You know what it's like today. A lot of us live our lives out of our phones and laptops. I guess it’s safe to say that’s where we spend a lot (sometimes the majority?) of our time – hours on end. And there are apps for everything – a lot of them designed to keep us hooked as long as possible. We work, create, entertain, read, write, plan, shop, flirt, decide, pay, and whatnot with our screens. Think about those tens of thousands of pictures we all have. (Btw who remembers the analog rolls with 24 or 36 frames each?) Our multiple mailboxes are full of emails from the last ten years we don’t need anymore, but yet again, we do nothing or little to resolve this. We are getting bombarded with notifications about yet another useless newsletter we signed up for last winter looking for ski goggles.
For the majority of us – it’s a tiring reality.
There are new apps every day, we read about them, and we want them. Usually, because we think we need them, to be the “better version of us”. Because we fantasize that with this brand-new app – we will now be able to plan better, eat better, sleep better, and so on and so forth.
The thing is – we have too many already. Too many distractions that keep us chained to our screens, and too many apps that leave an enormous digital footprint too. And instead of our better productivity and comfort, we often get… well – the opposite. Problems with focus, anxiety, inevitable procrastination, strained relationships, increased tension, problem sleeping, headaches, guilt… We’re drowning in the sea of digital clutter.
What is digital clutter?
All the files, and thousands of emails, old projects you won't ever look at again. All the apps on your devices that you don’t consider essential; that you don’t find indispensable for either your work or everyday life. Or that doesn't "spark joy" as Marie Kondo would say;) All of them usually come with logins and passwords that you need to remember or store. In consequence - you produce more and more tasks, and files and.. overwhelm. All that take too much of something that’s yours, something precious and not renewable. Your TIME and ATTENTION.
Is there something wrong with “too much”?
We live in times of too much information, of endless possibilities. Each time we want something, there are 120 kinds of it, all available now. Whether it’s a car, a phone, a book, cereal, or an app – whatever it is – it’s there – waiting for you to get nuts.
There’s data that suggests we are only capable of making a certain number of decisions a day, and if we are faced with more – we face decision fatigue and in consequence possibly - anxiety. Now think about trying to pick this one picture of your baby you want to show your mom. One out of 19,000. Or choosing an app to edit it – you probably have a minimum of 5 apps for that already, don’t you?
Have you ever found yourself staring at your phone because you just wanted to quickly “check something”? And an hour later, you were still browsing FB, Twitter, or IG feed? Cliche, isn't it?
Have you ever wanted to message someone but forgot what social media messenger was the one they used? And you have like 6 of them on your phone?
What happens when you face all this? Anxiety rises, focus, and creativity drop.
A digital minimalism? Say what now?
Or is a better name ‘digital essentialism’?
What could that entail?
using the most efficient apps to make our life simpler/easier,
not drowning in the digital garbage,
having clear priorities on why we're using what we're using,
being able to engage in a conversation without picking up the phone every 12 seconds,
enjoying the analog time maybe even more than the time spent staring at the screen,
a firm decision, that it's us who owns the screen, not the other way around,
being aware that essentialism is a form of attention or energy management,
can you think of anything else?
Do I need to declutter?
First of all – only you can decide for yourself whether you think something’s wrong. Maybe it was already on your mind. Maybe that’s the reason you’re reading this article. Maybe someone close told you they think you’re a bit too engaged, or maybe you feel the overwhelm getting the better of you.
Below you’ll find a couple of questions that can make the answer easier. In order not to flood you with dozens of questions – let’s focus on the phones only (but of course, you can extrapolate further):
how many apps do you have on your phone?
how many of those are games?
how many of those apps do you actually use?
how many are there that you downloaded three years ago?
how many pictures are there on your camera roll?
how many albums in your camera?
how many hours on average do you spend on your phone daily? (You can check your screen time settings.)
what do you do right after you wake up?
what do you do right before you go to sleep?
can you imagine going out without your phone?
An orthodox way of dealing with digital decluttering would be to get rid of everything and then install only what you truly need. The softer and more acceptable (for many) way is deleting – one by one. It is a similar process to what you go through to deal with your clothes if you’re a minimalist. You only leave (and buy for that matter) what you need and love. Things you feel good wearing and (that’s crucial) that you do wear. Same with apps. The key word here would be INTENTIONAL. You have a plan, and a vision and you stick to it. Not letting the notifications and feeds distract you from what’s essential.
A pretty practical option you can use is to let the system work for you. There’s an option on the iPhones where the unused apps are offloaded from your phone. When you see that happen – it might be a great indicator that it’s better to get rid of it for good.
In the end, minimalism – or essentialism is a process. It won’t do you any good if you have one burst of motivation, and after a week, you get back to the way things were.
It’s like if you get yourself a plant, it won’t stay beautiful and healthy if you don’t take proper care of it. Just keeping it in the house won’t do. It will need your attention, watering, and repotting. If you have something you have to take care of it, you have to maintain it. Same with our digital devices.
Success lies in the small steps we take every day. The habits we create are essential.
More about habits soon:)