By Marissa Miller. Photo: Getty.
Spring is on the horizon, which means the time for downsizing is nigh. When was the last time you deleted toxic acquaintances from your contact list? Or skimmed your photo album for memories you’d rather forget? Maybe you haven’t used an entire page of apps in the past year or a handful of unopened podcasts are contributing to that ever-dreaded “Storage Almost Full” message.
Like a bursting wardrobe, we often struggle to let go of apps or programs we never have nor will never use. Turns out the struggle is real—or, at any rate, scientific: A Yale School of Medicine study shows the anterior cingulate cortex and the insula in our brains, which are associated with pain and conflict, tend to activate when hoarders throw junk away. Nevertheless, as any Marie Kondo fan will attest, there are emotional benefits to tidiness, too.
Here, tips on getting a handle on all that digital clutter.
Consolidate your apps.
Two-in-one shampoo and conditioner might wreak havoc on your hair, but combining apps will save you home-screen headaches. Studies show that the more time we spend browsing social media, the more our peers tend to influence our emotions—and not for the better. Stick to one or two platforms that offer the most features that matter to you, such as Instagram, which lets you post, private-message, tag friends, and broadcast live.
And be sure to think twice the next time you download a new app. “If you read an article about an app and immediately download it, it may just sits there. Have a purpose in mind when you get your app. Otherwise it’s information overload,” advises Peggy Duncan, a personal productivity expert.
Delete with reckless abandon.
Oprah once said if you haven’t worn something in two years, you probably don’t need it. Chuck it or donate it. Apply that same strategy to your apps. If you can’t remember the last time you used the program or opened the file, send it to the trash.
If your desktop resembles a Jackson Pollock painting, you're likely wasting valuable time locating important files—or, worse, losing them altogether. Duncan warns that individual files on a desktop might not get saved to the Cloud. Solution? File them into broad folders.
Group like subjects together by using the broadest categories possible, then break them down intuitively. For example, start with marketing, then include subfiles like public relations, and within that, print, TV, radio, and web.
“It needs to be logical for you,” Duncan says.
But don’t delete important files for the sake of minimalism. Duncan also recommends a folder on your desktop titled something along the lines of “I might need this” filled with all those miscellaneous receipts or documents. If you haven’t needed those files in a year, feel free to purge them.
No matter how organized your digital files, a device is useless if physical clutter prevents you from reaching the keyboard or charging it efficiently. If you’re stranded in a sea of wires, use this easy organizational tip: Keep devices with their respective chargers and wires together by tagging them with like-colored stickers and binding cables together so they don’t get misplaced.
Clutter isn’t only a visual nightmare—it can be distracting, too. This is especially true for pesky push notifications. You don’t really need a real-time account of who is liking your photos, do you? Turning them off will eliminate a constant source of digital chatter and force you to live in the moment instead.
Sync your schedule.
We tend to equate mindfulness with sticking to the basics, like avoiding electronics. That rings true in many cases, but not for organization. Your digital calendar synched up to all your devices is one of your greatest assets in streamlining productivity. This is the one case where you’ll definitely want to activate notifications. You can also modify the alert tone based on the nature of the event, from in-office meetings to appointments across town. This creates a Pavlovian effect, training your brain to respond and prepare for whatever your day throws at you.
This story originally appeared on Vogue.
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