Digital Clutter

In some ways digital clutter seems to me to be the opposite in character to physical clutter. Let me explain myself.

Physical clutter is clearly a problem that you are all reading my blog to get tips and tricks on clearing. It is obvious what it is, and we know we can have some trouble convincing ourselves to remove it regardless of our desire to be free of it. It is the stuff that lingers in our home even though we no longer use it, need it or love it. We stash it away in any empty space we can find. There is no escaping it though because even if we can’t see it we know it is there.

Then there are the everyday items in our homes that we use/admire/enjoy regularly. These are the alive items mentioned the in last weeks post – Is your stuff alive or stagnant.  If we could just narrow down our belongings to the items we see and use every day we would be happy right?

Well to me digital clutter kind of works the other way. For example, there are text files, photo files, recipe files, DXF files, old emails…  that I refer back to occasionally maybe even rarely in some cases but because the space they take up fits neatly in a tiny little external drive I am more than happy they are there in case I might need them some day.

Now Blog  feeds and email subscriptions that I read every day are a whole different story. Essentially, they are my everyday digital  items equivalent to my everyday household items I mentioned above. I like to read them for various reasons not the least being that they often give me inspiration to write my own post and absorb the information contained within to expand my intellectual horizon. BUT my goodness do they clutter up my day.

Summing up what I am saying here goes something like this…

Hidden Physical Clutter = Bad while Hidden Digital Clutter = Good

Physical Everyday Items = Good while Everyday Digital items = Bad

I had my doubts about admitting this because I would hate for you my lovely readers to see this and think – “Yes you are right” and delete 365lessthings from your email/blog feed subscriptions. I just wondered if anyone out there had come to the same conclusion. Do you spend too much time in your day reading all those blogs you just can’t live without?

Today’s Declutter Item

I found a new owner for these silver cake forks through Freecycle. It was a challenge. There were plenty of people who wanted them but they sat on the door step for a week waiting for the first guy to collect them. I gave up onhim and offered them to another lady who was more punctual and grateful.

Cake Forks 3FEB2011

Things I am grateful for today

  • Having success with a new vegetable curry recipe today – The men about the house were impressed so it must have been good.
  • Having the car today – I had so many errands to run and I got at least half of them done . There’s always tomorrow.
  • A swim with a friend at the baths on the beach yesterday – It was such a hot day and the water was so refreshing. It was also nice to catch up with my friend.
  • Finding a new good place to eat
  • Digital technology (Regardless of what I said in today’s post) – It has freed up space once needed to store music, photo albums and paper files just to name a few.

It matters not how fast I go, I hurry faster when I’m slow.

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About Colleen Madsen

Colleen is the founder of 365 Less Things and lives in Newcastle, Australia.


  1. This is actually one of 5 subscriptions I have, and 2 are livejournal. Well, there are more, but they update so infrequently that I have them so I don’t waste time going to the site and clicking to see if there is an update.

    So can just feel special, instead!

    • Hi Lynn,
      good for you! I must admit I do delete a lot without reading them. I feel a little guilty when they are the one’s about being a better blogger but my hubby reads them and gives me lots of pointers so I get the information anyway. Thank you I do feel special now and I will try to stay interesting. 😉

  2. Yes, I often spend too much time in internet land. I have noticed something curious, though – I spend a consistent amount of time on the internet daily, but my choice of blogs shifts to take in new ones and drop old ones, as I find the ones that remain helpful and have a courteous tone, and leave off the ones with rabid commenters or the ones I no longer find useful. Don’t worry, yours is at the top of the keep list and has been so ever since I found you – I think because your philosophy was exactly what I needed and my decluttering is far from over – as all of us here should know by now, the war on clutter is never over.

    I do like your analogy, Colleen, although I feel differently about the digital storage that you are comfortable with: personally, it weighs me down as much as physical clutter does. I file it well, and usually don’t have any trouble finding something when I want it, but there is definitely stuff there that I’ve grown out of, just like I’ve grown out of some blogs, it bothers me to have to look at it even as I click through to wherever I’m going, and it should be cleaned out. Please don’t take that as an invitation , , , AAHHH, too late . . . even though we had to do a photo clean-out as a mini-mission, now you’re going to start with the recipe collection, aren’t you!!! 🙂 . . . Um . . .Glad to help 🙂

    Seriously, I guess if I’m saying it’s a problem, it’s a problem and it’s up to me to handle it!

    • Hi Jo,
      Thank you for keeping me a the top of the keep list. My head is swelling by the minute.
      As for your digital clutter treat it with the 365lessthings approach. Just delete one old file you don’t use every time you are using the computer. Just take five minutes out of your time to track down a file and hit delete. Don’t forget to empty your digital trash can occasionally though or you won’t be freeing up any space. Actually that does sound like a good digital mini mission. 😉

      • Once again you’re stated the obvious which I was completely overlooking – I was waiting for “enough time” to do a lot, when it’s so much more within my grasp to just do one or two at a time. (I am apparently a slow learner where this topic is concerned.) I’ve been following your suggestion since you made it, and slowly but surely I’m chipping away at that digital clutter. Amazing!

        • Hi Jo,
          don’t worry if you are a slow learner we preach slow here at 365lessthings. That is the beauty of the slow approach it give you time for things to sink in, to make good decisions and to avoid regrets. So go as slow as you need. Just don’t delete me from you subscription list. 😉

  3. Good post. I have had to make myself cut back on blogs I watch and how often I check on FB. I realized I was becoming a junkie. Not a good way to spend my time. I’m on a digital diet. Grin.

    • Hi Deb J,
      Digital diet, I like that. The problem with spending too much time on the computer is that it is sedentary pastime and I will need the other kind of diet as well if I don’t cut back. 😆

  4. Yes, I tend to spend too much time checking blogs. I have google reader and lately I’ve noticed that I’ll have 100 posts unread. I just can’t keep up with it all. And of course, being me, I’m procrastinating on doing anything until I’ve thought about it for a good long time. And now as I think about it, I’m off to deal with some physical clutter on my counter 🙂

    • Hi Willow,
      Wow 100 post unread that is quite a bit of digital clutter. I have 27 sitting there at the moment that I will week through when I finish replying to today’s comments.
      I hope you took some before and after shots of the counter they would make a great Saturday feature on my blog. I am sure anyone reading yesterday’s comment would be eager to see them. 😉

  5. One of my NY’s resolution was to spend less time on the computer, especially because I felt it sometimes intruded on family time, which is disrespectful to family members and not how I like to be treated, and because I get a lot more pleasure out of actually getting things done than I do in sitting on my rump; yet somehow, once I get in front of the computer, I can get stuck.

    Now that I’m working, I spend all day at a desk three times a week, and it’s definitely made the computer at home less appealing. Work isn’t so busy that I can’t get some of my personal things done, so I’m not getting behind.

    I don’t read a lot of blogs. I found this one and it immediately became a daily habit for me – of course now including writing for it – and I read the links that Colleen puts up on Friday, but that’s it. Even links I’ve enjoyed do not motivate me to check back on a daily basis, and I’ve not signed up for any feeds (even from here).

    I think that digital clutter is clutter. In fact, I think it’s a black hole. Once most things are tucked away in some file on the computer, that’s where they stay … forever more. They’re not easy to locate. They’re not helping us out, and they’re still available on the Internet, right where we found them in the first place. As for saving tons of photos – some thing. You still have to wade through them to find what you want, and the more you have, the longer you spend wading.

    My take?
    Physical cluter = bad
    digital clutter = bad, too, just in a physically smaller package

    • Hi Cindy,
      I can’t help but agree with you on this matter even though the digital clutter doesn’t bother me. I tend to file my stuff well on the computer so I know where to find it and I keep my laptop in pretty good shape. Finding stuff on my husbands computer after he has transferred my files is a whole other story. I think he may have deleted all the cutting files I laboriously designed for my craft robo when he upgraded to an Apple or else they are buried somewhere that I just can’t find them. My poor little old laptop needs constant purging to try to get as much speed out of it as I can. It has served me well though and I will persevere with it until it dies.
      Just when I was typing that it did one of its weird little screen flips and I thought I was going to have to write this all over again. I think it was just teasing me.

      • Teasing you? I think it was threatening you.

        • I don’t think it is in any position to make threats. I definitely have the upper hand here. It might like to know that I was just in the Apple store with Liam yesterday and it was very tempting in deed. There little Dell I hope you are listening and decide to behave yourself or I will go against my better judgement and send you to landfill.
          How about that Cindy, do you think it will get the message now, know who is in charge here and start behaving itself?

  6. I have limited the number of blogs I read because I started spending way too much time online. Now I only read a few blogs that give me some food for thought. Including one whose writer gives her readers homework every Monday!!! 😀

    Digital clutter drives me crazy! It bothers me as much as the physical clutter. I felt so good when I got my hard drive and memory sticks organized and decluttered.

  7. I’ve spent the past couple of days weeding out blogs from my reader and I’m down to 93. I know, I almost choked when I saw the number… most of those don’t post often so they’re not on my radar, but I obviously need to work on this more in the future.

    So far, you’re blog has survived the cut 🙂

    • Hi funderbug,
      so nice of you to drop in and say hello and when it comes with the news that I am still in your much loved blog list it is all the better. It would seem strange at this stage to welcome you to 365lessthing as you have obviously been here a while but I believe this is the first time you have commented. So welcome anyway. I took a look at your blog and that craft room is clearly a work in progress. How is it coming along. Drop by anytime and them us know how you are progressing.

  8. I have a lot of blogs in my RSS reader, but I usually just skim them unless something good catches my eye. Another bit of digital clutter I noticed was on the desktop. I never stopped to consider it much until I read “The Simple Guide to a Minimalist Life.” Leo has a chapter in there about the computer, and he inspired me to clean all the items off my desktop. On my work computer I reduced it down to “My Computer” and the “Recycle Bin.” I have a couple extra shortcuts on my home computer. It’s so much nicer to look at a clean desktop while computing.

    • Hi Freedom,
      The only two icons I use on my desktop are Firefox and Recycle Bin there are another 9 sitting there unused. My husband sometimes uses my laptop though and he might miss them so I am not keen to delete them. The only time I see that view is when I start up in the morning so it isn’t bothering me.

  9. I certainly agree that our inboxes can be just as overwhelming as our cluttered living rooms, but the emails are something I enjoy so it’s different.

  10. I do have to agree I spend way too much time online-reading blogs. I have deleted alot of them though as they don’t update often or I have lost my interest. I have followed only 2 (yours being one of them from the almost begining) for some time now. My email is quite full & I keep saying I’ll get it cleaned out, but then scan over it & sometimes get overwhelmed. I have gone through them though & get rid of outdated ones & just “forwards”, but some of those special letter written emails & pictures people send, I’m still a little attatched to yet. I figure they are in the computer & not actually taking up “paper” space.

    • Hi Daisy,
      thank you for sticking with me for so long I am glad you are enjoying the read. I am glad to say that my inbox in is pretty good shape as I give it a clean-out on a regular basis. I often forget to purge the trash in my email folder though which I will do now while I am thinking about it.

  11. I need to figure out how to better manage my time online. It is so easy when I’m supposed to be working to get distracted with Facebook, blogs, etc. Just now I took a few minutes and cleaned up my bookmarks, so that was helpful. I probably eliminated 75% of them that I just never visit anymore, or when I do find they are no longer relevant to me. I appreciate having the “like” feature in Facebook…then when a new blog post appears in my newsfeed, I decide whether or not to read the whole post. I only follow about 10 blogs, but I do find myself coming to this one just about every day! Thanks for all the inspiration and ideas.

    • Hi Wendy,
      I appreciate your loyalty and I hope to keep you interested and entertained for some time to come. As for cutting back on internet time I thing self discipline is the only cure for that. I have been too busy to check my google feeds for the last two days and I am about to go there now and be ruthless with decluttering. Wish me luck I’m going in.

  12. I’m in Egypt and they cut our internet for 5 days. You have never seen such a sparkly clean apartment!
    They put the net back on 3 days ago and in that first 3 days I spent 36 hours no less on the net switching between forums, FB and the like, catching up.
    One thing is clear to a lot of us now, how much (1) time we spend on the net (2) how much we rely on it for contact – we have had to resort to – don’t faint – speaking to each other on the phone!!! They cut the phones out too for 24 hours, and it’s more than a week since we’ve been able to receive SMSs.
    The first day I put my email back on, I had hundreds of ‘newsletters’ and the like! Really showed how much stuff comes in every day!
    Anyway, thank you for your very timely post, I have been decluttering my digital life for a few months now!

    • Fasinating and frightening things happening in Egypt now. I hope you are staying safe. I bet it was hard to be witnessing revolution and not be able to stay easily in contact with friends and other family members.

      Are you an Egyptian native?

    • Hi OBC,
      I hope things are OK for you over there in Egypt, please stay safe. I also need to practice what I preach in this area because the post was inspired by my own overuse of the system. I hope you find many places to cut back a find more time in your life for real contact.

  13. I am a headline reader. If the title grabs me, I venture on into the blog I’m following. I don’t read yours every single day … but obviously your title captured me! I clicked of FB in mid-September because was I obsessed with it and spent far too much time on it. I started my blog and have accomplished writing a post every single day since September. I reactivated my FB account and realized I had not missed much. I am using FB to post my blog for those who care to read it. I don’t know. There is an awful lot of digital clutter to distract me in my waking hours. I just try to keep it in check. Thanks for your great post today!!

    • I find that if I’m not actively engaged in something else, clicking the refresh button is my go-to activity, even though it often doesn’t yield me anything interesting. I only have 50 friends on FB – all good friends, immediate neighbors, and family members – many of whom aren’t very active. There has been incredibly snowy weather throughout the US including rare snow where I live in Texas, and FB came alive with people posting pictures, commenting on the power outages, etc. It was really fun because it was unusual, but I can easily see how having a large number of FB friends (like my cousin’s 300+) could make FB a very, very time sucking obsession.

    • Hi Suddenly Susan,
      keeping the digital clutter to a reasonable level can be a real challenge. All we need is another thing to become addicted to these days. Granted it is so much easier to get up to date information and to say in contact with friends and family. My children have many friends in America from when they lived there that they have stayed in easy contact with in the three and a half years simply because of the internet. This would not have been affordable for me at their age had I been in there position but never the less they tend to spend most of their waking lives digitally connected either by internet of cell phones.