E-Clutter vs. P-Clutter

My mother-in-law recently started a group on Facebook called "Minimize."  Her inspiration for the group was a post on The Minimalists about starting a minimize game.  Essentially, each person playing the game donates, recycles, or trashes as many items as the day of the month.  For example, on December 31st a participant would minimize 31 items.  While the group doesn't play the game for the sake of competition, it has been really eye-opening to watch so many people declutter their homes.  I've participated a bit, but have not committed to daily decluttering since we already have parred down quite a bit.  One topic discussion that has come up quite frequently -- particularly at the end of the month when we're struggling to find items to declutter -- is the following:  Does electronic clutter count?

I think that the answer to this question lies in one's definition of clutter.  I define clutter as anything that takes up unnecessary space in my life.  For my purposes, space can mean physical or mental space.  Something that detracts from my ability to accomplish my goals (personal or professional) is clutter.

As a result of this definition, I completely support the idea of electronic media counting as clutter.  For example, I took time to reclaim my email box from newsletters and advertisements that I don't have a use for.  Unsubscribing to these took about 15 seconds per email, but the end result is less wading through the mess to find the correspondence that I want to read.  Another example is Internet bookmarks.  I often bookmark pages so that I'll remember to go back to them or for future projects.  Taking the time to delete the bookmarks for pages that I had read or for the pages that were no longer relevant made my folders much easier to manage.

Of course, there is all sorts of other electronic clutter that one might want to go through and purge periodically.

  • E-Books
  • Pictures
  • Music
  • Files
I have digitized most of my important paperwork, but I still need to go through every so often and delete the paperwork that is no longer necessary.  Not only does this free up hard drive space, it forces me to evaluate my organization system.  Decluttering and minimizing are a process, not an end state.

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