Back in 2019, Marie Kondo swept the world and everybody’s homes with her Netflix series on the art of organisation and decluttering. Now, she’s poised to bring her tidying skills to other aspects of our lives.
Her advice? Keep only those items that spark joy and discard the rest.
It was a new way of thinking about tidying up a living space.
Being home-based, your main access to the outside world is through your digital devices. With the barrage of information at your fingertip, everything you watch, hear and read may feel overwhelming.
But you don’t have to be glued to your devices all day. There are other things to do with a more positive impact on your mind than what you find in the digital space. To tidy up your mental state, a “digital detox” may be just what you need.
Benefits of a social media cleanse
Before you move forward with a digital cleanse and start deleting files or apps, take a moment to pause and think about minimising your screen time.
It can be five minutes or even an hour away from digital life.
Your mind is the first place you have to tidy up. In fact, in the end, it’s mainly your mental health that will benefit from a digital declutter.
InHow to Do Nothing, Jenny Odell talks about the attention economy, the way it keeps us in “a profitable state of anxiety, envy, and distraction”. These companies have designed every minute of our day, so we spend it engaging in an endless cycle of news, advertising, emails, and productivity.
Sometimes the best thing you can allow yourself to do is precisely that: nothing. Step outside, sit on the grass, observe the world around you without having to broadcast it to strangers or followers online.
So, ask yourself these questions: why do you want to have less time online? Do you want to pursue a particular lifestyle, such as the minimalist, off-the-grid ideal? Are you afraid of missing out on moments in your personal life?
Clarify your motivations, your goals and what you are willing to do to achieve them, then once you have your mind set on where, why and how you’ll go about tidying your digital space, you’ll have taken the first and most essential step.
Take time offline
Now, it’s time to choose how and when you’ll allow yourself to engage with the digital world. You can choose to completely cut yourself off from scrolling mindlessly on your mobile phone.
You can try one day off, a week or a month. Be realistic because you have to make significant changes in your routine to set new habits.
If you go offline completely, you need to consider how you’ll go about your responsibilities and daily tasks without your mobile phone and social media.
How will you get work done? How will people contact you? There are many strategies for curbing technology use (old school and cutting edge) you can discover.
Establish barriers between you and social media
For one, you can establish boundaries between your real life and digital life. This method applies whether you’re going entirely offline for an extended period or simply taking control of your screen usage.
Boundaries work well when starting your offline journey, keeping you from spending too much time on apps or websites.
One way you can go about this is by reducing the information on your social media feeds. If you can’t completely delete your accounts, you can lessen the content you expose yourself to.
Unfollow pages, personalities, and other sources of information that you don’t actually need or align with.
If you’re comparing yourself to influences on Instagram or only receiving negative news from Twitter (i.e. “Doomscrolling“), you can curate your feed to function as a positive, inspiring space.
Research shows that Instagram is the WORST app for self-esteem. According to a 2017 study of 1,500 young British Instagram users, Instagram is responsible for an astonishing rate of depression, anxiety, and body image issues.
Unsubscribe from Youtube channels that aren’t important. Even on LinkedIn, keep yourself available to high-quality connections only. Do the same with your Facebook and any other account for a cleaner and healthier online interface.
If you can’t bring yourself to delete your social media accounts, you can instead clean your web browsers like Chrome or Edge. Delete bookmarks of web pages you no longer use or visit. Only save websites that are essential for work or school.
You can even set time slots strictly for online leisure, answering emails, responding to instant messages, and other digital tasks.
Unfortunately, most workplaces require us to be online every day. Merlin Mann started the Inbox Zero movement to manage the never-ending list of tasks that flood our devices.
If you need an extra push, there are apps dedicated to blocking you from your favourite apps and sites (Ironic, we know).
Decluttering your files: trim down or transfer
Once you have taken care of your online life, you can move on and organise your computer and mobile files.
This part will be pretty straightforward.
Tidy up your digital workspace by deleting all software shortcuts from the startup screen. Instead, keep your shortcuts inside one folder or multiple categorical folders.
You can then pin these folders and shortcuts to Start for Windows computers, the Dock for Mac computers, or your phone or tablet’s home screen.
As long as you don’t access them daily, the rest of your files are disposable or at least transferrable. You can use cloud storage or cloud services like Dropbox or Google drive to remove unnecessary files from your gadgets.
Alternatively, you can transfer files to an external hard drive. You’ll quickly sift through your photo library, song playlists, podcasts, and documents this way. While still being able to access them, too, so no harm done.
Employ the Marie Kondo Method for digital decluttering
Organise your files
The KonMari Method may also help in your digital decluttering. It’s relatively simple to achieve. First, organise all your files by categories and not by their location.
Consolidate files from the downloads folder, videos folder, and other locations that relate to work, your personal life, and leisure. You can make different categories as you see fit.
Delete, delete, delete
After categorising your files, delete everything you don’t need or no longer open. You’ll be surprised at how little you actually need to move forward with your life.
Minimise or altogether remove subfolders too, and keep everything in large folders. You can see your files better this way, and it will help in the long-term maintenance of a decluttered digital space.
You can do this with your Gmail account too. You’ll quickly reach an inbox zero if you delete all the unnecessary emails. Delete unread social media notifications and newsletters, as well. Keep only the important emails and ones that you still have to reply to.
Process new data immediately
The digital cleanse continues long after you’ve deleted files and shut down your laptop!
You still have to process new information that comes your way. It’s now a matter of maintaining the level of organisation and cleanliness so you can continue being mindful year-round.
Maintenance isn’t something to be hung up about.
You can set reminders for yourself using a task manager or a to-do list. Delete files regularly and empty the recycle bin once in a while. You can also continue using the Marie Kondo Method for new information in need of sorting.
Digital declutter for mental health
With the simple steps outlined above, you’ll be able to clear your mind and your digital world!
A digital detox transcends the concept of digital minimalism. The purpose is to clean out your digital space for your sanity and wellbeing.
As long as you declutter your digital life, you can have a decluttered mind too.
In fact, a clear mind is the most valuable asset you can have during these chaotic times.