Digital Decluttering, ep 3. The File Frenzy Finale: Review, Organize, Delete & Back up

Cristina POPOV

March 25, 2024

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Digital Decluttering, ep 3. The File Frenzy Finale: Review, Organize, Delete & Back up

In our previous digital decluttering episodes, we covered how to tackle your inbox and social media accounts. Today, we're moving on to one of the most significant sources of digital clutter - the files on your laptop or computer and phone.

It all starts with accepting that only a handful of your programs, apps, files, photos, and videos have an actual purpose or are worth keeping—both in your work and personal digital life. The rest are just clutter, wasting your storage space and money (when you buy more storage space).

Let's declutter, free up and speed up your devices. Here are our tips for making the process easy. After that, simply establishing a 15-minute daily routine can make a world of difference.

Tips for decluttering and protecting your laptop/computer

Over time, our laptops become cluttered with countless files like documents, photos, music, videos, and download items scattered across the desktop and file folders. This makes it difficult to find what you need and takes up precious storage space.

Here's how to declutter and organize your laptop files:

1. Organize your personal files

Go through each disk and folder, and identify files you no longer need. Be ruthless and stifle the urge to hoard files, thinking "they might be useful someday." Archive only the most important documents and delete the rest. Alternatively, you can transfer files to an external SSD or cloud storage like Dropbox or Google Drive.

2. Use clear and descriptive file names

Make your file names meaningful by including descriptive keywords (e.g., Meeting_Minutes_Teamreview_May2022), dates (e.g., PR_Presentation_2023-05-10), client or department names, versions, or project details. This system can be applied to personal documents as well. For instance, a photo album from a family vacation could be named "", a cookbook file with family recipes as "Cookbook_FamilyRecipes.docx." Descriptive file names make it easier to find what you need and provide context at a glance, reducing clutter and saving time in the long run.

3. Limit the number of folders

Categorize your work folders with only three or four folders: "Important" (files you need daily), "To-do" (files required for the next few days), and "Miscellaneous" (files for future, undetermined use).

Or you can take an approach based on different life areas. For example, you could have main folders like "Finances" for banking, bills, and tax documents; "Home" for home improvement projects, renovation plans, and maintenance records; and "Family" for personal photos, videos, and documents like birth certificates. Within each main folder, create subfolders like "Current Year" and "Archives" to further organize your files chronologically or by priority.

4. Keep frequently used apps on the taskbar

Identify the apps you use most frequently and pin them to your taskbar for easy access. This will eliminate the need to constantly minimize windows to reach the desktop.

5. Keep your desktop neat

Instead of storing downloaded files on your desktop, use the dedicated download folder and purge it daily. A cluttered desktop can be overwhelming and hinder productivity.

6. Limit programs that launch on startup

Many programs automatically set themselves to launch on startup, which can slow down your computer's boot time. Review the startup programs and disable the ones you don't need to run immediately. However, you may keep essential programs like your VPN running on startup for protection and privacy when connecting to public wi-fi, for example.

7. Organize your photos

Digital photos can be a significant source of clutter. Consider organizing them into appropriate folders and moving them to an external drive, uploading them to a cloud photo service like Google Photos, or printing your favorite memories into physical photo albums.

8. Manage those tabs

Having too many tabs open in your web browser can lead to distractions, cluttered browsing experiences, and slower load times. Regularly review your open tabs and close the ones you're no longer using. Bookmark important pages for easy access later, but remember to periodically clean up your bookmarks folder as well. Aim to keep your open tabs to a minimum, ideally fewer than 10, to improve focus and browser performance.

Additionally, clear your search history, cache, and browsing data to free up space and improve your browser's performance.

Did you know?

The average person had around 32 tabs open in their web browser at any given time in 2023, leading to potential distractions and cluttered browsing experiences, according to a study by RescueTime.

9. Update the system and run a scan

To protect your device from potential threats, you should regularly update the system and use reliable antivirus software like Bitdefender Total Security. This software offers advanced threat prevention, detection, and removal algorithms and exclusive technologies to safeguard your device from viruses, worms, Trojans, ransomware, and spyware without causing any performance issues.

Last, remember to empty your recycle bin regularly to delete unwanted files and free up disk space permanently.

Tips for decluttering and protecting your phone

Your phone can quickly become a cluttered space if you don't actively manage it. Given its portability and constant accessibility, unnecessary apps, photos, and files can easily accumulate on your device.

Follow these tips to organize and protect it:

1. Remove and organize apps

Data from Data AI State of Mobile 2023 report shows that the average smartphone user had around 90 apps installed on their device in 2023 but only used around 35 of those apps regularly.

So, if you have more apps than you use on your phone, consider removing the unnecessary ones. But not just uninstall them; delete your account and data from each app. If you need help, Bitdefender Digital Identity Protection can help you find all the apps that store or use your data and the ones that leaked your data in a breach at some point.

For the remaining ones, keep the most frequently used apps on the home screen and the next screen, and move the rest into alphabetical folders on subsequent screens.

2. Clean out your gallery

Decluttering your phone's gallery involves identifying and removing duplicate, low-resolution, or accidentally taken photos and screenshots. Some phones even have built-in tools to assist with this process. Sort the remaining photos into folders and consider moving your entire gallery to a cloud storage service like Google Photos. You can delete it from your phone or keep only the most important photos locally.

3. Manage your downloads

You'll be surprised by the number of files collecting dust there!

Regularly check your phone's downloads folder and delete files that are old or have served their purpose. This folder can quickly accumulate clutter, such as downloaded PDFs, GIFs, and images you may have forgotten about.

4. Unsubscribe from unnecessary notifications

Review your app notifications and permissions, and unsubscribe from any no longer relevant or useful services. This will help declutter your notification panel and prevent distractions.

5. Organize and back up important files

For important files or documents, you need to keep on your phone, create a clear folder structure and regularly back them up to a cloud storage service or external drive. This ensures that you have access to these files while freeing up space on your phone.

6. Protect your phone

Your phone stores some of your most personal data, so it's crucial always to keep it safe. Bitdefender Mobile Security for Android or iOS protects your phone from online threats, safeguards your online privacy, and secures your personal information.

Make digital decluttering a part of your daily routine.

Before you log out for the day, spend 15 minutes cleaning out your email by deleting, archiving, or moving unnecessary messages. Also, clear out the downloads folder on your devices, close all unnecessary browser tabs, and clear your search history and cache (but remember to bookmark important websites first). Finally, empty the recycle bin and close any direct messages or chat apps related to work.

Initially, this routine may seem time-consuming, but after a week or two of consistent practice, it will likely take only 10 minutes or less. By making digital decluttering a habit, you'll reduce stress and improve productivity across all your devices.

The security solutions mentioned in this article can be purchased separately or together as part of Bitdefender's comprehensive packages, such as Bitdefender Ultimate Security (for the US) or Bitdefender Premium Security (for the rest of the world).



Cristina POPOV

Cristina is a freelance writer and a mother of two living in Denmark. Her 15 years experience in communication includes developing content for tv, online, mobile apps, and a chatbot.

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