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We are well aware how physical clutter causes distraction and how we are emotionally tied to it and just cant let it go.

But digital clutter is different beast altogether. I don't know what to do with all my hoarded bookmarks, thousands of emails (thanks to infinite GBs provided by email today), subscriptions on various sites, rss feeds, Todo lists, maps markings, outlook PST. Often older things are left just like that with switches from social networks, email, IM applications, address books, bookmark managers, password managers etc.

I work as a programmer and naturally I have collection of my programming projects, some projects that I can still use, most of other I can not, many scripts (bat/shell/groovy), older programs/projects coded in c++, a language which I no longer use, some projects in near extinct languages (VB6, ASP) and so on. But I still have them just for 'some day', 'historical', 'emotional' or just because I worked so many months on this project, how could i delete it.

It's way too easy to collect (free free free), way too easy to hide (just move to different folder/archive), and way too easy to delete too (but often not deleted because of emotional attachments). Here I am not talking about excessive downloads, movies, mp3, software etc. I find myself being easily able to delete those. I tend to hoard data that I mentioned above.

UPDATE: To be more precise with what exactly I am looking for, i am rephrasing the questions:

  1. What kind of data to keep and and for how long(bookmarks, contacts, calendar, todo list (RTM)))?
  2. What should one do with older project (may be coding, artwork, writings etc)?
  3. How to handle information clutter/overflow (so many logins to remember, emails to check, feeds to read, task to mark complete, banking transaction histories etc)?
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What's your question here? You seem to be simply asking for folks to talk about what they do, without necessarily providing a problem to be solved... These sites work a lot better if you can steer clear of opinion / discussion and focus on solutions. –  Shog9 Jun 30 '11 at 4:34
I have updated the question (last part), to be more specific with what i am asking. –  kunal Jun 30 '11 at 13:53
That's a lot to answer in one go O.o... –  RolandiXor Jun 30 '11 at 14:34
@kunal: Your question is overly broad and is asking for subjective opinions‌​, please split this up in smaller questions based on actual practical problems as stated by the FAQ. The current form is unlikely to produce any really useful results, it's more than a hard challenge to properly answer this completely... –  Tom Wijsman Jun 30 '11 at 15:20
I honor general consensus about broadness/vagueness of the question. Should I split the question and ask only one thing at a time ? Do you feel that these topics don't qualify as question pertaining to personal productivity? I do think there is no single unanimous approach to problems posed above so may be answers will tend to be subjective which is discouraged on QA sites. –  kunal Jun 30 '11 at 15:40
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closed as not constructive by Tom Wijsman, Robert Cartaino Jun 30 '11 at 22:27

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3 Answers

As you mentioned it is easy enough to hide this clutter in a subfolder so that it no longer distracts you. If the clutter doesn't take up a significant amount of hard drive space it is probably not worth your time to sort through it all to decide what you want to keep and what can be trashed. So if you're not willing to do as @VMAtm suggests and delete everything that meets a certain criteria (i.e. an old "last modified" date) then it is probably a better use of your time to just archive it in a folder. You can always come back to it in a couple years and re-evaluate your willingness to delete it.

In order to avoid having to spend I think one of the most helpful things is to practice good "housekeeping" as you go. In other words you should practice habits that will prevent the collection of clutter so that you don't have to spend time de-cluttering later on. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Delete unneeded items as you go. This is especially helpful when taking digital pictures. I often take multiple shots of the same pose in order to get a good one. The important part is to then delete the ones that you don't like and keep only the best of each pose. Then delete poses that you don't like. Consider this: If you to be a great photographer who "takes only great pictures", then you have to be willing to delete all of the good ones and keep only the great ones.

  • Use a temporary folder such as C:\temp\. Often I will download or create a file that I only need to use over the period of a couple days, or even just once. I am fond of using C:\temp for these items. At this moment I have just under 200 items in C:\temp. ... And now I have none. Simply by putting it in C:\temp I have already decided that I will delete it later. So I can delete C:\temp on a whim and I don't have to second guess myself.

  • Use other temporary collection areas when possible. The previous principal can be extended. Reserve one corner of your desktop for icons that will be there no more than a month or two. You can also combine the previous two rules. Keep in mind that when you delete a file it usually just goes to the recycling bin. If you think you probably won't need it then you can often just delete it. When you empty the recycle bin you can look at the latest week to month of items and do a quick five second check if you want to keep the latest items or wipe the entire recycle bin.

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Yes, your idea of temp is exactly what i do. All my Firefox/Chrome download locations are set to a single download directory which I can purge without looking at the content. If something was useful I would have copied it somewhere else. –  kunal Jun 30 '11 at 16:00
@Stainsor +1 for C:\temp\ That's a great idea! –  Paul T. Jan 9 '13 at 17:42
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Digital clutter isn't so different from physical ones. It can actually be a lot easier to organize. I'd advise you to archive everything you're not currently using and spend some time organizing them in specific categories, so you don't have to waste your time searching. If the old data is not organized it's just never gonna be used or can take more time retrieving old data than writing brand new ones.

If whatever you have to usually use is also in a big quantity, organize them in different categories depending where and when you're planning to use them. I'm not sure what you're currently using to sort things out but most Google services offer tools for organization such as automated tags for GMail and folders for Google Reader.


As an addition option to easily handle all the information you have stored, you can also make an index describing in short sentences everything you have archived whether it's local or online. It helps when you're still wondering what's the best category for a specific piece of information, if it's necessary to create a new categories and avoids bulking the 'Other' folder - which shouldn't grow larger than just a few itens. When 'Other' grows too big you know it's time to create a new category.

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I delete all stuff I didn't open for a two years. It refers to everything but photos and one code-project with code snippets. I do this task regular, and I suggest you to start exactly with code projects and utilities. "Some day" never gonna happen.

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