Ways to Minimize the Material Impact of E-Clutter
What is Electronic Clutter?
Material clutter is not the only ‘object’ that we become indebted to. These days, it’s just as easy to feel overwhelmed and stressed out by a different type of clutter. I’m talking about electronic clutter (or E-clutter). You can’t touch it and you won’t need a Two Men & a Truck to move it around, but it’s there. And it’s controlling your life – if you let it.
Kind of ironic, isn’t it? Living in a digital world takes no substantive material ‘space’, yet it can have such a profound overbearing impact on our ‘mental space’. For some of us, it might make the battle with material clutter seem easy. I’m going to highlight a few of the biggest types of e-clutter and how to fight them.
Using your inbox as a to-do list? We’ve all been guilty of it. Keeping emails around as mental reminders. Well, those reminders are like having post-it notes all over your house. They are there until you get rid of them. Here’s a few tips on how to limit email clutter – which may be the worst kind of e-clutter of all:
- Use GMail. GMail is where it’s at. I made the switch from Yahoo about 3 years ago, and I’d never look back. I’m not going to list all the benefits here, you’ll just have to trust me on this one. GMail makes email organization soooo much easier.
- Archive Everything: Seriously. Just do it. If it was important enough to require a response the first time around, it will come up again. This is particularly effective after coming back from a vacation. Scary? Yes. Effective? You bet.
- Auto-Archive: Have permissive spam that you get from retailers you like or non-profits you work with? Auto-archive it so that it skips your inbox. Check it when you get free time.
I have a simple rule here. If I always skip a song when it comes up in the play list, I delete it. Some songs you just grow away from with time. It’s OK to acknowledge it, remove the nostalgia, and move on with your life.
I need some help on this one. RSS is incredibly addicting. I subscribe to over 30 blogs/websites and try to at least skim through every post that comes through. It’s time consuming. Please offer your tips on this one! My best strategy thus far has been to delete the feeds that I always skim through and never stop to fully read. I’ve also organized my feeds into topic categories: work-related, fun, personal finance, self-help, etc. Still, I’m struggling on this one.
I’ve found that the best way to get rid of old documents is to sort by ‘date modified’. Anything you haven’t modified in two years most likely needs to be updated or you can just delete it. Important docs that I always access have found a shortcut on my desktop. Also, uploading docs to Google Docs has become an effective way to have everything in the cloud, and it’s all searchable.
E-clutter at its finest. There are a few apps out there designed to make these two productivity killers more efficient, yet they can still dominate your time. A best practice here is to follow or friend only people that you are truly interested in getting updates from. I think that we feel compelled to follow someone who follows us or to accept every friend request. You don’t need to do it. If you find yourself always skipping over someone’s updates, unfriend them.
Digital Clutter Discussion:
- Have you tried these strategies? Did they work? What problems did you run into?
- What’s been the most difficult type of e-clutter to get control of?
- What’s a worse problem for you – e-clutter, or material clutter?