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Nirvana: Steps To Digital Declutter && Detox

Our phones and computers are like our homes. In fact, most courts have upheld that they’re more like our homes than our cars are. Our devices can quickly become cluttered with apps, photos, and other files. Especially for those who use apps to pay bills, invest, manage devices around the home, etc. Yet, just as our kitchen gets cluttered with unused utensils and appliances, our devices get cluttered with unused applications.

Start with Decluttering

If devices are starting to feel overwhelming or you’re not getting anything done, it's time to declutter or maybe even take a break from the devices, which is often referred to as a “digital detox” given how toxic constantly being online can be. Let’s look at a few steps to get there:

  1. Get rid of old devices. We often want to keep old laptops and phones around in case something didn’t transfer to the new ones. Old devices are a security risk, but also show up in apps as having permissions to access resources, thus cluttering up the cleanup process itself. If it’s been a month or a year, then it’s probably fine to back it up onto a USB drive and retire it for good.

  2. Delete unused apps. Take a look at all the apps on your phone and delete any that you don't use. This will free up space on your phone and make it easier to find the apps you do use. Keep in mind that devices will now archive apps that haven’t been used in a certain amount of time (at least those installed via app stores), but they can still leave cruft like extensions and URI handlers behind.

  3. Clear out cookies and browser histories. Set a reminder or automate this. It preserves privacy, improves security, and gets rid of cruft.

  4. Organize your apps. If you have a lot of apps, it can be helpful to organize them into folders. This will make it easier to find the apps you need and keep your home screen looking neat. The less that’s on that initial screen, the easier it is to find things. Also, the less alerts you’ll see every time you unlock the phone. The same goes for a cluttered desktop on laptops.

  5. Disable notifications where they aren’t needed. Lots of apps can send us push alerts that cause our phones to ding or vibrate constantly. Go through the list of apps that have an entitlement to notify and disable those that aren’t necessary, or restrict the notifications.

  6. Restrict access to resources for certain apps. The organizations that make the operating systems we use restrict access to certain frameworks/APIs unless a user opts into their use. This usually means they surface a quick and easy interface to disable access. For example, why would that one game you like to play while sitting in lines need access to your camera - turn it off. If the app breaks, you can always turn it back on.

  7. Disable browser extensions. Browser extensions can be fairly dangerous. They can also be a nag. That coupon app you installed doesn’t need to be able to read every POST request that is sent to every single website. Especially since it was written in a country that might have very different perspectives on data privacy than your own.

  8. Delete old photos and videos. If you have a lot of photos and videos on your phone, go through them and delete any that you don't need. This will free up space on your phone and make it easier to find the photos and videos you do want to keep.

  9. Back up your data. Before you start deleting anything, be sure to back up your data. This way, you can always restore it if you need to. Use a cloud storage service to back up your photos and videos. This will free up space on your phone and make it easier to access your files from anywhere.

  10. Block unwanted communications. It’s really quick and easy to delete a message in the mail or text client on a phone, but by marking them as junk or spam, you’re training not just your devices but perhaps all devices on that platform that a message might be dangerous or at minimum a nag. Also, opt-in mailing lists aren’t spam, but you might not care to get the messages any more. No one will get their feelings hurt if you opt out, and according to the mail client, this might be a one-button step. Futher, if the vendor hasn’t been providing value, they might just improve their communications!

  11. Clear out that inbox. It’s great to get to an “Inbox 0” state, where all messages are filed or deleted, but that can cause its own anxiety, so start with just blocking communications as they come in and moving on. Alternatively, just take everything and move it into a folder and start over. Then you can search for anything needed and get proactive with managing the fresh inbox.

  12. Leave stale communities in chat apps. Slack, Discord, and other community platforms can suck you into a cycle of constant updates. Some may be necessary (e.g. for work), but each channel can be silenced or even left if it gets to be too much.

  13. Set limits on your phone usage. If you find yourself spending too much time on your phone, set some limits for yourself. This could mean limiting the amount of time you spend on social media or setting a timer for yourself when you're using certain apps.

  14. Silence devices at night or leave them set to away all the time. People have slowly been trained not to expect a response to texts when you’ve marked that you aren’t available. You have permission to not be available all the time. Let’s just repeat that: you have permission to be offline.

  15. Make sure you’re running the latest operating system and version of apps. This doesn’t seem like a declutter, but it keeps the device secure and makes sure the built-in and installed apps are less buggy and prone to error. Software updates rarely break functionality these days, so turn on automatic updates if it’s not already on.

  16. Enable Screen Time. Many will think of Screen Time as a way to monitor the use of a device for kids. But it’s also a timer to limit your phone usage. This will help you avoid getting sucked into your phone for hours on end. We can also set timers for specific apps. For example, get stuck in the morasse of Instagram or Twitter or arguing with family on Facebook for hours on end? Limit them to an hour a day! Can’t put that game that always wants you to buy loot boxes down? Limit it to ten minutes a day! It’s also healthy to look at app usage and realize how long is spent in certain apps or types of apps or just on the phone in general.

  17. Delete stale accounts. Don’t use that one app any more? Still getting emails from them? Old accounts can cost money, have saved credit card or personally identifiable information, or old passwords. This can create a security risk but also just an annoyance. Remove any sensitive information from accounts that they don’t need and if possible move on. The less digital footprint, the better.

  18. Use a task manager to keep track of your to-do list. This will help you stay organized and on top of your commitments. Once you see all the to-do items, look for ways to automate tasks, freeing up valuable time to stroll through olive groves and ponder the philosophy of Theseus or whatever it is you need time for!

  19. Use a password manager to store your passwords. This will help you keep your passwords safe and secure.

Decluttering your devices can be a little time consuming, but it's worth the time invested. A decluttered phone is a more efficient and enjoyable phone to use. So take some time to declutter your phone today and see how much better it feels.

Decluttering your phone can be a great way to improve your productivity and overall well-being. By taking some time to declutter your phone, you can free up space, improve your focus, and reduce stress. Some will still need a little more of a break from devices, if it’s possible given the mixed home/work use of most devices.

If Decluttering Doesn’t Work, Detox

It can be hard to escape the constant barrage of digital stimulation. We're constantly checking our phones, computers, and TVs for news, updates, and entertainment. While technology can be a great tool, it can also be a major source of stress and distraction.

That's where digital detoxes come in. A digital detox is a period of time when you intentionally reduce or eliminate your use of digital devices. This can be anything from a few hours to a few weeks, and the goal is to give yourself a break from the constant stimulation of technology.

There are many benefits to taking a digital detox. For one, it can help you reduce stress and anxiety. Studies have shown that people who spend more time on digital devices are more likely to experience symptoms of anxiety and depression. Additionally, digital detoxes can help you improve your sleep, focus, and productivity.

If you're thinking about taking a digital detox, here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Set a goal. How long do you want to go without using digital devices? A few hours? A day? A week? Once you know your goal, you can start planning your detox.

  • Tell your friends and family. Let your friends and family know that you're taking a digital detox. This will help them understand why you're not responding to texts or calls, and it will also give them someone to talk to if they need to reach you.

  • Find activities to fill your time. When you're not using digital devices, you'll need to find other things to do with your time. This could include reading, writing, going for walks, spending time with friends and family, or pursuing hobbies.

  • Don't be afraid to ask for help. If you find it difficult to stick to your digital detox, don't be afraid to ask for help from a friend, family member, or therapist.

  • Start small. If you're not used to going without your devices for long periods of time, start with a short detox. Try going for a few hours without your phone or computer, and then gradually increase the amount of time you spend unplugged.

  • Find a supportive community. There are many online and offline communities that can help you stay motivated on your digital detox journey. Joining a community can provide you with support, accountability, and inspiration. Just don’t get sucked into constant alerts from the community, if it’s online!

  • Be patient. It takes time to adjust to a life without digital devices. Don't get discouraged if you slip up along the way. Just pick yourself up and keep going.

Taking a digital detox can be a great way to improve your well-being and reduce anxiety. If you're feeling stressed, anxious, or overwhelmed, consider taking a few hours or even a few days to unplug from technology. Apps like Screen Time will help, but just leaving devices locked in a drawer for the weekend could end up giving you even more relief. You may be surprised at how much better you feel without the constant alerts.

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