We've all read the popular decluttering books. You know, those ones that talk about keeping objects that spark joy, and tossing those that are boring, redundant or broken?
Like me, I'm sure you've done tours of your house, travelling room to room, filling bags with items to toss or donate.
But what about your computer? Your hard drive? Your cloud storage?
How many megabytes (gigabytes) of unnecessary digital clutter are you storing?
The clean slateThis month my husband got a new laptop. His previous computer was over a decade old and was giving warning signs for weeks before it collapsed completely. He managed to back up the important files onto a hard drive, and then ordered a sleek, neat, compact, new laptop.
Not because of the RAM, or the high resolution screen, or the amazing speakers... it's magical because it's almost empty.
It's a clean slate; a tabula rasa. It is ready to facilitate any new idea or project, and isn't yet bogged down by countless megabytes of extra data (we all know computers slow down when they're too full of stuff).
There is a wonderful freedom in that simplicity.
In preparation for filling my computer's memory with the scans for two recently completed children's picture books, I analyzed my own computer. It is already FULL of images. I have files and files of scans and artwork, illustrations and clipboard files.
Since 2011 (when I got this computer) I have kept annual inspiration files on my desktop into which I put any images that inspire me. Over the course of 5 years I've accumulated thousands of images. Sometimes they were for specific projects (what does a zebra look like from above?), and sometimes I kept them simply because I liked a colour combination, or a compositional idea, or a way of drawing a face or expression. Often I saved an image because of an idea that automatically came into my mind when I saw it, sometimes only tangentially related to the image. Some inspired me once, but when I look at them now, I can't remember why.
All those thousands of pictures were sitting in the annual folders on my desktop, making my computer and my workplace cluttered.
This was in addition to all the folders of my own artwork, photographs and illustrations.
So, I dedicated part of this bank holiday weekend to sorting through those folders (and others). I deleted thousands of files.
1. Clear off your computer desktop (I'm still working on this). It makes a huge difference.
2. Clean out your downloads folder regularly.
3. Go through your photos regularly (monthly?). Discard those that are blurry or duplicates. Then find a way to display the ones you love. Maybe actually print a few!
4. Find a file structure that works for you and stick to it. I group my artwork into folders by year, and then into subfolders by project. This keeps everything organized and easy to find.
5. Delete ruthlessly.
6. a) Back everything up regularly in a hard drive or cloud storage
6. b) While you're doing that, delete anything in your hard drive or cloud storage you know you don't need anymore (this includes Evernote, and similar programs). Just because files don't take up physical space doesn't mean the can't weigh you down mentally.
7. Bask in the free, floating feeling of knowing that your digital life is streamlined and easy to manage.
And while you're at it... give your screen and keyboard a good clean.
Take a deep breath.
You'll feel like a new person. And you'll feel like you've gotten a new laptop without having spent a cent.