At work I keep my desk clutter free. It helps me to relax and focus on my tasks. Unfortunately, my online life was a huge mess. My online office looked similar to that of an extreme hoarder. I was sitting on a pile of digital junk and I was sharing so much information with companies I barely knew. Things had to change! In this blog I explain to you how I decluttered my online life.
A clutter free desk helps me to relax and focus
When I am working I like my desk to be empty. Okay, not completely empty. Just a computer, phone and cup of coffee or tea. Somehow a clutter free desk helps me to relax and focus. I try to work completely paperless and scan everything I need to keep or read later. For maximum effect I also love using minimalist, distraction free apps. For example; this blog is written in the minimalist word processing app iA Writer. For reading news I use the excellent RSS reader Reeder which I use with a minimalist, distraction free setup (no images and greyscale text). And for browsing I use a browser with an anti-tracker (BitDefender) tool and an adblocker (AdBlock).
I was sitting on a pile of digital junk and I was sharing so much information with companies I barely knew
Then why did I make such a huge mess of my online life? I guess I have been online for 25 years and the last 10 years I have accumulated dozens of different accounts. My online office looked similar to that of an extreme hoarder. I was sitting on a pile of digital junk and I was sharing so much information with companies I barely knew.
I was donating it all to the online data hoarders
What accounts am I talking about? Of course I used Google, Gmail and YouTube. I was also on Facebook and used Instagram. For exercise I used many different apps, from: Runkeeper, Runtastic and Nike Run Club to Fitbit. But it doesn’t stop there. I loved all kinds of (location-) check in apps, like: Foursquare, Swarm end Untappd (yes…I even logged my beers…). For work I used several online task managers and I also used many different online shops and market places to buy and sell stuff. And to top it all off, I used several blogging tools to write many blogs about all kinds of different subjects over the years.
Tip of the iceberg
Sounds like a lot? Well, this is just the tip of the iceberg. There was so much more stuff. And I was donating it all to the online data hoarders. They loved me! I showed them everything about my personal life, my: hobbies, locations, photographs, health and web browsing history. They knew exactly what beers I was drinking and what kind of work I was doing (usually not at the same time…). They knew everything about my family and they even knew wat kind of dog I have! And it was all my own fault. I was using their ‘free’ tools, which made me ‘their’ product. I paid them with my precious personal data.
How I decluttered my online life
Where did I start? Well, digital decluttering is very similar to normal decluttering. You look at the item in your hand and ask yourself things like: do I use this? Do I really need this? Will I miss this? Quite often the answer to that is “No” and you can either throw it away or sell it.
One thing I had done right was that I kept a list of all accounts I made over the last 10 years or so. Which allowed me to track them all down and ask myself the questions: do I use this? Do I really need this? Will I miss this? And 90% of the time the answer was “No” and I deleted it. The ones I decided to keep I stripped completely. Which was a lot of work. But it felt great!
make an effort in finding the (usually hidden) option that allows you to delete all the data the particular app has on you
In the process I discovered that there is a huge difference to deleting the app and actually deleting all the data. My advice to you is to make an effort in finding the (usually hidden) option that allows you to delete all the data the particular app has on you.
That is how I decluttered my online life. My online life is now similar to my desk at work. It is not completely empty but it looks tidy and it helps me to relax and focus.
Decluttering took me many, many hours. But it was completely worth the effort! To get you started, this excellent article on cnet explains how you can find and delete the data Google has on you.