How to Organize Your Digital Life

How to Organize Your Digital Life

The new year always seems to inspire a fresh start, doesn’t it?  There is this natural desire to organize, clean out and otherwise simplify life.

One area that  tends to neglect in the annual clean up is our digital content.  Just like physical clutter, this digital clutter can get us bogged down, interrupt our processes and leave us generally frustrated.

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The good news is that cleaning out your email, online and computer files is easy to break into smaller tasks and sneak time here and there to complete them.

Organize Your Email

Inbox:  Ahhh, online retailers – how we love your sales during the holidays.  But, alas, the avalanche of emails does not end once the presents are unwrapped and the decorations are packed away.  For one week, take a few moments each time you check your email to click the unsubscribe link (usually included at the bottom of most mass emails) before you delete unwanted emails.  A good rule of thumb is if you almost always delete emails from one source without reading them, you can safely unsubscribe without missing anything important to you.  Hey, you can always re-subscribe.

Saved:  If you don’t have saved files, take a minute to think through what types of emails you save.  Put them in mental piles, if you will.  Create folders to organize your saved emails, then go through your saved emails as time allows and either delete or refile in the appropriate folder.  As an example, I have folders labeled Purchases (where things stay until I receive the items as ordered), CPA (related to my consulting work), Blog (related to online writing), Kids (self explanatory), etc.  I also create an Archive folder for all things I just am not ready to get rid of, but don’t need regular access to.  For example, when my father passed away, I had a ‘RMH’ folder where I saved any correspondence related to settling his estate.  Now that is mostly over, the entire folder has been archived, so it is out of the way, but I can still access it if needed.

Organizing Online Content

It is so convenient to bookmark something, isn’t it?!  The trouble is, those bookmarks can add up to a lot of online clutter, and before you know it, you cannot find anything in your online ‘piles”.

Create folders on your bookmark bar for similar sites (Kids, Sports/News, School, To Do, Mom, Dad, etc.).  This will make it easier to find what you are looking for specifically.

Go through your links and click each one.  Ask yourself the following questions: (1) Does the link still work? (If not, delete)  (2) Is this content still relevant for me? (If not, delete) and then (3) What is this content related to?  (file in appropriate folder for easy reference later).

Consider utilizing an organizing tool (such as Pinterest) for like items.  The great thing about Pinterest is that it is visual.  Since so much content online is visual, this is an efficient way to reference most content.  The bad thing about Pinterest is that it can be overwhelming and easily turn into a time suck.  Try to stay focused, at least until the content you already have is well organized.  Then, and only then, you can reward yourself with a little surfing.

Evaluate your RSS (feed) reader by looking at each site you are following and cleaning out sites that are no longer relevant to you.

Organizing Your Devices

Review the apps, books, games and other content that you have on your tablet, smart phone and reader.  Many tablets and phones have the capability of creating folders, which you can use to group similar content.  Delete anything that you no longer use and clean these items out.  Doing so will help you find what you need when you need it.

Take a few minutes to learn how to download e-books from your local library, so you can make full use of your device.  Kindle books can also be found for free on Amazon.  If you are an Amazon Prime subscriber, you can borrow Kindle books from Amazon for free, also.  If you have an iPhone or iPad, you can download the Kindle App for free, which will allow you to read Kindle books  on your iPad or iPhone.

Organizing Your Computer Files

Freshen up your desktop and screen saver.  These are small things that can make you smile each time you see them.  Pick images that are beautiful, calming, sentimental, exciting or inspiring.

Use folders to organize your files and keep your desktop neat and tidy.  This is a matter of personal preference, so just try one way for a while.  You can always adjust things as you go to make it work for you and your style.  And, yes, that really is my desktop in the background of the graphic above – and I did not have to clear it off before I took the screen shot.  Super clean just works the best for me; I realize it is not for everyone.  (But try it – you just might like it!)

Go through your files as you sort them into your folders, and delete or create an archive for old files that you do not need to access regularly.  Utilize toolbars for quick access to programs without having to store all your short cuts on your desktop (mine are stored under ”shortcuts” on the lower right of the task bar in the image above).

Come back and share if you follow any of the suggestions – let us celebrate your success with you!

May your year be neat, efficient and productive.

About Michelle Schahn

Michelle manages a beautiful, chaotic life of kids, home, community involvement and work. She is the author of the blog Counting Willows.


  1. says

    I tamed the Pinterest monster by limiting myself to the following boards: Do This Month, Do Next Month and Done. It’s not like you won’t be able to find things again. Most pins are repeats anyway.

    • says

      Wow, Lisa! That’s tough love for sure! I don’t know if I would be disciplined enough to limit myself to three boards, but I admire that you’re able to do it in a way that helps you get things done!

  2. says

    I’ve done a January cleanout of (most of) my email folders — there is such a flood of offers that come in during November and December that my brain basically shuts down on dealing with them during that timeframe. I unsubscribed to a few lists, found a couple freebie downloads still available — and am really ticked off with the company whose “unsubscribe” link led me to a nonfunctioning page. I also updated my screensaver for January, and am in the middle of organizing the files in my “recipes” folder. It’s already made it a lot easier to find recipes for meal planning.

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