Declutter Your Tech Life

There’s no time like the present to toss tired apps, clean up your photo storage and tackle old emails.

You probably clean your car regularly, and maybe even your closets too. But when was the last time you cleared out the virtual dust bunnies on your computer desktop or smartphone? Being mindful about your use of tech can actually contribute to your well-being, says Jayne Beilby, founder of the New York City–based company Tech Tonic, which helps people pare down and reorganize their various gadgets. “The less you have to manage, the less stress you’ll have,” she says. That’s because visual mess generates guilt and tells our brains that our work is not done. Here, Beilby offers a checklist to help you get a handle on your virtual clutter. 

Tackle Apps

Most people tend to use 5 to 10 apps, but they can have 50 to 100 on their phone. Deleting unused apps will speed up your device and make it easier for you to quickly access your favorites.

  • Clear all the apps that aren’t on your home screen; if they’re not on the first screen, they’re not important to you. If you miss one in a few days or weeks, reinstall it.
  • Store social media apps and games in a folder labeled “Time Wasters.” The blunt title serves as a reminder to be more mindful with your swipes and taps.

Reduce Photo and Video Storage

“Photos worth keeping should be a memory trigger for an event or behavior,” says Beilby.

  • Start by looking at the oldest videos. Videos take up the most space, and the older they are, the less emotionally attached you’ll be to them.
  • Move the keepers off of your phone or tablet and onto the cloud or a computer. Put them in a folder that gets backed up regularly.

Clean Off Your Desktop

“Freeing up desktop space on your computer also frees up mental space,” says Beilby.

  • Empty the trash or recycle bin, delete downloads and remove duplicate files.
  • Review the bookmarks on your browser. General rule of thumb: If you can get to a site easily by typing in the name, don’t bookmark it. Reserve that for unique or specific pages, like your physician’s web portal.
  • In the Documents folder on your computer, make five to six top-level folders, like Financial, Household, Travel, Receipts, Health, and Kids. Add sublevels if necessary but no more than two or three deep. Then move the files from your desktop to the newly created folders.

Be Ruthless With Email

Get over the fear of deleting something you’ll need down the road. Better to deal with it right away and move on.

  • Opt out of subscriptions that are no longer relevant to you.
  • If you think you’ll need something for a long time (like tax-related emails or receipts), save it in a folder on your computer, not in an email folder. Then delete the email immediately.
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