7 Simple Steps to Organizing Your Digital Life

We all know that our digital lives are fully and completely integrated into the regular aspects of our life at this point. Even for those of us who take “powered off” days, the addiction is a little bit too real…which is okay (at this point, I think it would honestly be hard to be fully participating in society without being so plugged in!) 
With all of these different ways of connecting now, it can be a little hard to keep track of things. Your ‘storage full’ notification might be popping up constantly, or your email inbox might give you a headache, it could take you ages to find a specific file in your computer or photo in your camera roll…the list just goes on an on!

That is why I’ve decided to put my Type-A organization skills to good use and come up with an 7-Step Guide to Organizing Your Digital Life. I do this from time to time whenever I’m feeling stressed or anxious and it really helps ground me and make me feel like I’m in better control. 
(And don’t worry – you don’t have to tackle everything at once, but even doing one of these steps will help de-stress your lifestyle and free up your mind, I promise!)

1. Start With Your Computer
Obviously this one can have a lot of steps to it, but for me there are two key things that will make the biggest difference (and in reality don’t take that much time!) First, stop using your desktop as a virtual junk drawer. You wouldn’t leave every folder, paper and photo you possess on top of your desk, would you?! (Well, maybe you would but…for the purposes of this post we will assume you are working on that!) I treat my desktop as a temporary space. Only the things I am working on right then have a place on my desktop, and as soon as I am done with them, they are sent off to their proper place. Trust me, it is very satisfying to actually be able to see your desktop background!

Which leads me to number two…everything, and I mean everything, should have a place. This might be a big project the first time you do it, but after that it will make things unbelievably easier. Categories and sub-categories are the best way to do this. The possibilities for this are endless, but my computer has Home, Work, PrepEssentials, Photos, School, Medical, Travel, and Finances. All of these are broken up into dozens of subcategories which will vary depending on your need. Even if you have to organize things like photos into “2015” and “2016”…it’s a start, and you will always be able to find what you need instantly!

2. The Dreaded Email De-Clutter
I’m sure you’ve heard of people getting to ‘Inbox Zero’ and your jaw has dropped…but it is so much easier than it sounds. (Personally, my inbox is at zero every single Sunday, no matter what!) Similar to your computer, all you need to do is make folders and use autosort features. My categories are essentially the same as on my laptop, but I’ve also added in extras such as ‘promotions & discounts’, and ‘important receipts’. Almost all inboxes these days will have an autosort feature, so every J.Crew email and delightful ‘Your Order Has Shipped’ notification can be kept somewhere safe, without lingering in your inbox. If I’m out shopping, I can simply type in a store name and find any coupons or sales going on that might be useful!

3. Unsubscribe
Speaking of those lovely little discount emails we get from our favorite friends in the retail world, sometimes they are beyond exhausting. Honestly, Banana Republic & J.Crew, you two are some of my favorites of all time, but do I really need to hear from you 2-3 times a day? The worst part is, anytime you try to update your preferences or unsubscribe from your phone, it’s as if they know exactly what format they can use to make it so mind-numbingly difficult to do it that you give up when you’re halfway there! There are two great ways to approach this issue and make it so much easier.. My first recommendation is to use Unroll.Me. It’s an incredibly fast and easy way to unsubscribe from the countless email lists you don’t even recall joining in the first place, thanks to those fun little auto-checked boxes you overlook when you’re excited about a new online purchase.

The next option is to do what I did right after graduation, which was to allow them all to accumulate in my inbox for 3-4 days (yes, this drove me insane) and then sit down on a laptop to tackle them all. That unsubscribe button isn’t nearly as difficult from an actual computer, and it ends up being a lot easier to handle them all at once.

4. Where Should I Put My 900 Selfies?
Just kidding…I truly hate selfies. But I am a big fan of asking people who take photos to take as many as possible so I can be sure to capture the 1-2 ‘magic’ ones that everyone approves of. Inevitably, those 20 duplicates of the same photo end up hanging out in my camera roll taking up space. My new favorite way of tackling excessive camera roll activity is with Google Photos. Store everything in the cloud (for free) and feel comfortable about hitting that delete button to the selfies, duplicates, screenshots, and 29 pictures of that unbelievable sunset from last weekend, because rest-assured…they are safe and sound.

5. There’s an App for That
Having upgraded my phone storage size to 32GB last year, I’ve been thoroughly enjoying the ability to download as many games, photo editing apps, transportation helpers and social media accounts as my heart desires…but seriously, who needs all of these things?!

I like to have the apps I use every day front and center where I can see and find them at the swipe of a finger, but for those other apps that you use almost never…they can be organized into categories and stored on your farthest screen for occasional use. If you’re not sure who should get to stay in the front row, start by putting every single app into one big folder (I know, this is terrible, but hear me out!) Every time you want to use an app, take it out of the folder and give it a place on the screen. You will very quickly reveal which ones you play favorites with, and which ones can hang out in the background until it’s their time to shine. Speaking of my favorites and organization, these are my 5 Essential Apps to Stay Organized in 2016!

6. Take Note
Another often ignored section of your phone that is likely a messy pile of clutter is your Notes! I use this to jot down literally any thought that pops into my head…a restaurant that looks cool, a blog post idea, a phone number, a recommendation from a friend…anything! 6 months later I scroll to the bottom and realize I only know what half of those notes mean, and the other half are no longer needed or relevant! Take a second and consolidate everything into a handful of needed notes. Would you believe I found 14 different grocery lists (all containing essentially the same core items) scattered in mine once?!

7. Protect Your Efforts
I am officially the most guilty person of all with this one. I haven’t backed up my computer in years. Yep, you read that correctly. I learned the hard way, 7 months ago, when my entire hard-drive decided to fail and completely die. I was faced with an option of paying over $1000 to try and professionally recover all of my data to a new hard-drive, OR spend about 5 hours watching YouTube videos in between crying and having panic attacks while I taught myself how to transfer everything over myself. Believe me…it’s not worth it.

Somehow I convinced myself that external hard-drives cost hundreds upon hundreds of dollars. They do not! You can even get amazing little portable ones if you’re constantly working on the go like I am when I write my posts! If it’s just you and one computer, 1TB should be more than enough. For multiple computers and devices, 2TB or 3TB is a better option. Shop some of my favorite (affordable) options below!

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Of course, there are a lot more to our digital lives than the place we store and keep things…looking at you, Instagram & Pinterest! For help on how to clean up and de-clutter your social media favorites, I’ve put together a checklist for all of those too!

After all of that organizing, let’s not forget the most fun part of our technology pals – customization! Shop some of my favorites below, and check out even more here!

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How often do you go through and de-clutter your digital life? For those of you that have tried it, do you have any other methods I should think about? Would love to hear your ideas!

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