Don’t neglect digital decluttering

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messy computer desktop

1-800-GOT-JUNK? has played a big role in the organizing industry for as long as I can remember. Established in Canada (woo hoo!) in 1989, they now have franchises throughout the United States and Australia as well. Today I’m pleased to welcome their Content Manager, Samantha Landa as my guest, with some tips to help you and your clients with digital decluttering.


Remember that old adage, “messy house, messy mind’? In this modern age, we sometimes forget that there’s a digital aspect to our lives that’s equally crucial to organize. Maybe you’ve neglected to create folders on your office laptop, or you’ve uploaded family photos to the home computer without labeling the dates or locations where they were taken. Either way, you may be feeling overwhelmed.

Decluttering your ‘digital life’ will help with productivity moving forward. You’ll know where to find the reports you need, and the photos you want to print or share. You won’t waste precious time digging around for documents where the only thing you know is that the file name includes the word ‘final’.

Try the following tips for decluttering your digital workspace:

Clean up your desktop

Some of us save files to our desktop so they’re easily accessible later, but when we forget to file items away we see a cluttered computer every time we log on. The only icons on your desktop should be what you need to access regularly, like a ‘Documents’ folder or an application shortcut.

Create folders

Your digital filing system should consist of folders and sub-folders. Clearly label and categorize these. If you have a ‘Documents’ folder, don’t store photos or programs here. This folder may include sub-folders like ‘Reports’, ‘Scanned receipts’, or ‘Invoices’. Now you can file accordingly!

Create naming conventions for your files

We can all relate to the dreaded ‘Photo09142’ or ‘Doc_2_Final’ mystery files that inevitably end up on your computer but aren’t identifiable or searchable. Creating naming conventions will ensure you can find what you’re looking for, and don’t have to open a file to know what it is.

Try including the date (in a consistent format) and a brief description of the item:


Now you know when the item was scanned or created, and you can easily search the computer for it.

Consider a browser- or cloud-based service

If you don’t want to save items to your desktop, there are numerous browser-based services (like Google Drive) that allow you to store files ‘off-site’. You’ll be able to access your documents from any computer, and if yours ever fails you’ll know that your files are safe!

Purge every 6 months

Go through existing folders (especially your ‘Downloads’ folder!) and organize or purge every six months or more. Delete what you don’t need. If you must, create an archiving system of folders to store seldom-used-but-still-important files. Back up your documents regularly.

As a professional organizer or productivity expert, you’re well aware of the benefits of living simply. One benefit to personal computers is that physical items can be scanned and stored somewhere other than on your desk. Remind your clients that not all clutter is immediately visible, and getting their digital lives organized is one way to clear the mind and keep the home tidy.

Like these decluttering tips? Get more at

Photo by Steve Jurvetson, used under a Creative Commons license

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Samantha Landa edits the 1-800-GOT-JUNK? blog where she writes about decluttering, organizing, and living a simpler life. 1-800-GOT-JUNK? is a proud supporter of NAPO and regularly partners with professional organizers around North America.

Join the Conversation


  1. Avatar Patricia Muir on July 30, 2014 at 8:42 am

    Good timing! This is the week that I take a break from client work and devote my time to all things administrative and financial in my business (with a little time for play). As I was planning my day, the thought ran through my head that there is a little digital de-cluttering in order. As I have been organizing files this week, I have been making notes on how I can improve the efficiency of my own processes which includes an increased focus toward a paperless office. Good systems, processes, and file naming conventions add time to my day and increased efficiency to better serve my clients.

    • Avatar Janet Barclay on July 30, 2014 at 11:32 am

      That is great timing! I also think it was very wise for you to plan a break from client work this week, knowing that you’ve just returned from an out-of-town conference. It’s so important to allow ourselves that transition time so we can allow all that new information to percolate and figure out how we can implement it in our businesses and not just go back to the way we’ve always done things.

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