How to do a Deep Digital Clean - Minimalism to decrease overwhelm, create a clean canvas, and start over on your computer.

At the end of every semester I sit down and look at my computer. The 8 “final” drafts of that history paper saved all over my desktop under different names. The 15 bookmarked scholarly journals used for sources for my capstone paper. The bookmarked online flash card stack labeled “STUDY THIS NOW!” The 860 read and ignored emails from professors, club presidents, and Amazon reminding me that it’s time to return my textbooks.. and the 120 unread emails on top of that. All my notes from the semester in OneNote strewn all over the place…

It’s overwhelming.

It’s time for a fresh start.

One of my favorite things to do is a digital deep clean.

While I always do this at the end of a semester, I also tend do to it about once a month or once every other month so it doesn’t get too crazy in between.

Why do you need a digital deep clean?

Deep cleaning your digital life has a lot of positive outcomes. It gives you a clean slate, a clean pallet, a clean canvas. This can improve your productivity, allow you to become more organized and stay organized, and overall remove any overwhelm caused by digital clutter in your life.

To me, taking a moment to deep clean my digital life has opened many doors for creativity and productivity. While taking the time to go through the digital clutter I discover old projects I forgot about, emails I should have replied to (whoops!), and a whole lot of stuff that I’m ready to let go of and move on from.

How do I do a digital deep clean?

Ahh, I’m so glad you didn’t asked. Here’s how:

1) Organize Those Bookmarks

cleaning digital life
Look at the top of your internet browser right now (unless you’re on your phone.. in which case, just imagine it). See all those bookmarks cluttering up the top of your browser?

Yes – I’m talking about organizing those.

Find trends for your bookmarks, and make folders. Personally, I have a folder for “personal” a folder for “Dani Dearest” and a folder for “School”. Within these folders I have sub-folders such as “recipes” and “want” under my personal folder, “blogs I love” and “resources” under Dani Dearest, and a folder for each class/project under my school folder.

Create folders for your bookmarks based on the trends that you find – maybe you’re a recipe hoarder or love any and all free stock photo websites.. label those and file them away. Also take this time to go through your bookmarks and delete any old broken links/tried-and-failed recipes/things you don’t need anymore. Make it more manageable.

2) Shuffle Through Old Notes

organize digital files

However you brain dump your amazing ideas, take notes for classes, or use digital scratch paper – time to go through it.

For me, this means my OneNote notebooks. I looove OneNote and all the amazing things it can do. I make a new OneNote notebook each semester which I use to compile everything from my to-do lists, my class notes, project ideas, blog post inspirations, and so much more.

Go through all that. Delete, remove, move, organize, file – whatever you have to do to get it into order and clean the pallet for more awesomeness.

3) File Away Old Photos

digital deep clean college

Do these to both your computer and your phone!

Delete those pics of your ex, the blurry ones of that time you thought you saw a cool bird nest in a tree, and all the ones of your friend’s class notes from when you skipped class to go to the beach.

Grab a USB/flash drive or a nice external hard-drive and file away the important photos that you need to keep, but don’t need to access all the time. Like the ones from your grandparent’s 50th wedding anniversary, your cat’s 2nd birthday party, and those embarrassing mirror selfies from middle school. The ones you can’t part with – but don’t need to be cluttering up your space.

If you don’t have a flash drive or a hard-drive to throw those on, make an “Old Pics” file and store them in there, out of the way.

Now, take the ones that are relevant still and make folder/albums for them (even on your phone!) to sort them out. You could organize this in a ton of ways – maybe there’s a folder for each moment in your life like “College” and “High School” – or maybe you do one for each group of pictures you have like “Her Campus” or “Crafts Club” or “Blog.”

4) Files, Folders, Faxes – oh my!

college life digital

Ok, so maybe nobody uses faxes anymore… but I’m a huge Wizard of Oz fan so don’t hate.

Classes done? Delete those class folders – or move them to an “old classes” folder & make new folders to get ready for your next classes.

Have 5 versions of your resume? Delete ones you don’t need, find the most recent one (update it!) & move any versions you do need into a general “resumes” folder.

5) Read, Organize, and Label those Emails

digital deep clean

For me, this is the most daunting task of a digital deep clean – the emails.

Start with the unread ones, delete unneeded ones and respond to anything you have yet to respond to.

I don’t know about you, but I have 5 different email addresses all connected to one Gmail inbox, which means things get absolutely crazy up in there.

My trick? Labels and folders.

Gmail is so cool because you can make it automatically organize/file your emails for you as they come in without having to do it yourself to every email.

Here’s what I do:

  1. Make a folder/label for everything I’m a part of. Each of my email addresses have their own label (personal, blog, work, her campus, school, etc.) + I add in sub-labels under each one (shopping, receipts, resources, campaigns, brand outreach, history class, theatre schedules, pinterest board requests, etc.)
  2. Make Gmail organize incoming emails for me. There are two options here – you can have Gmail automatically file things away in your labels as they come in so you don’t even see them in your inbox or you can have Gmail automatically stick a label on your incoming emails so that it puts it both in the folder it belongs to but also keeps it in your inbox so you can see it there (that’s what I do!) Here’s how to do that:
    1. Select a message that you would want to go under a label for whatever reason. For this example let’s say it’s a blog related email sent to my blog email address that I want filed under my general “blog” folder as it comes in.
    2. Click the “more” button at the top of the inbox -> then click “filter messages like these”
    3. It will automatically put the email address of the person who sent it to you in the “from” field. Delete that. Instead, fill this out to meet your criteria.
    4. For our example of a blog email address, I would put my blog email address in the “to” section so everything sent to that address is labeled. I can also add in keywords that would be in the message or subject such as “Pinterst” if I wanted it labeled with my “pinterest board” label as well.
    5. Then select: “Create filter with this search”
    6. If you want it to go straight from when it comes in, into the folder and not show up in your inbox at all then check the “Skip the Inbox” button. Personally I don’t recommend this because unless you are checking every folder every day you may miss something important.
    7. Check the “Apply the label” box and select or create the label you want it to be applied with when it comes in.
    8. That’s it! Now all incoming messages with that criteria will be marked with that label and automatically filed away into that folder.
  3. Go through all existing emails in my inbox and file/label those. You do have to go through manually to label all existing emails, so take time to do that now. Delete, respond, file.

6) Take the day off.

digital minimalism

While overall refreshing to have a clean slate, the process of actually deep cleaning your digital life can leave you temporarily digitally worn out. Unplug for the rest of the day – if you can… or even just take one hour off away from the screen to relax your brain and recharge.

When you jump back into it, you’ll feel refreshed and ready to get to work!

How do you get your clean slate and recharge after a long school year?



How to Do a Deep Digital Clean
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