Minimalism and Decluttering. Both of these things have been quite popular over the past few years! I know that I’ve been a fan since I first discovered what Minimalism meant back in 2016. Before then, I’d be an “organised hoarder,” I.e. someone who had many things, mostly useless things but liked keeping it all in an orderly fashion.
Over the years, I’ve found some peace in letting go of things and keeping as few things as possible to help with the clutter I felt that clogged up my mind. Moving out of my parents home in 2018 helped with this process. Since then, I’ve focused on the “one in, one out” rule where I can with my physical stuff.
Apart from maybe sports bras and leggings which I have ups and downs with over the year (buying a lot then going cold turkey only to buy some more later down the line) and my collection of plants, I’ve done pretty well with the rest of my things.
When you think of decluttering, the first thing to come up is often around the physical clutter I just described. In our increasingly digital world, taking into account digital clutter is essential too. I’ve done my best keeping up with “digital stuff”, which I’ve found a lot more challenging than physical things I have to say. Over the years, I’ve gotten a lot better at sorting through and letting go of the clutter before they form into an unmanageable mess.
This blog post will run through how I’ve organised my digital space and the habits I’ve formed to keep it that way. In the same way, you’ll learn about how I set my “productivity” system with the tools that I use. I hope that it is helpful!
A quick disclaimer: This is what I do. I’m not telling you that you MUST do this, I’m just sharing my experience. If this doesn’t work for you and you enjoy the clutter, then I’m not judging. You do you. 😉
Tools that I use every day
I store away most of my files on Google Drive. I could go on about why I’ve chosen Google Drive as my storage option. But that is another blog post. 😂 For this and you’ll find out most of the other tools I use, I love organising things into folders and colour-coordinating everything if possible.
Over the past couple of years, what has worked for me has been to split things off into different areas. Some things overlap, though! For example, my speaking engagements can be placed under “Career” or “Online” because I speak about a range of different topics. I put all my speaking engagements under Career to simplify things because I talk more about career-related stuff over online-stuff.
When I create a new file, I ALWAYS try to give it meaningful names. This advice is probably an obvious one, but it’s crazy how many people don’t. Gone are the days where I name files fujskgejrkg.png. 😬 For documents, such as my “Inspiring Figures” documents with dates on them, I try and add it in the title to help me quickly search for a specific record from a particular time.
I don’t particularly enjoy filing away physical paper, so I tend to scan EVERYTHING and upload them into my Drive. I’ve only kept the physical documents if I need to show it to someone for whatever reason.
Although most of the documents that I create live on Drive, I have recently moved some of those to Notion for quicker access. These are mostly for things that I refer back to every day. I’ve found it more comfortable than finding a detailed spreadsheet on Drive. I won’t go into Notion now because it is another one that needs it’s very own blog post.
I’ve been using Bear for writing most of my blog posts. I used to use Google Docs for that but switched over because I prefer how much more lightweight Bear is. Perfect for writing!
With Bear, I put each of my notes into different categories. You can automatically do this by adding a hashtag in the document that you’re writing in. For example, as I’m writing this blog post in Bear, it has #blog at the bottom. I got into this habit of organising my notes like this, and over time, I’ve got a list of categories on the notes I write daily.
A tiny thing that I love about Bear: it automatically creates an icon for some of the categories. 😍 It’s a little thing, but it always makes me smile.
Once upon a time, I was more Google Calendar obsessed than I am now. 😆 My personal Google Calendar is so important to me, but I’ve not used it as often nowadays because my work calendar is the one I look at much more frequently. With that said, I organise whatever Calendar I’m using in the same way:
- Colour blocks for different blocks of time, e.g. meetings – purple, task/blocked out focus – red, break – yellow, exercise/health – blue, appointment – grey.
- Emojis everywhere. I mean, you all probably know that it’s how I organise most things.
- Different calendars for different things. For example, I have a “Finances” calendar separate from my main Calendar to help me quickly focus on one at a time. Back when I used to use my Calendar more often (2017 was peak Calendar-Pauline 😂), I even had a “Social” calendar, “Family” calendar, “Content” calendar…
You can never have too many calendars; I used to say! I still have these around, but I mostly just put all my events into one Calendar for simplicity. They’re still useful though, ESPECIALLY the Finances and shared Family one.
You can find out how to create different calendars as part of your main one here.
I use LastPass as my password manager. Ever since I discovered it a few years ago, my life has changed! I also feel a real sense of security with my accounts now; it’s oddly satisfying 😂
For all my passwords, secure notes and all the information I store on LastPass. The passwords are – you guessed it – organised into specific folders.
Once upon a time, I just saved passwords as and when I created a new account for something and never bothered to organise my vault. I thought, what was the point when LastPass was smart enough to fill in the details for you when you got onto a website?
That still holds in a sense, but there have been multiple times where I literally couldn’t find details to an account, and for some reason, LastPass couldn’t automatically figure it out either. It is also true with things like secure notes where there isn’t that Autofill feature. It was painful going through my vault, especially when I didn’t know what I was specifically looking for. 😬
Organising it all into folders has helped me speed things up, knowing the folder specific note or password. For example, I have a custom folder on everything “Pawlean” so when I find myself in a similar position to the above, I go straight into the folder Pawlean to find it. Organisation wins.
Note: cleaning up and decluttering duplicate passwords/notes in LastPass when it was a mess was therapeutic. It took hours, but so worth it. 😆
I’m going to come out and say it: I hate storing my photos on my iPhone and iCloud. I’m not too fond of Apple’s Photo app too.
Phew, I got that out of my chest. 😂
I use Google Photos for its search functionality, ease of sharing albums with specific people and the UI. It is those reasons I use it! I mention this later in the post, but I like to upload my photos onto Google Photos EVERY SINGLE WEEK and then clear my Photos app on my iPhone. I’ve done it this way for years, and it’s proven reliable cross-platform as well.
The way I organise my Google Photos is by creating various albums for important events throughout the years. In 2019, my albums were mostly travelling albums. I didn’t make many in 2020, to be honest! I don’t tend to create albums for day-to-day or random photos. It’s nice having tabs on all the images you’ve ever taken AND specific memories like travel adventures or celebrations.
I also star photos that I “need” frequently – profile photos are a great example of this.
Things are my main to-do list app. The way that I’ve used the app has changed over the years. I’ve tried all sorts of different ways to categorise, tag and prioritise the tasks I add to Things! Right now, my Things looks like:
- WEEKLY PLANNING – I write down things that I’d like to do in the week.
- DAILY TASKS – I move tasks from that weekly area to daily.
- WEEKEND – I write down all the tasks that I want/need to do on the weekend.
I’m still working on organising my to-do list, but this is the system that works well for me. A simple app that allows me to create a list of tasks that I need to do throughout the week!
I’m the person without any notification badge on their email app. I mean, I do have notifications off for emails, but even if you did open up my email it would be that glorious “Inbox Zero”.
Once I receive an email, I have three choices: file away to a specific folder, unsubscribe or delete.
Every few months, I like to go back to each folder and look at deleting anything that I don’t need anymore. Some of the time, I don’t know if I still need it in the future, so this is where my Drive comes in. I create a PDF version of the email and store it away in its new home on a folder on Google Drive.
Desktop, iPhone and iPad apps
I thought that it was worth mentioning these too.
- Desktop: I take a lot of screenshots during the week. This excessive screenshotting can lead to an excessive amount of clutter on my Desktop, so I try and delete them every day if possible. If I need them for the future, I rename the file then head over straight to Drive to store it away.
- iPhone/iPad apps: When I install a new app on my phone/iPad, I organise it into a specific folder on my device. On my iPhone, I don’t even add it to my home screen anymore but automatically stored away onto the App Library. Organising my iPhone is another post in the future, so I’ll leave it, for now, 🤩 You get the idea by now, I’m sure!
Habits (or an obsession)
Your call. 😛
To stay on top of the digital clutter, I spend a few minutes every week just going through these tools and organising them. I don’t do massive decluttering and organising sessions anymore because I have a habit of looking at everything once a week. Some of the tools that make it to my weekly declutter frequently are:
- Google Photos – mostly because I do take photos of random shit at times and if I don’t look at it often, it would just be loads of random photos. Also what adds to the pile are those workout selfies every day. I can’t keep them all, I’m afraid. 😆
- Things – to reorganise and refocus at the end of each week and to tick anything off that I forgot to tick off at the time. IT FEELS GOOD.
- Google Calendar – plans change often. I always want to make sure my Calendar reflects that!
- Google Drive and Bear – I create various documents during the week (mostly for my online/content stuff) and so my Drive and Notes app can get quite cluttered with random ideas that come to me. I like to keep this organised to help with planning content for the weeks to come!
- Emails – Inbox Zero every weekend, yo.
It might sound overkill/ridiculous/a little obsessive (I know a few of my friends laugh at how particular I am sometimes 😂) If I were any character, I would 100% be Amy Santiago from Brooklyn 99 with maybe a mix of Monica Geller from Friends. If you know, you know.
Now that I’m getting to the end of writing this post, I realised how many times I wrote “organise by putting into folders” 😂 That is all there is to keep your online space clean! But hopefully, this gave you an idea of how I’ve organised myself.
I’d love to know about how you organise your digital clutter? Is it something that you prioritise and find essential too? I’d love to hear your thoughts!