In the COVID-19 era with ample time at home, many people are taking the opportunity to organize and simplify their living spaces. But decluttering your virtual space – including your computer/laptop, phone, cloud storage, etc. – is just as important as decluttering your physical living space. 

Many of us are also spending more time on our devices due to the pandemic (working from home, Zoom, kids using devices for homeschooling, etc.), so cleaning up your virtual space is more important than ever. 

The more we use virtual spaces, the more ‘virtual clutter’ we create, which in turn distracts us, slows us down and makes us less productive.

But how do you get started with decluttering virtual space? Here are my step-by-step tips to help you become more organized and productive…

1. Start with organizing your computer desktop

Think of your computer desktop like you would your physical desktop. If it’s covered with documents and junk, it’s hard to find what you need when you need it.

Delete unneeded files, create folders, and file, file, file. Download Evernote (you can start with the free version) and drag files that you want to save but don’t want cluttering your desktop into Evernote’s desktop version where it doesn’t take up any space. 

2. Clear out your downloads folder 

Delete unneeded files and drag files into Evernote’s desktop app that you might need again later. 

You may find several duplicate files in your downloads folder, as we often end up downloading files and documents more than once. You can use a tool called Duplicate Files Fixer, which finds and deletes duplicate files (photo, audio, etc.) that are often stored in the downloads folder, to free up storage. 

As well as clearing the files in your download, this may also help your computer work faster by deleting bulky files (especially large ones like videos and high-resolution images) that eat up memory. 

3. Uninstall unwanted apps and programs 

You know those free apps or programs that you never use? Why not delete them? They can slow you down and distract you from the task at hand, so don’t be afraid to get rid of them. You can always download them again if you ever need them in future. 

There are too many apps promising to solve our stresses and strains. It’s much better to find a few apps that save you time and make you more productive — learn them thoroughly and stick with them. 

You should also remove excess applications on your dock or taskbar so you only see the shortcuts you really need, based on what you use the most. Getting rid of unwanted apps and programs and only having the ones you really need on your taskbar will remove clutter and could increase computer speed.

4. Clear out your email inbox 

Delete emails you no longer need and forward emails you want to save to Evernote. You can easily find them again with Evernote’s powerful search feature.

5.  Unsubscribe to e-newsletters that no longer interest you 

Many of us end up signing up for several e-newsletters over time, but we may not be so good at unsubscribing when we need to. This creates digital clutter that fills up your email inbox, both distracting you and slowing you down when you need to search for the email you want.

If you regularly receive an e-newsletter, think about whether it really interests you and adds some value to your life. Whether that’s giving you personal tips like staying safe online, or tips on how to do your job better, each e-newsletter should serve a clear purpose. 

Searching for the word “unsubscribe” in your email program is an easy way to start searching for e-newsletters. 

6. Empty the trash and recycling bin on your desktop

Have you ever emptied your recycling bin? If you have, can you honestly say you do it regularly? If you get into the habit of regularly emptying your recycling bin, it will help you save time when you need to find and retrieve deleted items. 

And just like your downloads folder, getting rid of large files (e.g. videos and high-resolution images) could help to speed up your computer.

7. Unfollow people and accounts from social media 

Social media is like the horizon – it goes on and on and on. This means you should think carefully about how to avoid taking up too much of your time.

One simple step is to unfollow social media accounts you don’t really gain much from following – especially ones that are negative or uninteresting. Just like e-newsletters, think about what you really gain by spending your time following and engaging with a person or brand on social media.

If the answer is not a lot, unfollow – save your time and attention for something more interesting or important in your life.

Ultimately, following these steps and investing the time and effort to declutter your virtual space will help you become more calm, focused and productive.

About Dawn George

Dawn George is a Certified Professional Organizer, Productivity Consultant and Evernote Certified Consultant. She teaches people how to increase productivity and stop wasting time. She started her company, Dawn George Organizing, 16 years ago in 2004, because she loves helping others create order so they feel more in control of their lives. She teaches people how to use apps such as Evernote – as well as non-tech organizing techniques – to increase productivity and stop wasting time.