Declutter your Digital Life: Digital Cleanup Day March 16


We give a lot of thought to how we can care for our physical environment, but have you ever considered just how much waste we generate digitally? March 16 is Digital Cleanup Day, and organisers are encouraging us to go Marie Kondo on our digital lives. 

Did you know that a single email creates roughly 4 grams of CO2? The same as using a light bulb for 6 minutes? Or that the internet generates over 900 million tons of CO2 per year? I didn’t! But there are other benefits to a digital declutter too: prolonging device life, simplifying information sharing and discovery, and reducing costs associated with storage, to name just a few.

I decided to get into the spirit of things by doing my own digital declutter in the lead up to the day. I followed Digital Cleanup Day for individuals steps, and you can see how it went below.

My Digital Cleanup: A cluttered librarian's dive into her digital quagmire

Step 1: Clean up your smartphone

This step started off well. I went into “Manage Apps” on my phone and deleted all the ones that said “never used” underneath. Except the compass, I still maintain that will come in handy ONE day. Unexpected benefit: I can see my phone’s wallpaper for the first time! It’s hideous. I have now changed said wallpaper.

I then moved to photos and videos and this is where things got interesting.  This is a big one for me. I have them in three places: on my phone, in google photos, and also backed up onto a solid-state hard drive. I’m aware that I have some deep-seated psychological issues surrounding the cloud. Don’t trust it, but can’t explain why. I wasn’t able to completely resolve those issues in the time it took to write this blog post; this may require years of therapy. However, I did psych myself up with a strong cup of coffee and actually delete the media on my phone. And I now have a phone that opens apps more or less instantaneously, huzzah!

2: Clean up your computer hard drive

My computer at work was recently upgraded so this was the perfect opportunity to do a digital declutter on my desktop. Yes, I had one of those desktops where you can’t find the recycle bin. Again, my irrational cloud mistrust issues reared their ugly head and it took me a hot minute to work up the courage to delete duplicate files. But not only can I see my wallpaper now, I’m already noticing that it’s easier to find things. And for me the clean desktop is motivating; everything has its place (for now).

3: Clean up your mailbox

This one was pretty straight forward. I followed the advice on the Digital Cleanup Day checklist here and filtered my emails to display from oldest to newest and then archived or deleted them as appropriate. I searched by keyword to find alert/notification emails and did a bulk delete of these.  I unsubscribed from a fortnightly newsletter I hadn’t been reading. Huzzah!

4: Make new arrangements

This step is ongoing for me. I think the biggest change I can make here is to more fully embrace using the cloud. I could also apply the 'think before you back up' mantra a little more adeptly, especially when it comes to photos and videos. Like, instead of backing up all 36 of the photos I took of that Kookaburra sitting on the give-way sign, couldn’t I just choose the best 2 or 3? Food for thought.

All in all, I officially declare my digital cleanup a success. You too can participate and dust out the digital cobwebs. There are loads of great resources on the Digital Cleanup Day website, including some guidelines tailored to smartphones, computers and emails. You can even register your progress and help in tracking the success of this campaign. That's all from the (newly) decluttered librarian for now, happy cleaning everyone!