While I have been musing a lot lately on health and fitness, having excess in all parts of my life have become more evident.  Truthfully, I’ve been blessed with a lot of “stuff” over the years, and it simply hasn’t stopped.  Even with my best efforts at organization and storage, all this really does is create more room … for more stuff!  For those with access to digital technology, its time we spent some real time on this topic.  Today, I wanted to share with you a few ways that we are all digital hoarders and tips on how to become more digitally lean.

1.  Unfriend and Unfollow:  When I do “Digital Identity” training for students and staff, this topic challenges them the most.  Its not your fault that you may feel this way.  Think of the lexicon that Facebook and Twitter uses: “Friend” and “Follower.”  Both denote personal feelings that tie perceived value to these numbers.  However, it is important to realize that our digital friends and followers are simply digital connections, nothing more.  You know that you are not really “friends” with all those social connections, so its time to do a purge and stay connected with those who really matter to you.

Action Steps: Ask yourself why you use social media tools and if your connections add value to the time you spend on them.  If they do not, its time to unfriend, unfollow and unconnect.  It certainly should not mean a change in your in-person relationship, but if it does, I would question that connection to begin with.  Your online connections should mirror your offline relationships.  As you “unfriend” in Facebook, know that they will still be connected to you as a “subscriber” and receive your “public” updates.

2.  Electronic Communication: Achieving “Inbox Zero” should no longer be a “once in a while” thing, but should be an everyday thing.  (I know, I know.) Many of you reading this think I’m nuts, but once you commit to managing your inbox(es) instead of your inbox(es) managing you, it makes a huge difference in your stress levels.

Action Steps: Go through your inbox(es) right now and go through each email and reply, delete, file or add it to your “to-do” list.  Simply put, your inbox(es) shouldn’t be a “catch-all” or a “to do list.”  Start with the goal of leaving for the weekend with your inbox(es) at zero emails and as you consistently achieve that, start trying to do it every day. It isn’t easy, but well worth the time invested once you reach your goal.

3.  Mobile Apps, Photos, and Music: You don’t need all those apps, photos, and music on your mobile device. (I mean, I realize you think you do, but you really don’t.) 🙂  The more you files you save on your device, the slower overall performance of it and since speed is such an important factor in the mobile experience, its time to lighten your mobile load.  If you really need to save these things on your device, use an SD card (unless you are an iPhone user) 🙂

Action Steps: Delete the apps you haven’t used in a week, since you can always download them again when you really need it.  If you’re on an Android device, use widgets to view your email, calendar, news and weather instead of opening apps.  Use Dropbox’s “Camera Upload” feature to auto upload a copy of your photos to the cloud.  Once you do this, free up space on your camera each month by unloading all of your  pictures off your phone.  If you want to view your pics, use DropBox.  If you have a iOS device, activate iCloud’s Photo Stream which does similar things.  In terms of music, I would recommend listening to your entire music library via Google Music or iCloud.  I rarely keep music on my device now, but if I were to do so, I would only keep the music I really love.  For music variety, Spotify, Pandora and many similar radio apps are available.

4.  Laptop Files: For all your software, photos, and music on your laptop or desktop computer, take the advice from point 3.  The other advice I would offer is to really embrace the cloud for your most used files and an external harddrive for more sensitive data.  Most of my files are on an external drive,with my most used files over the last two years on Dropbox (yes, I pay for more storage for convenience.)

Action Steps:  Twice a year unload all your files onto an external hardrive (the more music, videos, and photos you have, the more terabytes you need.)  Once you clean out your computer, delete all old software that you don’t use anymore.  Update all the remaining software, especially your operating system as they come available (don’t wait) and if your hardware has any “firmware” updates, complete those as well.  If you’re running a PC, its important to still defragment (or “Optimize” in Windows 8) your harddrives once a month, but especially after you move and update all your files.  Finally, when you move the files you most regularly use back onto your laptop, organize them properly and rename them so you can find them easily in search.  You’ll be amazed at how much faster your machine is when you do this regularly.

While this may seem like a lot for some and just right for others, its important to recognize, admit, and deal with the excess we may have in our digital lives.  If our devices are digital mirrors of ourselves, we need to do a better job in managing what we take on so we don’t get overwhelmed, or our devices will not equally as balanced as we may be.

Please… stop hoarding and be digitally lean in 2013!

Are you a “digital hoarder?”  How do you keep all of your digital files and apps in check? What tips do you have to share?

(Photo Credit: istockPhoto #22233659)


  • This is something I am actively working on, thank you for this timely post! #4 is my biggest difficulty; I need to learn more about the cloud, and how to best use it in my life.

  • I love this post! I recently had a twitter breaking point where I realized people I followed out of “necessity” were distracting from those I really cared about! I restructured my twitter to be more list focused and it’s been fantastic- almost as good as that feeling when you dump a bunch of paper files!

  • Interesting post. Some really great suggestions. But I notice you don’t address the issue of “hardware” and the environmental choices we make in having to constantly have the newest gadget and multiple gadgets on the go. I have often questioned this and consider this to be the worse kind of digital hoarding. Does every member of my family need an iphone, ipad, laptop, leapster, nintendo DS, etc. etc. Do we need to upgrade devices (iphone 4s to iphone5) just because it is new? can we do more with less?
    When I think of hoarding, this immediately comes to mind. i think of the long term impact of all this electronic waste as I think about 2 seconds faster download time on some device someone thinks they “must” have.

    • Jen, great point by you and one I hadn’t really considered. While some may upgrade because they feel like they have to, others upgrade simply because the technology they have is outdated and does not work with newer infrastructure. Could we do more with less, probably. The challenge is teaching people how to use their technology more efficiently, instead of thinking it can only do just a few things. Thanks for your comment!

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