How to Do a Digital Spring Cleaning—And Why You Should


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Source: ColorJoy Stock
Source: ColorJoy Stock

I love a good decluttering session. Whether it’s Marie Kondo-ing, Home Edit-ing, or just binge-watching episodes of Hoarders, my obsession with organization runs deep. My books are alphabetized, my closet is organized by color, and my Tupperware containers all have matching lids. But one place I’ve long overlooked is my digital life—which is why this spring, I’m doing a digital spring cleaning.

The idea of digital spring cleaning can be daunting at first. Most of us have occupied the digital sphere the majority (or all!) of our lives without giving much thought to the clutter that has built up over the years—because as soon as we power down our devices, the mess becomes invisible. 

But just because we’re not tripping over it all the time like that unfolded pile of laundry, doesn’t mean digital clutter isn’t having a negative impact on us. A 2020 study revealed a direct link between people’s well-being and their levels of digital clutter and found that 60 percent of people felt less stressed after decluttering their devices. 

So, how do we tackle this beast? Here are six easy steps I’m personally taking to get my digital life sparkling clean.

Auditing social media accounts

It only takes a few minutes to review the security settings on your social media accounts, which is important because privacy settings can change without your knowledge. It’s also a good idea to run through your friends and connections and unfollow or mute anyone who isn’t adding joy or value to your life. Finally, it’s worth reviewing all your old posts to make sure they reflect your current beliefs, values, and persona. You never know when they’ll be dredged up—just ask Travis Kelce.

Organizing computer files

According to a 2018 survey, 30 percent of working adults have over 100 files on their desktop, often including duplicates. Hi, it’s me. The good news is it took me less than 15 minutes to delete the ones I didn’t need and to organize the rest into folders. Now, when I boot up my laptop each morning, I’m greeted by a mostly blank screen that helps me start the day on a zen-like note.

Backing up your files is another important element of digital spring cleaning. The same study found that 70 percent of people’s files are stored on their hard drives and are thus at high risk of disappearing should anything go wrong. Using the cloud to back up important files is a great option, as is copying them over to an external hard drive—just remember to password-protect it.

Culling my apps

Looking through your phone and deleting old unused apps is not only a good way to free up space but also to boost security, as sometimes apps can be compromised by hacks without us even knowing about it. Be advised, though, that for many apps you might actually have to delete your account within the app first to truly get rid of it; otherwise, companies might still be holding onto your data.

This is also a good time to actively manage things like your location services, microphone, and camera settings to make sure you’re granting only the most minimal access necessary for the app to function.

digital spring cleaning
Source: ColorJoyStock

Corralling passwords

Honestly, the thought of trying to corral and manage all my passwords makes me want to stick my head in the sand. But this is perhaps the most important aspect of digital spring cleaning.

Using a password manager is a great way to keep track of passwords and also to create complex, harder-to-crack passwords. This is important because if one password is leaked, hackers have sophisticated technology to tell them you’ve reused it on other sites. A password manager can also help you enable two-factor authentication wherever possible, which is one of the best ways to prevent accounts from being hacked.

In addition to reviewing your passwords, take a look at other information that’s stored in your accounts that you don’t need anymore, like saved credit cards and other banking information.

Tackling the inbox

With the proliferation of newsletters and marketing messages in addition to everyday work and personal communications, email has grown unwieldy—to the point where 30 percent of US adults in a recent survey admitted to declaring email bankruptcy. And while staying on top of email can feel like a Sisyphean task, taking a few minutes to organize your inbox will go a long way to reduce your stress and increase your productivity. 

For me, one of my biggest struggles is newsletters. I’m interested in a lot of different things, so I subscribe to dozens of them. But then they sit unread in my inbox, staring me down and ballooning my unread emails to a stress-inducing number. My solution has been to set up some rules within Gmail that have some of them sent to a specific folder where I can read them later when I (maybe?) have more time.

I also receive a lot of marketing emails, usually based on one minor purchase I made five years ago. Instead of just deleting them, I spend three seconds unsubscribing. Unfortunately, Gmail doesn’t yet have a bulk unsubscribe tool—short of filtering all emails with “unsubscribe” out of your inbox, which may result in you losing emails you actually want to see—but there are many third-party apps that can help with this. Be careful which one you choose, though, because you’re granting them access to your private emails, and many of these platforms make money by selling your personal information. One I’ve used that doesn’t operate this way is Clean Email. And while there is a subscription fee, it has a free trial period that will get you a long way into your cleanup.

Organizing my photos

I started my digital spring cleaning with more than 18,000 photos on my phone. And while my kids are cute, they’re not that cute. Here’s how I’m tackling organizing my photos:


I started with a clean-up app like Clean My Phone, which scans through everything and sorts it into categories like Duplicates, Screenshots, and photos I’ve imported from photo editing apps. It then has a bulk delete option but also the ability to quickly sort through and select what to keep. There’s a long-term subscription cost, but I made a lot of progress with the three-day free trial.


Now that my photos are whittled down, I’m trying to keep them curated by using Slidebox, which has a Tinder-like interface to quickly swipe left or right to delete or categorize photos. And because I’m an Amazon Prime member I’ve been using Amazon Photo for backup and storage. (You can also use it if you’re not a Prime member—you just might have to pay for extra storage space.) 

Make Some Hard Copies

Sadly, even with all the photos I take, I don’t actually look at them very much. So, I’ve been using Mixbook to whip up quick photo albums of family trips or special occasions. Other great options in this space are Artifact Uprising and Shutterfly.

And, in the final frontier of photo organizing, I’ve been loving Mixtiles for a quick, beautiful way to turn my favorite photos into framed wall art.

While this list of digital spring cleaning tasks may seem like a lot to tackle, you don’t have to do it all at once! Start with one step and see how it feels; you might be surprised at how little time it takes—definitely less than scrubbing your floors or washing your windows. And while digital decluttering won’t give you any cute before and after pictures to share on social media, it can make a huge difference to your productivity and mindset and can help you stay focused on the things that truly matter.