Friday, February 22, 2013

Virtual clutter

by mikemcilveen via Flickr
It should come as no surprise to you that I hate clutter. I have a pretty low tolerance for stuff lying around my living spaces and don't generally like useless things that fill up space. I find that it's hard for me to think and be efficient if I'm surrounded by things in disarray. I tend to feel very frazzled and go in circles, physically and mentally, when there's just too much around me.

While it's not as immediately obvious as actual, physical things in front of me, sometimes I find myself feeling overwhelmed and circling and I'll realize it's because I have too much virtual clutter demanding my attention: email, text messages, voice mails, friends on social media. When I find this is the case, I take a few extra minutes to get it organized. How? Here's my general plan of attack:

  • Delete the obvious: an email with an expired coupon code; an invitation for a past event; spam; texts from an ex; a one night stand's phone number; a voicemail reminder from your doctor's office for last month's visit; a person you friended on Facebook, but haven't seen or talked to in a year (or find their updates particularly annoying). Delete! Just get it out of your life. 
  • File away the important, but not urgent stuff: create folders and or tags and use them! Did a friend email you a long article that you'd like to read, but don't think you'll get around to it this week? Put it in a "too read later" folder. Just bought something online and they emailed you the receipt? File it away in a receipts folder. This stuff doesn't need to be in your sight every time you check your email.
  • Act on things that need to be done: Need to pay a bill that you just got an email about? Pay it. Did an invite come in that needs to be added to your calendar? Add it. A la Getting Things Done, if it takes less than 2 minutes, just do it right when it enters your radar and then either delete or file away the corresponding message. 
  • Hold on to the good stuff: the things left over should be things that bring you joy to see. Keep that text and or voicemail from your significant other that gives you butterflies, the encouraging email from your best friend. When you're having a bad day, seeing these bits of greatness snuggled in between more daunting things can really make a difference.
  • One last bit of advice: less stuff coming in means there will be less stuff to pile up and create clutter for you. If you find yourself barely looking at an email subscription or newsletter that comes in, be sure to unsubscribe. Find all of those social media notifications annoying? Change your preferences so you don't get emails or alerts on your phone every time someone breathes while they're using Facebook.
I know that none of this is rocket science, but I find that I start to feel like it's normal to be completely inundated with useless virtual notices if I'm not constantly reminded that my mind is much more at ease when I get my online life organized and less in my face all of the time. 

Speaking of which, my email is in disperate need of inbox zero. Guess what my weekend project is? :-)


  1. A certain young sir you and I knew in college (he had a hat...) had a serious problem with digital clutter. When I cleaned up my music collection sophomore year, he was insistent that I send him everything before I deleted it. His computer was filled with files that were ages old that he would never access or need, and at least as long as we were close he had never deleted anything. I hope he got into the cloud or cleaned up his computer, at least.

    1. Oh man, I'm pretty bad with music files too. I should get around to cleaning those up real soon!