IT ALMOST feels like a movement. If you have a Netflix subscription, you’ve probably already seen Tidying Up—an eight-episode series with Japanese author and organizing extraordinaire Marie Kondo—on the Trending-Now carousel. Scratch that. It doesn’t matter if you have a Netflix subscription because everyone, everywhere is talking about Marie Kondo. Your friends can’t stop yammering about how scaling back felt so good. Your Instagram is littered with picture after picture of painstakingly organized sock drawers and overly swollen trash bags en route to Goodwill, all hashtagged KonMariMethod. Maybe you’ve even joined the movement and Kondoed your condo.
So really, when a phenomenon like that breaks out, it’s sort of our obligation—as journalists intent on understanding the ways of the world—to address it. And we can’t talk matters of decluttering and organization without looping in Megan Ludvinsky, founder of About Space and organization guru from our neck of the woods, into the conversation. But Megan helped me with my spring-cleaning last year, you might be thinking—and you’d be right. But this time around, she’s taking a hard look at the often-neglected digital sphere. We’re talking things you can’t fold, hold or bid farewell to, those forgotten, dust-bunny-filled corners of your computer, (we’re looking at you, Gmail “promotions” tab). Ready to take on the challenge? Read on for Megan’s nifty tips on digital decluttering.
1. Before you start, back it all up.
“Anytime you try to take on an organizing project, you need to make sure your computer is backed up. I always encourage people before they dig in to ensure that they have some sort of an off-site backup. I use a company called Backblaze, and I think it’s $5 a month or something. It updates my computer and all of my digital files on a daily basis. It’s something we don’t think about until it’s too late.”
2. Get your email subscriptions under control.
“There are several online tools that you can use to automatically unsubscribe yourself from all of those subscriptions you signed up for and no longer want. The one I personally use is Unroll.me. It will give you all of the subscriptions that you actually want to keep in one email, and it’ll unsubscribe you from any additional subscriptions that you don’t want. If you did this on your own, it would take you hours and hours.”
3. Treat your files like you treat your things.
“I have three rules of thumb for that. The first is, store like with like. Just like your things, with all of your digital files, similar things should be stored together. For example, your business files should all go together. Next, find a home for everything. That’s all about defining what those folders will be. Last thing: Put it away. Just like paper, when any sort of digital file or photo comes into your life, you need to put it away in a folder as soon as possible.”
4. Clean up your desktop.
“When I have a client who has so much on their desktop, I make a folder on the desktop, and I call it “Mac Desktop” or something to the effect of “All the files on your desktop.” I dump every single file into that folder. Then I open up that folder on the left side on the screen, and my digital filing system on the right. I drag and drop pretty much everything that’s cluttering up the desktop from that folder into my filing system. That’s a really great way to just take it a little bit at a time and also have that instant gratification of totally clearing off your desktop.”
5. Take it slow.
“As you start the process, make sure you are applying the process to what is coming into space, meaning, make a habit of filing—like, today. But also, take it a little bit at a time, because if you open up your downloads folder or your desktop and it’s just a big ol’ mess, it’s going to be really overwhelming. You’re not going to want to do it. Say, I’m going to get through 25 files today, or I’m going to take 20 minutes today just to organize the downloads folder. That makes it much more manageable. You don’t have to do it all in one shot.”
Already done with your copy of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo? Add these other books on decluttering to your reading list.
Simply Clean: The Proven Method for Keeping Your Home Organized, Clean and Beautiful in Just 10 Minutes a Day, by Becky Rapinchuk.
The Power of Less: The Fine Art of Limiting Yourself to the Essential … in Business and in Life, by Leo Babauta.
Simple Matters: Living With Less and Ending Up With More, by Erin Boyle.