalist. I have removed lots of physical clutter from my life. I have dislodged myself from personal obligations that distracted me from what was important personally, and for my clients. And I have simplified my life to focus on the truly important things.


I have a new challenge…

Digital clutter.

Look, I don’t know if I will ever convince you to remove all of your digital clutter. But let me say this:

For me, removing digital clutter is as freeing and uplifting as removing physical clutter. Removing distractions, ANY distractions, are about eliminating the unnecessary to allow you to appreciate and focus on the necessary.

Allow me to give you some examples of some digital clutter I am slowing purging:

1. Emails in the inbox. I keep too many emails. Clutter that I will never read again. Digital notes that no longer have meaning, and distract me from the important messages that matter. My inbox is now such that zero is attainable each day. Stuff to save is neatly organized and archived, useless less important stuff is deleted. Right away.

2. Followers. Yeah, too many of you still battle “follower envy” where we measure our self-worth by the number of followers we have on Twitter, friends on Facebook, or connections on LinkedIn. But for most of you, a majority of your followers aren’t real, or really connected to you in a meaningful. So, remove the useless followers that get in the way of the people who matter…those who might be your true fans.

3. RSS subscriptions. I have subscribed to thousands of blogs over the last several years. Mainly to experiment and see if a new blog and website will prove to be helpful and meaningful to me. After a while, I have to discipline myself to delete the stuff that isn’t relevant, that I am not reading.

4. e-newsletters. Like you, I’ve subscribed to too many e-newsletters. I’ve made it a point to unsubscribe from those that aren’t providing real value to me. For me, there are only a few that I look forward to. If I don’t want to drop everything when an new email comes in, it probably isn’t worth subscribing to, IMHO.

5. Files in Google docs. After a while, there are a ton of google docs I’ve created for this project or that. Often, I need to review the archive, and remove the clutter that is no longer relevant. To be honest, my biggest reason to remove digital clutter in Google docs? To allow me to more easily find the docs that are more important…

6. iTunes songs. I have over 2,000 songs in iTunes. In the past twelve months, I’ve listened to 45 of them. And with me listing to Pandora most of the time…do I really need all these songs?

7. Books on Kindle. Yeah, I used to have a couple thousand books in grand bookcases. Now, I own only nine hardcover books. The ones that really matter to me. But, I now have a growing collection of digital books. And there are several I will never read again. I am deleting them. They distract me from the books that move me…

8. Audio reminder files on smart phone. I leave myself reminders on my smart phone voice memo tool all the time. Ideas for blog posts. People to call. Old friends to reach out to. Ideas for clients. After a while, they accumulate. If I let the list pile up, I suddenly have a ton of audio files that are less impactful.

9. Random stuff in Evernote. The beauty of Evernote is the ease with which I can save pics, ideas, websites, articles, audio files, etc. The downside? After a while you accumulate a lot of stuff. I have to make it a point to go thru that material and delete content that is no longer relevant. I also have to improve my tagging and organizing ability to better store the data.

10. Downloaded podcasts. I have 74 hours of podcasts to listen to. On one hand, endless streams of great content to learn from. On the other hand, it is almost too much, and I don’t what to listen to first.

11. eBooks. With all the blogs I read, I’ve downloaded dozens and dozens of ebooks to read. In fact, upon counting the files in my eBook folder, I have 47. I mean, wow. How am I ever going to read 47 books? With more to come, I am sure. Now, I am not sure which ones I really really wanted to read in the first place…

How much digital clutter is cluttering up your life? How much digital clutter is distracting you from your important work? Is it time to clear away some of your clutter?


[for tips on how to simplify your business, join me here]

[drawing by hugh macleod]

  • Tchaas1

    Love this post. I’m Snowed in today so I have spent the better part of the day deleting seldemly used icons from my iPad desktop. I have deleted tons of gmail messages, Evernote notes and have seriously considered going to just one personal email account (i have one I use to filter spam). Next on my list is my unread articles in Instapaper.

    Clutter is clutter. I always believed that what one does in “real life” one will also do virtually.

  • Todd Schnick

    oh my. i forgot to mention apps… talk about clutter… thanks for the reminder…

  • Andrew Caldwell

    There’s nothing like an unsubscribe binge. Anything that’s arriving in the inbox that isn’t of value, unsubscribe. 

    Why do you find that followers need to be cleaned up? The spam ones aren’t really serving any purpose (other than boosting numbers), I agree with you on say the people you are ‘following’ though.. 

    The digital spring clean is a good’n, for us without the lawns to mow on a Saturday, cleaning up the iTunes library constitutes housework. :)

  • Todd Schnick

    housework, LOL! yeah, but for me, to remove distracting clutter is cathartic. as for followers, i hate the fact that people measure self-worth by the amount of followers they have. and this is just a small step to changing that… plus i do think having too many “unknown” people in your social graph distracts you from the truly important people…

  • Doug Lehman

    Good Stuff Todd, Yes one of my New Year’s Resolutions was to keep it simple and reduce clutter.  Thanks for the steady reminder…

  • Todd Schnick

    thanks doug. keeping it simple is the way to live, i am finding…

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