6 ways to declutter your digital life
From sorting your passwords to backing up your photos, these easy expert tips will help you get your online life under control.
Digital clutter is way less obvious than household junk, but that doesn't mean it isn't a problem. A phone overloaded with photos will end up running slower. A PC crammed with documents makes it hard to find the one you need. But happily these issues are easy to solve.
Follow these tips and you'll be clearing out your digital life faster than you can say "Marie Kondo".
Get your passwords under control
I've been writing about passwords for over two decades, and the basic rules have never changed:
- Use a unique password for every service.
- Make sure your password is a lengthy and random selection of letters, numbers and symbols.
- Don't share your passwords or write them down where they can be stolen.
Sadly, most people don't follow these rules, reusing passwords on multiple services and writing their passwords on Post-its taped to their monitor. Don't be one of these victims.
The solution is easy: install password management software. It will keep track of all your passwords and help tidy up your existing passwords to ensure that there are no duplicates or lazy choices. Check out our guide to the best password managers (and thetop free password managers if you're on a tight budget).
Tidy up your digital photos
It's so easy to take photos on your phone, we take dozens of them every day. Before you know it, your phone memory is full and you can't show off pictures of your partner/pet/pastries because it takes forever to find them.
Fortunately, the solution is also pretty easy. Set aside an afternoon to go through your camera roll and review every photo you have on there.
To invoke Marie Kondo again, ask yourself: does this photo spark joy? If it doesn't, tap that delete icon and get it out of your phone (and your life).
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Sort out your mobile plan
We're addicted to our mobile phones, but sadly we're not as keen on saving money on our mobile plans. Finder research in 2020 found that only 1 in 5 Australians had switched any services in the previous 6 months. A common fear? That switching would be too much hassle. (That's not true, by the way – porting your number is easy and simple.)
With mobile phones, such reluctance means you're likely to be paying for plan features you don't need. An obvious example: global roaming isn't much use while international travel is off the menu. If you're working from home then your data requirements will be lower. So comparing your mobile plan and switching to something that matches your current needs makes sense.
As an example, Gomo has a new-customers-only offer with double data for the first 3 months, as well as half-price SIM deals online (which include the first month's subscription). That means you can get 60GB a month for 3 months for a total cost of just $87.50 on the $35 subscription. Note this only runs until 31 May 2021.
Get your cables untangled
Few things make a living room look messier than an unholy assortment of power cords and HDMI cables. It's unsightly, and also potentially risky.
Like photos, this is a task where you'll want to set aside an hour to do it properly. Unplug everything connected to your entertainment unit and untangle those cords. Vacuum and dust while you're back there, then reconnect everything from left to right. Keeping everything in order cuts out the overlap.
You can follow the same routine on your home office. For added class, pick yourself up some cable organising gear from Amazon to keep everything in place and hide the uglier bits.
Archive files on your computer
Again based on two decades of observation, few people are careful organisers of files on their computers. I've lost track of the number of machines I've seen where the desktop is entirely covered with files, screen captures and other digital junk.
Built-in search features mean you don't have to necessarily put these in highly ordered collections of folders, and high-capacity drives mean you don't have to delete them for space reasons. But that visible clutter doesn't need to persist.
Every three months, create an archive folder on your computer, with a name like "2021 Jan-Mar" and move everything sitting on your desktop into that folder. You'll feel better and you won't have actually lost anything.
Do a device clear-out
Finder research shows that 1 in 3 Australians hang onto older mobile phones, typically so they have one as an emergency backup. That makes sense. What doesn't make sense is keeping your last 3 phones for that purpose. One phone is a sensible protection strategy. Any more is likely to be overkill.
And that goes double for any old computers, consoles or appliances lurking in your garage. Be realistic. If you haven't used it in 12 months, you're not going to. Get rid of it. (Check with your local council for options to recycle electronics; don't just send it to landfill.)
I recently did this myself, clearing a bunch of old gear out of storage. As a professional geek, I probably had more than the average household. But the feeling of liberation from getting rid of stuff you'll never use again should not be underestimated.