Starting the Year With a Clean Slate: Digital Decluttering

In Arthur Conan Doyle's A Study in Scarlet, Sherlock Holmes says, "I consider that a man's brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose. A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him get crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things, so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands upon it."  

Although Holmes was talking about the brain, the same notion can be applied to computer clutter.  

Giving the heave-ho to old files and programs will not only free up storage space, lessen distractions, and make things easier to find, but will also allow your computer to run faster.

Here are some easy ways to streamline your laptop or PC:

1.  Outdated files

A simple way to delete documents is to arrange them by date and start with the oldest, and then get rid of ones you no longer need.  If there are a lot of documents, videos, photos or slide presentations you might need later, they can be stored using a free cloud service such as Dropbox or an external hard drive. 

It's easier to keep track of what needs to be kept and what needs to be deleted if you have a standard way to name files. A common way is by year, month, day, and the name of the file - for example, 20191121 Thanksgiving recipes. 

Organize your documents into folders and sub-folders. Start out general, such as Personal and Work, then sub-folders, such as Household Budget or Presentations. 

2.  Old software or programs 

If you get rid of software programs that you don't use, your C:\ will reward you with a faster startup process. Unfortunately, it's not as simple as deleting the icon from the desktop. Here are some options for uninstalling software in Windows.      

3.  Desktop icons and bookmarks

Retain only icons and bookmarks that you use often, and delete the others. If your background screen saver has a busy design, replace it with something plain so that everything is easily visible.  

4.  Email messaging

Ideally, your inbox should be empty at the end of the day. This is the goal for after you've deleted or filed the hundreds or even thousands that are currently there. It doesn't have to be done all at once—you'll get there eventually if you work at it for 15 minutes a day. (If you have a truly huge number, there are ways to clear them using a date range.) During the process, unsubscribe to non-relevant senders, and look in your email settings to learn how to filter messages directly into folders for later perusal. 

5.  Facebook friends: It's not me, it's you

At some point, you may have worked hard to attain a high number of Facebook friends, which has resulted in an out-of-control newsfeed. Friends you only met once, are annoying, engage in toxic political rants or aren't actually your friends in real life are candidates for banishment. Here's how to unfriend (or unfollow) someone without them knowing.  

After your digital declutter, you can read complete digital issues of magazine such as MacWorld, PC Magazine and PC World online for free using your library card. Check out RB Digital for these, and dozens of other titles, including Smithsonian, Inked, and Men's Health.  

Questions? Ask Reference Services or call 720-865-1363 today!

Written by Lisa on January 30, 2019