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The 2023 Digital Spring Cleaning Guide

Cleaning, organization, and productivity tips to help get your digital life in order so you can focus more time on the things that really matter

It's time to organize! A few times a year, most people give their homes an honest-to-goodness, get-on-your-hands-and-knees cleaning. It's a satisfying process to see things shined up and clutter-free. Adding a digital spring cleaning process to your to-do list is similar; it helps you clear out computer and smartphone clutter so you can be more productive and focus more of your time doing the things you love. Which, if you're like us, do not involve cleaning in any way.

Female hands using a wipe to clean a smartphone with a laptop in the background.

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The Spring Cleaning Checklist Starts With a Device Assessment

A digital clean-up is a cleaning exercise focused on your high-tech devices. The goal is to assess each device, how you use it, what you store on it, and decide what you truly need to retain on that device.

If your devices aren't running as quickly as they used to or if you're experiencing buffering or other issues on streaming devices, it's a sign that it's time to declutter your apps, potentially clean up the device physically, and be more thoughtful about what you load onto it the next time you have a choice.

This approach will keep your devices clean on the outside and clutter-free on the inside—important to keeping those expensive items running properly for as long as possible.

What Does Your Digital World Look Like?

First things first: Take an assessment of all the high-tech products and devices you own. Most people have a smartphone, but do you also have a computer? A laptop? A streaming device and/or smart TV? A smartwatch? Whatever you've got, write it down.

Next, look at whether you have too many (or too few!) devices. Do you need to consolidate somewhere? Do you need four Alexas in the living room, or could you get by with one? Maybe you do need all four . . . but maybe two would do the trick, too.

App info is usually found under Settings on any device. Some devices, however, like Android phones, can hide apps in unexpected locations. To find hidden apps on an Android, you have to take a few extra steps. iPhones, too, can harbor hidden apps. You'll need to unhide those in your App Library to see those.

Where Can You Streamline?

Now look at the devices you're keeping, paying particular attention to those where you can download apps (like that smart TV, PC, or smartwatch). Review how many apps you have downloaded to each one. How many of those apps do you really use regularly?

It's the same type of assessment for a streaming device, laptop, and smartphone: Do you need all those files, folders, and apps? When was the last time you actually played that game? It might be taking up more valuable storage space than you think.

Be ruthless: If you haven't used an app in 3 months, ask yourself why. If you don't have a good answer for the lull, uninstall it and move on.

Start the Scrub

Cleaning the external ports of a PC.

Finally, get out the proper cleaning materials needed for each device to get them shined up.

Even high-tech devices that don't use apps should be part of your digital deep clean: Think Roomba, Ring doorbells, webcams, monitors, and more when going through your list. Sure, you clean out the Roomba drawer regularly, but when was the last time you wiped down its wheels and honestly scrubbed it down?

Key items to physically clean (use our links for quick instructions):

Labrador holding a remote in its mouth.

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Items you use (and touch) the most should be at the top of your list for this physical scrub.

For example, the tiniest crumb can wreak havoc on a keyboard or inside a PC, so it's important to regularly check and wipe down, blow out, or otherwise scour devices to keep them free of debris.

This step varies by device; be sure only to use manufacturer-approved cleaning products for your devices.

Post-it notes showing ideas and to-do lists plus a checklist of things to do.

Step Two: Ready, Set . . . Organize!

Clear cookies. Clear cache. Clear history. These are three basics you frequently should use with apps and browsers on your devices to keep storage space open to help things run smoothly.

Within your apps, however, there are sometimes ways you can organize files and folders to make life a little easier when you're on the go.

For example, did you know you can organize and categorize messages with labels in Gmail? Or that you can alphabetize apps on your Android?

The point is this: Computers, phones, and other digital devices don't organize themselves; they need guidance.

At least annually (twice a year is better!), take a few hours to take a look at things like:

As you work through each device, you'll discover at least a few things you can do to better organize the apps on the devices you use most.

Don't forget your smart TV, smartwatch, and even your car's apps, like Android Auto or Apple CarPlay: annually check each device's list of apps and uninstall those you no longer use.

A little cleaning can go a long way toward ensuring each device performs as efficiently as possible.

A few more thoughts for you:

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It's Time to Get Productive

Now that everything is cleaned up and organized, your devices are ready to work for you, doing what they do best: Keeping you quickly moving throughout your day.

Whether you love to binge television series, work all night long, or run the freeways to get to your next appointment, there's likely an app that can help you be efficient and productive.

If you already have apps you know and love to use, keep using them! If you don't, we've got some suggestions for you. When you download a new app, give yourself 15 minutes to review it, take a quick tutorial on how it works, and add your profile or other info if needed.

This step is critical because it will save you time somewhere when you want the app to work instead of asking you to confirm a phone number for 2FA.

Once that's done, the only other thing to do is use the app frequently. A to-do list app, for example, is only helpful if you add items to your list and check them off as you go.

If you're not using an app effectively, ditch it and get a new one. Not every app works for every person; don't give up! Ask friends and family about their favorite productivity apps to get ideas.

Here are some of our favorite ways to boost efficiency this year:

You've got this. Go forth and conquer the world!