Try a Little Harder: Empty your Recycle Bin

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Usually when you think of clutter you think of a junk drawer in a house, odds and ends you can’t seem to get rid of no matter how hard you try, and stacks of documents that need to be addressed, but are just piling up instead. It’s enough to make me start to hyperventilate.  But you know what is equally awful?  Digital Clutter.

Truth be told, I don’t have a great solution for dealing with the files that pile up on your computer, the images you hoard over the years, or applications you downloaded once but have never used since (but some other people have some ideas here, here, and here).  It overwhelms me too.  But there’s one thing I do, that requires me to try a little harder, that has really changed the way I feel about my digital clutter.

I empty my recycle bin (or trash can for Mac users).  I don’t leave my computer for the day without it being completely empty. 

“But kj!” you say, “what if you delete something by accident that you need later?”  Well, that hasn’t happened since I’ve started doing this, and it’s kind of the point of this practice.

Let me explain. At the end of the day or end of a “session” on the computer, I take 1-5 minutes to review what’s in the bin.  Usually, because I’m doing this daily, there’s about 5-10 items in there, 20 at the most.  As I look it over, I note if I might need anything at some point.  Doing this daily makes it doable because there’s not a million files to sift through.  If it is something that I might need, I restore it, and delete everything else.  This is remarkably easy to do.

You know what’s not easy to do?  Look over everything you’ve deleted in the last month or year to figure out what is ok to delete because you probably don’t remember what things are.  And then you end up going down a rabbit hole, reading old documents, looking at old pictures… and the longer you sit in it, the harder it gets to get out and do the productive things you need to do, ie PURGE the JUNK!  You know what else isn’t easy to do? Find that accidentally deleted file that you know is somewhere in the recycle bin, but is incredibly hard to find because it’s in there amongst a million other items.  That won’t happen if you empty every day.

Think of the other areas of your life that could use this idea.  What would happen if you emptied your email inbox every day, or at least your deleted folder?  What would happen if you sifted through your junk drawer daily? Or your magazines monthly? Oh the possibilities.

Feeling overwhelmed?  Yeah, me too.  Which is why for now I’m just committing to my recycle bin.  Baby Steps, people.

Do you keep an empty recycle bin? How do you feel about digital clutter?


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