The Case for reducing your digital clutter.

I have a new email address. It's using a service called ProtonMail. The service itself has a lot of great reasons for switching but mine was probably not something they would expect.

I recently had a rethink about my digital self. I came to a pretty big conclusion. This conclusion wasn't actually new, but it certainly hadn't been thought of or acted on in quite some time:

I needed to declutter my digital life.

My "one blog" policy

A few years ago I wrote an article about my reduction in the content I was creating. You can read it on ProBlogger here. | [ link in case of linkrot] The main premise was that by reducing the amount of blogs I had, I was able to focus on the quality of each one. It really did work as my writing really started to take off after that point.

By making sure I don't spread myself too thin I have maintained the quality of what I produce. This expands to a lot of areas. While you may not care that much what the quality of your Twitter or Facebook posts are, they are something that others judge you based on (whether fairly or not). Not to mention those are things that future employers, future friends and even lovers will find.

Why do we archive everything?

What does this have to do with email you might be asking?


You see, I had been using Google Inbox for quite some time. One of it's main features was that it helped one get to Inbox Zero.

While getting there, one of the things you do is mark all your emails as done so that they stop showing up in your inbox but still exist so they can be searched.

In theory this is a great idea. No email is ever lost and if you need to reference something, you can always find it.

That's a fantastic reason to answer my headline above, but on deeper thought I realized in practice I almost never need it.

Why keep it? Was the question that came to mind at that point. Google's big selling point long ago for Gmail was that it had massive amounts of storage, the reality is if you delete most emails, you don't need it.

Instead I will now delete emails. Crazy concept, I know. It's better to not have that cluttering things up. I will of course archive anything important but it will be an exception, not the rule.

Is your resume from 10 years ago relevant?

This is something I'm actually quite good at already but wanted to list for others.

A few years ago I discovered Linux and fell in love. This lead to me trying out different Linux variations constantly. For those that may not know - often it's easier to do a fresh install of linux rather than trying to stick things on top of each other.

Basically, this lead to me constantly formatting my entire hard drive.

It was a clean slate every time I did. Sure, the first few times I tried to back up all my files. Tons of old photos, mp3's from my Napster days, movies and television shows I had downloaded and the insane amount of random Word docs that would for sure get published... whenever I got around to finishing them.

Then one day I accidentally did it without the back up. Do you know what happened?


I found new music (and I use Spotify now, so I don't care anymore). I found new movies (Netflix now), I only remembered the good stories I was working on and forgot about the crap ones that didn't matter. Luckily, the photos were backed up on Google Photos and having a massive version of it didn't matter much since I never print my photos.

I am also far more free now. I don't have to worry about a corrupt hard drive losing important files. If somehow one of those ransomware things hit me, it would be no big deal. I can also just try out new linux variants without much issue - quickly and easily.

When was the last time you unsubscribed from useless lists?

This is something I accomplished a few weeks ago: I went through a huge amount of my old emails and unsubscribed from almost all the email lists I was part of.

I had this habit for the longest time of just archiving the emails I didn't care about. Actually unsubscribing would be too much work. 3 clicks compared to 1.

It took maybe an hour of work, but it decreased the amount of emails I get by a massive amount.

I then took it further - I went to Twitter and Facebook and unfollowed a huge amount of people. They had never given me any value (interesting discussions or at least a laugh) and so were just cluttering my feed. Unsubscribing from a bunch of old subreddits also made a huge difference. Recently I even deleted my 7 year old, 500,000 karma reddit account when I realized it was offering me no value, just lots of frustration.

Also make sure you take a look at the Facebook groups you are part of and LinkedIn groups - do you have a bunch you never actually interact with? Do they add value?

This lead to a much happier me. I highly recommend it.

This stuff really helps

You end up with a clean slate, a less cluttered digital archive and less crap to mindlessly archive or sift through.

Read more: Check out my other articles.