We have organised our paperwork, cleaned all of our cupboards until they sparkled and Marie Kondoed our wardrobes...We should be patting ourselves on the back that we have managed to achieve a rather decluttered, minimalist lifestyle but there is a very critical area everyone always seems to forget - our digital environment.
With the average adult spending close to 11 hours looking at a screen each day and checking their phone every 10 minutes, it is safe to say that when it comes to decluttering, our digital world is just as important as our physical space. Let’s not forget how energy-consuming (in the literal, and metaphorical sense) all of our technological devices are - especially since we never seem to go offline these days.
Data might seem invisible to us but every email we send, Instagram photo we post or status we update remain on giant heated servers somewhere in the world. Given all the buzzing servers in huge data centres, these giant buildings which they are in need to be cooled off and the emissions generated from doing so are honestly staggering, it’s even claimed that “ICT’s carbon footprint is on par with aviation”.
So, let’s give your digital life an e-clean so that you can, from now on, start enjoying more productivity and less stressful distractions in life, while also cutting down on your (digital) carbon footprint. Here are our 5 helpful tips for a digital declutter:
Make Your Inbox Zero Waste
Each newsletter sent to your inbox generates approximately 10 grams of CO₂ and only 10% of newsletter emails are ever opened. In other words, cleaning your inbox regularly will not only make your digital experience more Zen-like, but will also directly reduce your carbon footprint.
Firstly, unsubscribe from all the email lists that don’t inspire or bring value to you (you will be surprised by how many there are!). Essentially, those are the ones accountable for your overflooded email inbox. Secondly, regularly delete old emails. There are lots of free online tools and apps that can help you towards a cleaner inbox such as Cleanfox, they even estimate the carbon emissions you saved by doing so when using their service!
If you are on the journey of consuming less, a great way to make this happen is to unsubscribe from any brand that is flooding your inbox with offers and discounts. It seems like a small effort, but it does make a huge difference because, without a 20% discount, things you don’t need are simply just not that attractive...
Only Let The Good Stuff In
It is as important to unsubscribe from the newsletters that always seem to remain unread, as it is essential to subscribe to those that will make your inbox a joy, rather than a source of stress or pressure. At BLANC, we think that some newsletters are simply a must when it comes to letting the good vibes in:
1. For the eco-conscious: Pebble Magazine
2. For anyone needing some extra positivity: Positive news
3. For the professional fashionista: Business of Fashion
4. For the zero waste foodies: Zero Waste Weekly
Simply just pick and choose - there is a newsletter out there for everyone, and hopefully, you found a new favourite here! However, it is wise to bear in mind the environmental impact, so try to only subscribe to the ones that truly excite you. So you can sip on your morning coffee and read an inbox full of inspiration and enjoyment - all whilst reducing your carbon footprint!
Organise your desktop
All of our desktops, at times, look like a digital explosion with random documents, irrelevant screenshots and old pictures - and it seems that you can find just about anything on there. This always makes it harder to spot the applications and files that you actually need and use on a regular basis. Here you need to be a bit ruthless and drag as many of them as possible to the bin, even the ‘might-need-for-future-use ones!’ For all the remaining files you can then create your own little folder hierarchy.
Make sub-folders for each set and name them clearly and concisely. To easily find your way through the folder hierarchy, use colours according to the level of importance: bold colours, like red, to express urgency, and a less bright colour, like grey, to signify the opposite. Digital clutter slows down your computer over time and leaves you with minimal space to store your files and personal data, which will inevitably lead you to buying more storage space - costly and often unnecessary! This is why a routine e-clean up can also improve your computer performance, as well as your carbon footprint.
Have a Social Media Clean-up
Maniacally updating feeds and double-tapping our screens have become a normal, everyday habit for most of us and we now spend, on average, almost 16 hours of scrolling per week. All of this whilst more and more studies confirm the negative mental health impacts of social media.
Aesthetically perfect Instagram feeds and constantly updated relationship statuses on Facebook are doing little to help us overcome growing feelings of self-doubt, or combat the idea that everyone else’s life is perfect while ours is far from it.
The good news this, is that you are in charge of your own feed and therefore YOU choose what should be on it. We often tend to forget that we have a choice about what we see, what we care about and also what we ignore.
This is why our fourth tip is to take 15 minutes to unfollow anyone who turns your thoughts in a negative direction. Your feed should never fail to make you smile or inspired. If you need some help to find the most inspiring influencers, we listed our favourites who will make scrolling more joyous (and your life a whole lot greener!).
Sustainability queen Venetia Lamanna - who hosts the incredible podcast Talking Tastebuds with zero waste chef Max La Manna (you also now buy his cookbook More Plants Less Waste on Amazon) - started the social media challenge #Offline48.
The rules are simple: turn your phone off on Friday night, do whatever you like (without your phone being physically attached to your hand), and then switch it on again on Monday morning. As easy as ABC. What started as a Christmas holiday escape to have more time to spend with their families, and each other, has now turned into a mindful social media community with lots of their followers jumping on the bandwagon!
“Our shared ethos is ‘mindful consumption’ and not only is the practice of switching our phones off essential for our mental health and consciousness, but it’s also great for the planet because our phones take up so much energy” - Venetia
They both agreed that being mindful about using their phones is the way forward so that our phones can be a force for community and connection rather than stress and dependence. Having time off your phone creates a new sense of presence and awareness of your surroundings. Venetia describes the feeling of screen-less time as utter bliss - maybe the next coming weekend it’s time that you go #Offline48!
If you can’t completely turn off your phone but want to reduce your screen-time (or maybe feel like you need a warm-up before jumping on the 48-hour challenge) here are some useful tips:
1. Turn off your notifications
A little ping can seem harmless, but the cost of an interruption is more powerful than we might realise. Suddenly our minds get intruded by a text, an email or a friend request on Facebook. Notifications are constantly reminding us to check our phones when we don’t need to. Instead, turn them off and check your apps when you feel like it, not when your phone says ping!
2. Download Forest App
Forest is an app that helps you stay away from your device and stay focused on work by planting one real tree at a time. Whenever you need to focus, you plant a tree in the app, and in the following time while you work, the tree grows. While the tree is growing you must stay on the app the entire time and if you decide to give up and open another app, the tree will die. These real trees are planted through Maryland nonprofit Trees for the Future - a great motivator if you ask us!
3. Get an alarm clock
At least once, we have all excused our bedtime scrolling sessions with the argument that we do not have a separate alarm clock from our phones. And so how on earth would we wake up without it? Believe it or not, before smartphones we (almost always) managed to wake up for our 8 am meetings! There is a very simple solution to your conundrum: buy an alarm clock. They weren’t left in the 2000s and work just as well now as they did back then! We love this alarm clock from Etsy, which will definitely spice up your bedside table.
An inbox and social media feed filled with bliss, an organised laptop and a digital detox later, we hope that your digital space has never been so clean! Holiday time is a wonderful time to give ourselves some perspective, and even if you are led on a beach somewhere right now, you probably can see the merit of spending a bit of time doing this when you return.