In a studio apartment, with its tiny closets and even tinier kitchen cabinets, it's essential to be disciplined about clearing clutter. But online? Where your Gmail inbox has seemingly endless storage space and you can hide your hoarding "in the cloud"? It's easy to amass an insurmountable pile of digital junk.
Just like the—ahem... collectors on A&E's Hoarders, you'll need to start small if you want to tackle your mountain of digitial trappings.
Here are 10 small tasks you can start today, tomorrow or on a lazy weekend morning that will help you clean up your online and digital life.
1. Pare Down to 2 Email Accounts
One work and one home email address, that's all you need. If you're still hanging on to your university account or an inbox from an old job, take the steps now to get rid of them for good. Move over important contact information and forward any useful emails to your main address. When you're sure you've gotten all you need, close the accounts for good.
2. Uninstall Unused Software from your Computer
Don't need OpenOffice freeware now that you splurged on the Microsoft Suite? Get rid of it. Make an uninstaller program the last software you use before trimming your software fat for good.
3. Purge your Mobile Device App Library
While you're cleaning out software from your laptop, make sure your mobile devices get the same love. Go through your smartphone or tablet to finally clear out those games, shortcuts and "productivity boosters" you never, ever use anymore.
4. Delete Old Documents.
Open up your computer's documents folder and sort everything by "date modified." If you haven't touched that spreadsheet in over a year, it's time to purge it from your machine. Save the stuff you think you might need onto an external hard drive designated for an unorganized "dump" (it's just an emergency backup, no need to get lost in a 3-day folder sorting spree), and permanently delete the rest.
5. Clear Your Computer Desktop
How many icons are on your desktop right now? If you can't finish counting them on two hands, it's time to sift through 'em. Move often-used programs to your taskbar or dock, and sort all your documents within a single folder. Soon you'll find a clean desktop can be as calming as a clean kitchen.
6. Cancel Accounts on Unused Social Sites
You check Facebook every day, right? But how often do you travel over to LinkedIn? Keeping profiles open on social sites you never visit can be a security risk, not to mention a big waste of mental space. If it's the type of site where you need a password reminder each time you visit, do yourself a favor and click the "close account" button.
7. Change Your Notification Settings
Now that you're only subscribed to sites you visit often, you don't need notifications to alert you of a new photo tag or direct message. Change your alert settings to the bare minimum and you'll be clearing out your email or text message inbox at the same time. You might actually be more productive at work, too, without Facebook popping up on your phone's screen every two seconds.
8. Clean Up Your Browser
Browser plug-ins are the donut holes of the online world; they're easy and harmless to add on one-by-one, but before you know it, you've tacked on some serious weight to your toolbar. Clean up your web browser of choice by deleting all but the necessary plug-ins, toolbars and add-ons. Make your web experience as minimalist as possible.
9. Unsubscribe from Unneeded Email Lists
Subscribing to a store's email list for the free 20 percent off coupon you get for joining is smart shopping. But staying subscribed to a list when you don't even open the emails before deleting them is stupid. Make this week your purge week and click "unsubscribe" at the bottom of each email as it comes in.
10. Clean Up Your Contacts
Using Siri on the iPhone 4S has brought to light a big problem: When we say "ring Sarah," Siri has to weed through about 12 people to figure out who we want to call. It's time we rid ourselves of unused contacts from old coworkers, long lost friends and ex-relationships—anyone you haven't spoken with in over a year is fair game.
(Images: Taryn Fiol)