The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up Online

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I recently read the book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up with Marie Kondo and my apartment is so tidy, even Marie Kondo would be proud. My drawers and closet are now organized and many bags of items, that didn’t bring me joy, were thrown on my stoop and scooped up by my fellow Brooklyners.

One thing that has remained on my mind is the questions of how do we apply these concepts to your digital life online? Not only is it refreshing to clear out online clutter, cleaning out unused accounts and data can strengthen the security of your personal information online. This makes it much harder for hackers to target you to take over your accounts and steal your identity.

We are going to explore the life changing magic of tidying up online, since she didn’t cover it in her book. I’m going to take a cue from my girl Marie and break this up into 3 categories.

Category 1: Social Media Accounts

Start by grabbing a piece of paper and making a quick list of all of those social media accounts. Try to think back about online accounts you don’t use anymore (hello, MySpace 👋🏻). Here’s a list of popular and once popular social media sites:

  • Facebook

  • Instagram

  • Snapchat

  • WhatsApp

  • YouTube

  • Skype

  • LinkedIn

  • Reddit

  • FourSquare

  • Nextdoor

  • Twitter

  • Pinterest

  • Tumblr

  • Ello

  • Peach

  • Meetup

First look at accounts you absolutely do not use.

Close these accounts. Most of these networks have instructions on how to close your account in their support docs. I recommend closing them because in the case they become compromised, the hacker could have their way with your account and any personal information stored in it, and it might be weeks before you find out because you don’t check these accounts.

Like Marie recommends, thank them for the joy they once brought you and let them go.

What about those accounts you are on the fence on?

This is where you really need to consider if these accounts bring you joy and the benefit you receive by having them open.

I had to evaluate this myself.

I recently had to take a hard look at my Facebook account. I still used it, and was connected to a lot of old friends and family on it. When I really reflected on it, the account was not bringing me joy, my posts were not really reaching friends, and I was not seeing all of their posts. On top of that I was increasingly concerned with the missteps Facebook had made with their user’s information. As an early adopter of Facebook (2005 baby!), there was a lot of information about me in there. I credit Marie with helping me take the final steps to say goodbye to Facebook.

Category 2: Non-Social Media Online Accounts

Repeat the same steps that you took to assess your social media accounts. List them out and evaluate these accounts. All these account might not bring you joy, like my work email or Dropbox account, but evaluate the usefulness of the account and what type of information they are storing. So if you have any account that you are not using and it’s storing your credit card number, that might be a good one to say goodbye to.

Here is some examples of accounts that fall under this category:

  • Email - Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, etc

  • Dropbox

  • Flickr

  • Airtable

  • Etsy

  • Evernote

  • Fitbit (Or any fitness type app)

  • Pandora

  • Spotify (really any music app)

  • Taskrabbit

A few months back I did this with my Fitbit account. This account was sitting dormant and I had no plans on getting back on the Fitbit train. Fitbit also stored a lot of information from my past use, like friends, my sleep schedule, and type of workouts I liked, and time frames that I typically hit the gym. This information doesn’t immediately pose a security risk, but it felt unnecessary to entrust Fitbit with information I no longer needed. So I deleted the account.

Category 3: Digital Assets

Digital assets might not necessarily be stored in an online account, but they commonly live on devices that we use to access the internet. These are things like pictures and documents that are stored on your computer or phone. If you lost your phone or your laptop tomorrow, would you know for sure all the information contained on it? Being unsure of the contents of the device can cause a lot of stress when we no longer have access to it.

Is there a note that contains your credit card number in it, or a sensitive picture that was only meant to be seen in private?

Go through your folders and get a good understanding of what you have stored. Delete the things you no longer need, organize what is left, and secure sensitive pictures and documents.

One of my biggest successes after cleaning up my digital assets was that I finally made my son’s baby book. It’s been years since he has been in diapers and finally looking at all these pictures and putting them in a place that I can now enjoy felt so freeing. Cleaning these files up also gave me much needed space on my computer to fill with new projects and memories.

I know what you are thinking... this sounds like a lot.

That’s how I felt when I read Marie’s book. I’m here to tell you it can be accomplished. To achieve success I recommend tackling one category at a time and not trying to cram it into one day.

Please share your successes and struggles in the comments below. I’d love to hear about your journey.