How to put organisational apps to work

Digital hoarding can be made worse by fancy apps and clever tools. Ultimately it’s not what you use, but how you use it that counts.

Organisational apps: alphabetical rolodex

There are hundreds of apps and tools available that claim to help you stay organised, but more often than not they can lead to more digital hoarding, not less.  When it comes to clearing computer clutter, it’s not what you use, but how you use it that counts.

Managing email

I signed up to a month ago. It bundles all your subscriptions and newsletters into a single daily email, which is great. The problem? I have only opened five of those messages during that month, and deleted even less. The number in my inbox is lower and my guilt has lessened, but my clutter has increased.

Organising your email and deleting it are two very different things.  Setting up rules for incoming messages or subscribing to services like can help you prioritise your mail, but they don’t remove the need for you to open, deal with and delete each message.

Bookmarks and archives

There’s a lot of interesting content to be found on the web, and often we find it just when have the least time to read it. This is where adding a webpage to our favourites, or clipping an article to Evernote comes in handy. What we fail to do though, is consider whether we’re really going to come back to it, or whether we could just survive without ever reading it. People typically use only 20 percent of what they save.

Apps like Evernote, or bookmarks in your browser, are a great way to save truly important or fascinating things, but they only help in the fight against digital hoarding if you categorise as you save, and delete as you read.

Saving to the cloud

“Have you collected Microsoft SkyDrive, Google Drive, Box, and Amazon cloud storage like flash drives to some virtual key ring?” asks Daniel W. Rasmus. It’s easy to answer yes. Unfortunately, as these services can’t integrate with each other, there’s no single way to search for a lost document, and you often end up with the same files saved in multiple clouds.

“The problem isn’t that it slows down your computer—it slows down your brain,” says David Nowell, neuropsychologist. With no simple way to search, you try instead to keep track of files by memory and as Rasmus points out, “you just don’t have enough addressable memory space in your brain.”

Simplify your cloud storage. If you honestly need more than one provider, categorise what you use each one for, such as home and work, or different projects. Also make sure you regularly clear out each one and avoid what Rasmus calls Distributed Data Disorder.

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