How I'm Dealing with Digital Clutter

I meant to post this last Friday but got busy.  It was another dry and beautiful, sunny day last Friday and I got busy with catching up to housework and I got carried away making this post more full some than I first meant to, all of which delayed the publishing.

I've been fearful for a few years now that my computer was going to give up the ghost.  Believe it or not my desktop is more than 12 years old!  My laptop (very slow to do anything) is a little bit newer but not much. Sometimes the desktop shuts itself down and other times it turns itself on. I've been told that it's because I usually only put the computer to sleep and don't shut it down completely each night.  I got into the habit of only putting the desktop to sleep because I started experiencing difficulties with starting it up again once it was turned off.  I was afraid that one day it just wouldn't turn on so I began putting it to sleep instead.  Anyway the computer issues have been going on for at least 5-6 years already.  Every now and then I'd copy files onto flash drives to save what I might really need in case the desktop died. I have countless photo and document files on the hard drive and a lot of unorganized files too. I was holding on to everything 'as is' until the visa process for my DH was completed. As of June 2022, that is all finished now when he received his PR card.  Since then I've also finally purchased a new computer. I decided to purchase a mini Mac computer at the suggestion of my brother who also has one and highly recommends it. I know they will be coming out with a new mini Mac 2 soon but I didn't want to wait until then to make the switch.

I need to put the computer files in better order before I plug in the new Mac and transfer files.  I'm terrible at keeping digital files organized as I create or use them but I hope to do better going forward.  I've gone through about 4 rounds of digital clutter clean up over the past year (computer drives, email, cell phones, deleting many online subscriptions, reducing the photos I take and the blogs I post until I get things the way I like).  Things are looking much better than they have in years.  In the latest digital declutter session I eliminated close to 5000 files and reorganized many more, most of which were photo files.  As I mentioned, I blog far less than the early years of blogging. It's because I've been trying to slow down the rate at which I create more digital clutter. Once I'm better organized I hope to take a more disciplined approach to dealing with photo files for blogging and/or other purposes and be more selective with other digital files.

So to answer the question implied in the title heading, I am deleting excess digital files and keeping only what is essential. This is a multi-step process and has to be done with a view to what is needed for blogging purposes and family purposes.  I guess I also need to plan for how these things should be deal with at End of Life (EOL). Most of us have digital footprints all over the world wide web and need to think about what we have and what we would like done with it when we go.  I try to keep my personal output (photos and other ID) to the minimum. Not just for EOL reasons but also for security reasons. (Click on infographics to enlarge. Please note I did not create these graphics myself but found them on the internet).

Decluttering is such a long and more complicated process than one thinks of at first blush. I never realized how many issues it would bring up as I started on the journey of serious decluttering. These few thoughts are specific to digital declutter but they could be extrapolated to clutter in general.

Some examples of significant issues that might arise for you include:

1) what do you get rid of and why? There are some things that obviously need to be saved: important documents, family papers, tax information, etc. but there are other items that perhaps are not so obvious. For example, patterns for various hobbies.  These days so many patterns you buy are only available in digital files and a lot of new things one wants to learn are also in digital files.

2) what do you keep and why? Some things we keep for legal reasons, work reasons, family and so on. It's good to consider what you no longer need to keep. In my case I can get rid of a lot of duplicates of  digital historical family documents and photos. I have so many bad photos or photos I will never use or even ever look at again so the 'delete' button has been and will continue to be, in regular use.

3) is there a way to declutter but still keep sentimental items? For example instead of keeping the item/s your loved ones have could you keep a photo of the item?  You may want to print it as a hard copy rather than have a simple digital photo. It really depends how best you would enjoy it.I first learned of this tip from one of the decluttering gurus. I think it was Peter Walsh, organizing guru from Australia. He is one organizer who really resonates with me and makes so much sense. He gets right to the heart of issues and simplifies things that seem difficult.

4) how much clutter should you leave at EOL for someone else to deal with? Have you identified someone who is also agreeable to deal with your belongings, including your digital footprint (Facebook, Google photos, blogs, Instagram, LinkedIn, websites, etc.) after you're gone?  Is there anything you need or want to get rid of before that time comes or is it okay for someone else to see everything? Do you have a place where your assigned person can access all your passwords and given thought to specific instructions you might have? For example, you may want to have your various profiles deleted or you may want them kept for your loved ones to look back on. The problem is that others may not know you have passed on if you leave everything 'as is'.

5) have you thought about why you may have so much stuff to deal with in the first place? For example, some of us were responsible for disposing of items belonging to loved ones.  It takes a lot of time to deal with it all and in the meantime you need to store it somewhere.  How much can you deal with if you yourself develop health issues or if you are elderly and no longer have energy and physical ability to deal with the 'stuff '. Even digital clutter takes energy to deal with though it has the benefit of not being physical heavy for you to go through and action.

6) do the things you own add to your joy as Marie Kondo, organizing expert would ask? do the things you own make your life more enjoyable or less enjoyable? In my case, without keeping on top of filing in a way I can go back and find things later, I find it takes away my enjoyment of digital files and is also time consuming, frustrating and anxiety producing. When I delete excess files and focus more on the things I want and can organize, I enjoy going through and looking at digital files much more.

A few resources you might like

These resource links  might be helpful to you both for general clutter and digital clutter.

Colleen Hammond, Business Consultant gives tips for learning to let go of things that have sentimental value. Is it clutter?   

Joshua Becker, minimalist guru offers some ideas about how to minimize sentimental things

Peter Walsh, organizing guru, has this to say about what your clutter says about you.

 The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning:  How to Free Yourself and Your Family From a Lifetime of Clutter by Margareta Magnusson 

Decluttering Memorabilia - How a Professional Organizer Guides a Client Through the Process

Dealing with digital clutter: What it is and 6 places to practise digital minimalism

Declutter Your Digital Life 

How to Execute  Digital Declutter Like a Boss: 8 Steps 




It feels good to get rid of clutter in general and that includes digital clutter. It frees up space and more space gives us a feeling of freedom from having disorganized possessions and freedom from the anxiety of not dealing with things in a better way. I'm on a journey and although the journey of decluttering never really ends, the tasks do shift and the amount of stuff we go through in any season of life also changes.  It just depends on how much we have to begin with, how much we accumulate along the way and how much we want to, or are able to declutter. For each of us it will be a  unique journey.

I'd love to hear where you are with your decluttering journey and whether you have included digital decluttering in the plan.

Thank you for stopping by and extra thanks to those who take time to comment and share their thoughts.


  1. I am impressed with your digital ambitions. And I love your fall header. May computing days are limited to some odd days my eyes allow some vision for this to be possible.

  2. I'm impressed but too lazy to take heed.

  3. Clutter is a major problem here. Someone in our house will dispose of very little.

  4. I probably do have digital clutter on my computer but I do not think that much. I delete often and try to keep as little as possible. I am not sure how much my laptop is going to last but I back up often onto a spare hard drive so it should be easy for me to move to a new laptop one day As for ordinary clutter, well that is a different story!!
    Have a good day, cheers Diane

  5. This is a great post, Penny. I have been doing the same and do my best to plug on it a little every week. Sometimes I find all sorts of things left over from my previous life I'll never need again. Not private, just eating up real estate on the computer. Bit by bit!


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