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Digital housecleaning: How to eliminate digital clutter

By Kristin Hoppe

December 9, 2021


It's one thing to see clutter gather in your home — it's right in front of you, and you can see the piles and disorganization wherever you turn. It's quite another with your computer, where it's easy to squirrel away digital information and largely ignore it.

But over time, that digital clutter adds up. It slows down your computer and makes everyday work more stressful. Instead of opting for additional storage space (like an external hard drive), let’s go over some steps you can take to eliminate digital clutter from your day-to-day experience.

Designate a semi-regular cleaning time

Similar to your car, a computer needs regular maintenance to run well. Excessive documents or information slow down your computer's capabilities for speed and make your experience less seamless and enjoyable. Set aside time — like an hour at the end of every month — to do a little spring cleaning and remove excessive clutter. This could also be a time to run software updates or virus scans, which will also protect your information from bad actors.

Related article: Guide: How to organize your digital information 

Clean up your desktop

Opening your computer to a clean and organized desktop is the psychological equivalent of having a made bed in the morning. It primes you to expect either organization or chaos when starting your day. After you've done this task, try to save new files to designated folders instead of automatically putting them in the desktop or download folder.

Sort through home photography and videos

In the United States, the average person takes 20 photos a day. That’s about 7,300 photos a year — and we guarantee you're not poring over every single one of them. Designate some time to eliminate photos that don't have any sentimental or emotional meaning to you. This gives you an opportunity to highlight the ones that do, including putting them in special folders or sharing them with your loved ones.

Decide what should go in the cloud

You won't miss some digital documents if they disappear overnight, like a silly GIF from The Office or an old installation program for Photoshop. But you may be in pain losing important information like your estate plan, emergency contact information, or important passwords. Some information should always be securely stored in the cloud, so it's not dependent on the health or longevity of the device you're using.

Popular cloud storage programs include:

  • Google Drive - Offers cloud storage to share and collaborate on files and folders from different devices

  • OneDrive - Personal cloud storage from Microsoft that allows you to access photos and files from desktop or mobile

  • Dropbox - Online storage that individuals, families, and companies use to organize their information and collaborate

  • Apple iCloud - A service from Apple that stores information like Notes, photos, and files

  • Trustworthy - A Family Operating System® that specifically helps you organize important family information in a highly secure environment

Purge oversized and unused files

Sometimes the most benign files take up the most space on your computer. One easy way to see what's taking up the most space is to look at the documents folder on your computer and sort by size. In case you're unfamiliar with file sizes, the following go from largest to smallest:

  • 1 terabyte (TB) equals 1000 gigabytes

  • 1 gigabyte (GB) equals 1000 megabytes

  • 1 megabyte (MB) equals 1000 kilobytes (KB)

The typical items you have on your computer will usually be in either KB or MB. You may be surprised to find that some of your largest files are videos, photographs, game files, or other media, like podcast downloads or movies. 

This gives you an easy opportunity to eliminate any of the items you no longer need, starting with the larger ones and going from there. Look at the largest file sizes and ask yourself what's actually necessary to keep.

Another approach is sorting by date. Look at files that you haven't opened in the past month, year, or beyond. Do you really need them, or are they just sitting around and taking up space?

Empty your trash bin

Don't forget to empty your digital trash or recycling bin after you've completed your digital clutter purge — those files are still taking up space on your computer until this action is complete. Some digital trash bins automatically empty themselves after 30 days, so it's always good to check up on your computer's automatic settings.

Designate a special place for important information

Certain information should never be buried in a maze of file folders or thrown in with other random files. In particular, you should designate a place that is easy to navigate and securely stored in the cloud for your family to access. That includes information like:

IDs

  • Social Security card

  • Driver's license

  • Passport

  • Birth certificate

  • Marriage license

  • Vaccine card

Property

  • Mortgage

  • Home deed

  • Property taxes

Insurance

  • Health insurance cards

  • Medical

  • Dental

  • Vision

  • Life insurance

  • Auto insurance

  • Home insurance

  • Umbrella insurance

Taxes

  • Annual tax returns

Estate documents

  • Family trust

  • Will and testament

  • Power of attorney

  • Medical directives

Emergency planning

  • Babysitter instructions

  • Emergency equipment information

Family archives

  • Baby photos

  • Family tree

  • Wedding album

This type of information should not be saved exclusively on your hard drive, because it could be easily lost if your computer crashes. Saving it in an insecure cloud storage solution is also risky, due to the sensitive nature of the information. Solutions like Trustworthy combine the convenience of organization with the peace of mind of 256-bit encryption — the same level of security that banks use. Your family deserves a solution that delivers the best of both worlds.

Trustworthy can help

Trustworthy is the Family Operating System that has everything you need in one place to keep your family organized. Our online platform provides bank-level security and premium concierge service. You can try a two-week free trial here.

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