Making "digital cleaning" a part of my weekly home cleaning routine

When I was a kid, it was well-established that Saturday was a cleaning day in my family. Everybody knew their chores — mine was cleaning my room. It was disciplined by my parents, and this has followed me into adulthood. Even now, as an adult, I still spend (mostly) every Saturday morning cleaning. Everybody knows the feeling of going out doing your day and then coming back to a clean home later that day. A while back, I thought to myself: why can't I bring that same feeling to my digital space?

Like many, I have interests apart from my primary occupation (programming) and consume a lot of content related to those interests. So naturally, when I come across an article, video, or tweet on some topic I like, I think to myself: "Hey, this is useful (or could be helpful in the future); I'll save it or open the link and read it." However, on the following tweet/post or two, the same thing happens — or I just don't have time to read them at that moment. So I end up saving both… that just sit there. I'm sure many reading this have the problem of saving hundreds of links, bookmarking dozens of tweets, and having 50 tabs open on your phone… all of them with the same purpose: You'll read them later. It's usually a big fat lie, and we mostly never do. We don't even open them until we discard them a few months later. The fact that there's so much information on the internet is both incredible (as you can master many skills by just consuming content on that particular topic) and also completely overwhelming by the amount of information that you can end up not reading anything and the amount of saved content just ends up amassing. Not only is the amount of content very large, but it is also scattered all over the place.

I sure am guilty of this. At any point in time, I could have a bunch (dozens, hundreds) of:

  • tabs open between my phone, iPad, and computer
  • links bookmarked in Chrome
  • tweets bookmarked
  • Reddit posts saved
  • links stored in my Pocket account
  • personal notes that are just bullet points ready to be expanded
  • email newsletters waiting to be read
  • podcasts I want to listen to

One could think: just don't save that much content or close the tabs right away. Don't get me wrong, I love the fact that there's so much content online on topics I'm interested in. I have (or had) the problem of feeling overwhelmed by the amount of content that I end up not consuming any… or just forget about it.

A while back, I decided to bring my cleaning discipline into my "digital" space. I have decided that I will discipline myself to go through all the different media and clean up all the clutter once a week. I usually start with interesting articles to read but don't contain any information that needs to be noted or saved. After reading, they can just be closed/removed. Upon closing, I'm usually left with the same thought: interesting read, but you aren't that important to be cluttering up my life.

The same thing happens with email newsletters. Luckily, I already have a dedicated app to keep newsletters out of my email inbox, so that part of newsletters cluttering up my email is already "taken care of." Shameless plug: I have created the app, it's called Sendaway, and I use it every week. Most newsletters are usually "read once and delete," but some do contain some tidbits or links that might be helpful in the future. For those, I just take the content out, summarize it, and store it in my notes app. Your first thought might be: but now you're just storing it in some other place. Well, yes and no.

I have found that the biggest problem for me is the scattering of the information, the fact that the content is all over the place. If I have everything in one place, as a single type of content (usually text or a video), I will not feel as overwhelmed and will, in fact, reach for it when I need it as I curate it and categorize it myself. For example, if I'm doing marketing for an app, I will open the "Marketing" category in my Bear account, read through, and apply the newly obtained knowledge. Same with investing or any other interests. It's kinda like having bunch of dirty dishes laying around. You will wash them, store them in the cabinet, and next time you need to use them, you immediately know where they are.

Tweets or Reddit posts usually follow the same principle. They are just threads or text posts that can be read, summarized, categorized, and stored in Bear. If I had some idea over the week and wrote down some bullet points, I would open the notes app and spend some time expanding on the topic. However, most Tweets or Reddit posts leave me with an "interesting, but not that important" feeling when I take a second look at them. As an added bonus, I just listen to podcasts I wanted to get to while cleaning the home.

This may or may not work for you, but it does for me. Ever since I introduced "digital cleaning" into my weekly home cleaning routine, I feel much less overwhelmed by the amount of content available online, as I know that everything I have piled on over the week will get read, summarized, and decluttered on the weekend.

TLDR: I have made "digital cleaning" a part of my weekly house cleaning, and has improved my life. Every weekend, I take time to read all the content I piled on. Most will get discarded, but some are summarized and categorized into a single repository that I know I will eventually use when I am in the mood for a specific interest.

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