Declutter Your Way To Digital Minimalism

digital decluttering


If the state of your inbox and the mess on your desktop are overwhelming you — don’t worry, you are not alone. The good news is that I have a few ways for you to reduce your anxiety and feel confident using technology to tackle new projects.

I’ve been working on for over a decade now, so as you can imagine, technology plays a huge role in my life. As someone who practices a minimalist lifestyle, I wanted that philosophy to carry over to my digital life as well.

I’ve always used my computer and phone to help me work, but in examining my digital life, I realized I was uncomfortable with how much leisure time I spent staring at screens. I wanted to use technology to achieve goals, not avoid them.

ryans tiny house

Hi, I’m Ryan

Minimalism in today’s world means that not only do we need to organize our homes, our desks and closets, but our digital spaces as well. I’ve found it to be important in my own life to foster intention, digitally or in the real world. As a result, I’ve learned quite a bit on my journey as a minimalist living in a digital world.

ryan mitchell simple living expert

By decluttering and organizing my devices, I was able to spend less time being distracted by technology and more time being aided by it. Digital minimalism is a great way to reduce stress about new projects and make sure your tech tools are clutter-free and organized.

I began by setting my intentions for my digital life and reflecting on how I wanted to spend my time both online and off. This can feel like a daunting task, but just like adopting any minimalist practice, the key is to start one step at a time.

Use this article to guide you through your own decluttering journey and start to live a more positive digital life.

Benefits To Digital Decluttering

Benefits To Digital Decluttering

Since so much of our time is spent online, digital decluttering is more important than ever. Digital minimalism has helped me create tools that work for me and help me achieve my goals.

Having a phone, computer, and even online presence that are clutter free can:

1. Improve your focus
2. Reduce stress
3. Save time and energy

According to a study in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, individuals who described their spaces as cluttered or full of unfinished projects reported higher statistics of depression and fatigue than those who found their spaces restful and restorative, and this extends beyond just physical surroundings.

intentional living

Four Steps To Digital Decluttering

Steps To Digital Decluttering

I know it can be overwhelming to start any decluttering project, especially if things have really started to build up over time. First let’s discuss four steps to help you get started, then we’ll dive deeper into decluttering each aspect of your digital life.

1. Set Your Digital Goals

Pay attention to the programs and apps you use on a regular basis. Take a minute for some introspection and make a plan about how you want to interact with the online world.

2. Delete Digital Clutter

Decluttering comes before organizing, so get rid of anything you don’t use or need including apps, programs, outdated or repeated files, duplicate photos, etc.

3. Organize Your Files

Develop an organized naming system for your files and create folders that are easy to search. Personalize the way your phone screen or desktop looks so that it is easy to navigate.

4. Continue Digital Decluttering

Maintaining your new habit is the key to success. Regularly revisit the above steps so that cleaning up is a simple task and not a monumental chore.

30 day declutter challenge

How To Declutter Your Phone

How To Declutter Your Phone

A good place to start is with your phone and finding out what tools can help you. I have an iPhone, but different smart phones have different tools for organizing notes, arranging apps, and customizing notifications.

Learning about my device first helped me accomplish the task of decluttering it. I also found it helpful to remember that technology is meant to support me and my personal goals.

Let’s talk about four areas you’ll want to address on your phone:





1. Declutter Your Apps

Digital minimalism is about staying mindful of how you spend your time. I started by going through my apps and deciding which ones were useful to me and which ones were outdated or time-wasting.

dopamine detoxGetting rid of game apps is a good way to reduce the amount of time wasted on your phone, but it’s okay to keep one or two if they make you happy. This is your journey, so figure out what you want to keep and what you want to let go of.

It’s also important to understand the feedback loop that our app notifications use to keep us hooked. Consider a dopamine detox or just be mindful of what apps and websites are low-quality stimuli.

At the very least, manage your notifications so that you’re not constantly flooded with unnecessary information. For example, you can set up your news app so that you only see notifications at a certain time of the day that you’ve set aside to read the latest news.

2. Declutter Your Contact List

We all have some contacts we absolutely need (like your mom or your doctor), but many of us are guilty of holding on to numbers that are no longer useful (like your 10th grade lab partner). Hold on to the contacts of people you talk to regularly and let the rest go.

Clearing up your social calendar can help you stay organized and still make time for the people who are important to you.

Remember, stay mindful of how you want to spend your time and who you want to spend it with.

how to declutter your schedule

3. Organize Your Home Screen

One of the first things I do in the morning is check my phone. Since my home screen is the first thing I see, I want it to be simple and inviting. To achieve this, I created a daily use folder for apps I need to access regularly so that I’m not overwhelmed.

Have apps on your home screen that help you create good habits. Staying healthy is one of my priorities, so I keep my fitness tracker app at the top of my screen. This way, I remember to track my calories as part of my fitness goals.

Organizing apps into folders by category is a helpful way to create a digital space that is easy to navigate. If you find yourself with too many folders to efficiently manage, go back to the first step and do another round of decluttering.

organized phone screen

4. Organize Your Photos

One of the largest sources of clutter on my phone is my photo gallery. I started my photo clean up by deleting old screenshots, blurry photos, and duplicates.

I wanted to be able to easily find the photos I felt were worth keeping, so I created a folder system by category. I have albums for family, friends, pets, and recipe screenshots, but you can use whatever categories work best for you.

How To Declutter Your Computer (Laptop or Desktop)

How To Declutter Your Computer

I started by looking up the storage capacity of my computer so I knew how much room I had to work with. If your goal is to only use the hard drive storage available to your device, then you can declutter with this in mind.

Alternately, you can look into cloud storage or purchase an external hard drive if you have a lot of large files to keep.

As you get started, remember that your computer is a tool meant to facilitate your lifestyle, not run it. Minimalist living is about setting intentions for how you want to participate in your life.

Not sure where to start? Try decluttering these four areas first:





1. Declutter Your Programs

Deleting any pre-installed apps I didn’t use was the first step to cleaning up my programs. This helped free up storage for things I thought were worth keeping. It also helped optimize my computer’s performance since I wasn’t wasting space on unnecessary programs.

2. Declutter Your Email

I used to be guilty of having an overwhelmingly cluttered email inbox. Now, I practice a method called inbox zero that helps me stay on top of my inbox.

Depending on the type of email you have, there are many resources to help you clean and organize. The first thing to do is unsubscribe from any unwanted advertising. You can also create tags or folders for categories of emails like social or business communication.

3. Organize Your Messy Desktop

When it comes to desktop organization, the simpler the better. Create a couple of folders that contain programs or files you want immediate access to and leave the rest free and clear. I use a helpful graphic to organize what files are waiting, in progress, and completed.

kanban desktop background

Move files you don’t need to the trash and empty your trash bin regularly to clear up storage space.

4. Organize Your Photos

Like with my phone, I only keep photos I enjoy and intend to use or share and let go of any that are duplicates or low-quality images to save on storage space. Create folders by category so you can easily access the memories you want to share.

How To Organize Your Computer Files

How To Organize Your Computer Files

The first place where clutter piles up on my computer is in my downloads folder. Delete any duplicate or irrelevant downloads so that the rest can be moved to a relevant folder later on. The deleting process is a key step to decluttering your files before we can get to organizing them.

File Naming Conventions

To sort your files effectively, figure out what naming convention is most relevant to you and create a corresponding hierarchy.

I start with one parent folder, then in it I have Documents, Images, Video, Music, Etc. I usually think about my folders as questions: Is it a document, a video, a song, or what? For example, if it’s a song, I’d select my Music folder. That way I don’t have to remember where the file is, I just have to answer the questions that my folders outline.

File Sorting Best Practices:

  • Use specific and meaningful file names
  • Be consistent with your naming system
  • Always avoid special characters
  • Don’t bury files so deep that you can’t find them
  • Use version numbers for updating documents
  • Use dates to help you format and organize
file sorting best practices

How To Declutter Your Social Media

How To Declutter Your Social Media

Social media can be fun, but I’ve found it can also cause a lot of anxiety. Take a moment to think about how your social media affects you. If it isn’t making you happy, consider taking a break from it all together.

If you do want to keep social media as a part of your life, follow pages and friends that bring positivity to your feed. I prefer to replace my social media interactions with real life ones and just let my page be simple and fun.

social media break

One-Week Digital Declutter Challenge

Digital Declutter Challenge

To help start your journey, I’m challenging you to complete this one-week checklist to declutter your digital life. Complete one task per day and check it off the list. Taking things one day at a time will make the project less daunting!

  • Day 1: Delete unused apps/programs
  • Day 2: Create folders for desktop/home screen
  • Day 3: Rename files and sort by hierarchy
  • Day 4: Delete and purge photos, create albums
  • Day 5: Delete old text threads/empty email inbox
  • Day 6: Manage app/program notifications
  • Day 7: Empty your trash bin/deleted folder
Digital Declutter Challenge

Books About Digital Minimalism

Books About Digital Minimalism

If you’re anything like me, you read quite a bit. For those who are looking to learn about digital minimalism and decluttering, the books below are a great place to start. There are plenty of online resources available as well, but for me, nothing beats the feeling of a good book in my hands!

10-Minute Digital Declutter

10-Min Digital Declutter

by S.J. Scott and Barrie Davenport

Declutter Your Data

Declutter Your Data

by Angela Crocker

Organize Your Digital Life

Organize Your Digital Life

by Aimee Baldridge

Digital Minimalism

Digital Minimalism

by Cal Newport

Digital Declutter

Digital Declutter

by D.M. Elliot

The LIfe Changing Magic of Tidying Up

The Magic of Tidying Up

by Marie Kondo

Your Turn!

  • What aspect of your digital life do you want to change?
  • Is your social media making you happy?
  • How do you want your digital tools to work for you?

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