Declutter Your Device: How to Achieve Digital Minimalism


When was the last time you caught yourself digging through your computer's downloads folder, searching for a single file? 

Perhaps, instead of finding what you need, you encountered a folder full of miscellaneous and useless files and photos. It’s frustrating, to say the least. It's also distracting and time-consuming while posing a major interruption to your workflow. 

If you’re feeling the weight of crowded devices and feel like it’s time to clean up your tech, you might be in need of a digital declutter. 

We’re taking a deep dive into how to declutter your devices. Let’s jump in. 

What is digital minimalism?

Digital clutter is the widespread disorganization of your files, apps, and data across all your devices. The amount of digital clutter on your computer and cell phone can wreak havoc on your productivity. From ancient screenshots sitting on your desktop to phone notifications from apps you no longer use, the clutter takes a toll on your digital life. 

Digital minimalism is the practice of keeping the apps, files, and tools within your digital space organized and simple. Your phone and computer are neat and tidy. You avoid filling them  with random apps and hanging on to old files. Instead, only what you need is on your devices. 

Writer and productivity guru Cal Newport popularized the idea when he wrote about the benefits of digital decluttering. He purported that tidy technology reduces the odds of mindless scrolling. You’re encouraged to objectively look at how you use technology and set boundaries for how you interact with it. 

All this is done in the spirit of improving our relationship with technology. The goal is to avoid allowing it to infringe on our personal lives. It’s far too easy to default to scrolling through social media while sitting in a waiting room or checking your email during dinner. Digital minimalism helps build firm boundaries for using these powerful devices to help us stay present and productive.

5 common areas that could use digital decluttering

You should take time to create a digital decluttering checklist for all your technology. After all, digital minimalism is only as effective as you allow it to be. If you’re just getting started, pay close attention to these common problem areas. 

Email inbox

Your email inbox is one of the biggest culprits of digital clutter. Just think about how many daily newsletters you receive that crowd your inbox with needless information and distractions. If you’re anything like us, it’s a lot.

That said, managing an inbox with hundreds of emails is a daunting task. Trying to figure out how to organize all those emails can feel overwhelming. To help you get started, use these tips to clean up your inbox:

Go on an email unsubscribing spree. Take your email off the mailing list of any newsletters or emails that aren’t necessary or you don’t read. 

If you have multiple email accounts, delete the ones you no longer use.

Create a simplified folder system to organize important emails and keep your inbox clear. 

Use tags to label and organize emails.

Block spam emails instead of just deleting them, so they aren’t sent to your main inbox.

The biggest risk of a cluttered inbox is missing important emails. You may get an email from a client or one alerting you that a bill payment is due, but it gets lost in the constant flow of incoming messages. Avoid missing deadlines and ensure timely responses to important emails by keeping your inbox as tidy as possible. 

Computer files

When did you last look at your downloads folder on your computer? For most of us, our computer’s downloads folder is a black hole of single-use photos and sporadic files. This endless scroll of digital files can slow your computer and make you more likely to lose track of an important file. 

Hands down, the best thing to do is perform regular check-ins on your computer files, including downloads, desktop, documents folders, or anywhere else you might’ve stored files and images. Organize what you need and delete what you don’t. Consider these helpful tips:

Establish a system of computer desktop folders to easily access and organize files, keeping your desktop as clean as possible. 

Create standard file-naming conventions so you can quickly find what you need. 

Delete unnecessary programs to improve computer speed.

Make broad and distinct files, with subfolders if necessary.

This same approach applies if you have places like iCloud storage, Dropbox, or Google Drive where you store files. Dig through all these places—leave no digital space untouched by your digital minimalism. For the files you keep, create an organized system for how you’ll name and store files in the future. 

We recommend monthly or even weekly check-ins to organize your computer, so you can more easily find the files you need without spending a ton of time searching. The biggest lift is when you first start sorting through your files. Once a system is in place and you stick to it, you’ll be grateful for organized files. 

Cell phone

Between frequent text messages and social media, a cluttered cell phone can be one of the biggest distractors. Between social media apps, emails, and notifications from applications, phones quickly become overloaded with information. A clean phone that only has the apps you use and need will help reduce distractions and keep you on track. Use these suggestions to create your cell phone decluttering checklist: 

Delete any apps you don’t use. You can always redownload them later. 

Turn off notifications from social media apps. 

Delete any old notes and contacts. 

Clean up any old playlists from Spotify, or wherever you listen.

Backup photos and remove them from your phone. Don’t forget about places like Google Photos.

It’s easy for our cell phones to get messy. As a device we use every day, we must pay close attention to how we use it. Decluttering your phone of useless or unhelpful apps is the first step. The second step is creating healthy boundaries for how you use the remaining apps. 

You can understand where you stand by looking at your current screen time. Set limits for how you engage with the apps on your phone. When you receive an alert that your time is up, shut it down. Use this time back in your schedule to do your hobby, spend time with loved ones, or get outside. 

Social media

Not only is social media one of the biggest distractors during our workdays, it can also have adverse effects on our mental health. Anything from Instagram to LinkedIn can be the culprit. So, when do you know you need to declutter your social media account? 

If you’re spending several hours of the day on social media and instantly click on notifications when they pop up on your lock screen, it’s time to declutter. If you’ve noticed yourself feeling more anxious or scrolling late into the night, thus sacrificing quality sleep, you should take an honest look at your social media usage. Is social media taking a toll on your focus and productivity during the day? If so, it’s time to establish boundaries. 

We have some tips for decluttering your social media. Check them out:

Pay attention to the types of accounts you follow. Unfollow any that don’t bring you joy or cause you to compare yourself to others. If following an account negatively impacts your mental health, get rid of it. 

Turn off all notifications to remove the temptation to check social media whenever an alert appears on your screen. 

Set daily limits on your phone for specific apps. Once you’ve reached the limit, your phone will alert you that your time’s up. 

You'll be surprised by how much lighter you feel after purging your social media accounts. Study after study has shown how addictive social media can be—all the more reason to create and stick to boundaries. Without notifications popping up and inadvertently doom scrolling, you’ll likely experience an uptick in productivity, resulting in a healthier relationship with technology overall. 

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Computer browser 

There was a time when all the websites you bookmarked were useful. Maybe you needed easy access for a research project or intended to go back to that article for a more in-depth read. However, most of those bookmarks no longer serve a purpose and now clutter your browser. It’s time to get rid of them. 

Likewise, it’s a general best practice to remove all cookies from your computer on a regular cadence. Clearing your cache can boost browser performance and speed up your computer, not to mention, keeping your computer neat and tidy. 

If you’re ready to get started cleaning up your cookies and bookmarks, here’s what you should know:

Clear your cookies at least once per month. Doing so will help keep your computer clean. 

Delete any bookmarks from your bookmarks bar that you no longer need. 

Create files on your bookmark bar to store websites and articles as necessary.

If you need more space on your bookmark bar, remove its name so you only see its icon and have more room to work with.  

Set up a regular process to review your bookmarks and cookies. Once a month is a good and realistic cadence to start with. By creating regular check-ins for yourself, you can rest assured your computer remains free of digital clutter. 

5 benefits of avoiding digital clutter

Stay focused with fewer distractions

It’s near-impossible to stay focused when you have distractions popping up. Between email notifications on your desktop and texts on your phone, notifications demand our attention. As part of your digital decluttering, turn these notifications off. Leave your phone outside your workspace during your deep work hours.

Instead of immediately dropping everything to turn your attention toward a notification, block out small chunks of your day to check your texts and social media. Think of it as a reward after working uninterrupted for a set amount of time. A distraction-free work environment is more conducive to deep work and productivity

Increased computer speed

We’ve all encountered a slow browser. It’s frustrating when a computer’s speed prevents us from getting answers or completing work. 

What’s more, a slow computer gives way to downtime between tasks. During this waiting period, picking up your phone and scrolling is all too easy. Such a context switch diminishes your focus and requires another massive lift by your brain to return to the previous task. Keep your computer clean to ensure it runs as smoothly as possible. 

Always know where your files live

You can avoid digging through your computer files to find the one with an imprecise name that  you downloaded ages ago if you have a clean computer. Make it a common practice to organize your files immediately upon download or creation. By using proper naming conventions and a file organization structure that makes sense, you’ll save you time and headaches when trying to find files. This same principle applies to your Google Drive or anywhere else you store files. 

Avoid procrastinating

It’s well-known that procrastination works against you if you’re trying to boost productivity. Yet, it’s easy to put off tasks when a text comes through or Twitter sends you a notification. After you’ve cleaned your device of unneeded apps, take the extra step to ditch notifications as well. 

If you still find yourself prone to procrastination, timeblock your calendar so you know exactly what to work on during each hour of the day. Along with having a clean digital space, these time management strategies reduce the temptation to procrastinate. When you know exactly what to work on next, you’re less likely to default to scrolling. 

Productivity strategies like the Eisenhower Matrix or Pomodoro technique can be assets to help you avoid procrastination. 

Improved productivity

The less time you spend navigating and sorting through the digital clutter on your technology, the more time you can spend focusing on impactful work. It’s mentally draining to slog through countless files to find the right one. Clean and organized tech means you don’t waste time parsing through it. It creates a solid organizational foundation for storing and tracking important files.

When you can find what you need easily and don’t get distracted by frequent notifications, you can focus on finishing work that makes an impact. 

Set yourself up to stay focused with Sunsama

By decluttering your devices and making small tweaks to how you engage with technology, you’ll be able to stay focused and be more present in your personal life. The right tools can support you as you set and stick to boundaries.

Sunsama guides you to create an organized and realistic workday. You can drag tasks from Sunsama over to your calendar using its seamless integration to easily time block your day. Use Focus Mode to pause notifications. Sunsama’s goal is helping you achieve sustainable productivity for long-term impact. 

Here’s how Sunsama can help you build a balanced and productive day:

Create time for deep work with Focus Mode

Drag and drop tasks into calendar for quick time blocking

Encourage realistic goals for your workday or week

Weekly reviews so you understand where you spend your time

Give Sunsama a try to see for yourself how the right tool can help you stay organized and productive.

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