It’s hard to miss a pile or stack of stuff sitting on your desk, but it can be surprisingly easy to overlook the clutter on your computer.
Digital disorganization can be just as stressful and physical clutter, especially when you can’t find that one file you need for the accountant.
In honor of National Clean Out Your Computer Day, let’s Unstuff your Virtual Life!
Here’s five things you can do in under an hour to clean out your computer.
1. Scan your computer for redundant or duplicate files.
Both Mac and Windows computers have built-in storage managers that can help you identify large files, and there are plenty of third-party apps that find duplicate files that are cluttering up your system.
To find those large unwanted files taking up your precious disk space, go to your Settings app. Once in Settings, click on System, then Storage. You should now see a list of folders and files that occupy the most space. Sort through this list and delete the large files you don’t need anymore. You should also run a Disk Cleanup to erase temporary files. If you need to free up more space, check out this Windows Support Guide.
It’s not always easy to locate the duplicate files on a Windows PC without a third party program, so here are some free programs that we recommend:
With macOS, version 10.13, also known as High Sierra, you already have a Disk Cleanup equivalent. Click the Apple in the top left corner of your screen and select “About This Mac.” When that window opens, click the Storage tab, then click Manage. In this window, you can delete unwanted applications or files you haven’t used in a while, or move files from your hard drive to iCloud. There is also a Reduce Clutter option that will make recommendations about files you haven’t accessed in a while. If you want to manually sort through your files, open the Finder app and click the column labeled, “Date Last Opened” to see your files based on when you accessed them last.
Though it is possible to use the Smart Folder option in Finder to locate duplicate files, it can be a daunting task, so these are some free programs that can help you with that:
2. Email Inbox
Creating subfolders in your inbox can make your inbox less intimidating to sort through. Once you have created subfolders, you can add rules or filters so that your incoming emails will sort themselves into their appropriate folders upon arrival.
I use two e-mail addresses—one for personal + professional correspondence, and one for all online subscriptions, banking, and shopping, so I’m not overwhelmed by nonessential e-mails throughout the day. I can check the second e-mail address once a day—there’s never anything that requires my immediate attention coming to that email address.
I have included an email worksheet at the bottom of this post that will help you sort through your emails.
Bookmarks (sometimes called Favorites in Internet Explorer and other browsers) are great tools for getting us to favorite sites on the web, but without some organization, their effectiveness is lost.
If you have a running list of all your bookmarks in no particular order under the main tab labeled Bookmarks in your browser, your only chances of finding a particular bookmark again would be to scroll until you came across it or to remember when you created it and then search for it near other sites you marked on or around the same date. Neither option does much to save you time and take advantage of the convenience of actually bookmarking sites in the first place.
To organize your bookmarks, use the same approach outlined for paper filing in chapter 4 of Unstuff Your Life! Identify categories of subjects and interests that groups of bookmarks would fall under and then create corresponding folders to contain your bookmarks.
Your Bookmarks Toolbar is the place to keep the sites you visit the most frequently.
Even more convenient than organized bookmarks in expanding folders, these shortcuts to favorite sites live right in your toolbar so they are displayed in every open browser window, making any site literally one mouse click away. Every browser lets you customize how windows and tabs are displayed, and that includes customizing your bookmarks and bookmarks toolbar. Take advantage of this convenience to personalize and streamline your Web surfing activities.
There are multiple ways to keep track of your usernames and passwords. You can create a document or spreadsheet that lists all the information. Just make sure you keep that document somewhere you will remember and have easy access to it AND it is safely stored or encrypted to protect these valuable assets.
There are also third-party apps that offer a digital vault for your usernames and passwords.
These programs usually have an auto-fill feature that can make this the more convenient option for use. Your browser probably offers to store your login information as well, but programs like LastPass let you share your login information with someone, without them having the ability to see the password. LastPass is also available as a smart phone app, which is very helpful on the go. There are many other programs that will store your information securely, but LastPass is free and works very well. We use it in our office.
5. Social Media Feeds
If your social media feeds are starting to stress you out because of their disorganization rather than just the colossal time waste they usually are, it may help to clean them up a bit.
On Facebook, you can unfollow friends or pages that you no longer want to see on your timeline. The unfollow option lets you remain friends with that person, but without seeing their posts on your main news feed.
Instagram can become a little cluttered as well, especially if you follow new accounts as part of a contest. Go through the list of people you follow and only keep the accounts you enjoy looking at.
Lastly, if you use any of your accounts for business, do a quick check on your bio and personal details. Are your contact details correct? Are your links up to date?
If you’re ready for a comprehensive program to get AND stay organized for good, check out the Unstuff Your Life System™. In 7 simple steps, you will completely unstuff your life and keep it that way.
One of the pioneers of professional organizing and productivity, Andrew Mellen is the best-selling author of Unstuff Your Life!. He travels the world speaking, teaching, and coaching individuals and global brands including the New York Mets, Genentech, American Express, Time, Inc. and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.