Digital Minimalism – Guide to Simplicity in Our WiFi World

Today’s world finds us in a place of social media overload, technological excess, and connected device overkill.  Perhaps it’s time to look at relieving yourself of this affliction-and examine the benefits of digital minimalism.

We live in a digital age of smartphones, smart appliances, and so many more things that are supposed to be helpful.  Digital minimalism is paring down and doing away with digital products to decrease stress levels, improve sleep, and give us better focus and productivity.

Have you been overwhelmed with smart connected devices?  Is there too much digital clutter in your life bogging you down?

What Is Digital Minimalism?

Digital minimalism is the practice of disconnecting from those digital products and using only what you need or what you find useful.  It’s also about paring down the services you utilize (i.e. social media, games, apps) to only those who have purpose or bring meaning to your day and your life.

Digital minimalism is a response to the continually growing influence of technology. It recognizes that technology may have advantages, like having communication and information at our fingertips; however, disadvantages, like addiction and distraction, come with it. Digital minimalism is an intentional effort to reduce the use of technology and focus on more meaningful interactions in life.

Desk of electronics - Digital Minimalism - Gone Minimal
Desk of electronics

Benefits of Digital Minimalism

There’s so much digital information and gadgets that take up our time and deplete our mental energy.  When we disconnect from the digital things that consume us, we reap many benefits.  Let’s look at them:

  • Less stress
  • Decreased stress
  • Better focus
  • More free time
  • More meaningful connections with others
  • Optimized use of technology
  • Less exposure to mis-/disinformation
  • Better health
  • Better sleep
  • More intentional living
  • And many more!

There are just too many benefits of digital minimalism to include here-but so far, doesn’t this sound pretty interesting and perhaps worth pursuing?  Let’s look at where we may have too much digital access or digital clutter.

Areas of Digital Minimalism

Lost connections - Digital Minimalism - Gone Minimal
Lost connections

In an age of digital connectedness, we can actually feel very disconnected.  We are told it’s best to have the latest and greatest and have everything connected so we don’t miss out on anything-yet we miss out on things all of the time!  So what are these areas I’m referring to?  Here’s some examples:

  • Smartphones
  • Smart TVs
  • Streaming boxes/services
  • Social media
  • Smartwatches
  • Laptops/tablets
  • Fitness trackers
  • Smart locks
  • Smart thermostats
  • Smart appliances

Have you noticed how many “smart” things there are?  Think about this-do they make us smarter?  No-they only keep us overly connected and stressed over even the smallest things that sometimes we have no control over.  They even distract us and make us unsafe at times (i.e. driving while on a cell phone).  Too much connectedness can have a negative effect on our lives and mental health. 

I mean, I get it-it’s nice if our refrigerator can text us while we’re at the store that we actually do need to pick up milk, but doesn’t that make you wonder what else the refrigerator is doing while we’re sleeping?  Perhaps planning world domination?  Who knows.  Let’s move on to what types of digital clutter you’re dealing with that you may not even be aware of.

Common Types of Digital Clutter

Even if you don’t have all of the latest “smart” appliances and devices, there are some types of digital apps and clutter that are right now taking up space not only in your phone, but in your mind.  Let’s look at some of the common types of digital clutter that you should consider paring down or even getting rid of:

  1. Smartphone apps
  2. Paid subscription apps
  3. Outdated and duplicate files
  5. Shortcuts and Icons
  6. Streaming services
  7. Inbox/Spam/Trash messages
  8. Internet browser extensions
  9. Movies and music
  10. Screen time
  11. Social media apps and games
  12. Social media
  13. Blogs/vlogs/podcast subscriptions
  14. Notifications
  16. Email newsletters/ads
  17. Contacts
  18. Email accounts
Social Media - Digital Minimalism - Gone Minimal
Social Media

How to Practice Digital Minimalism – Mindset

If you want to be successful with minimizing your digital world, you’ve got to get into the right mindset.  Why do you want to minimize your digital life?  What are your goals?  Is this going to be short-term or long-term?  Will this benefit only you, or will it benefit others?  Have you experienced a significant amount of stress due to digital overload? 

Practicing digital minimalism isn’t just about cutting out all digital aspects of your life-it’s paring it down to what you need, what you use, what’s useful to you every day, and what doesn’t add to your stress levels.  If you’re in it for the right reasons, then it’s time to come up with a personalized plan.

Creating a Digital Minimalism Plan

To begin with creating your digital minimalism plant, it’s best to start with identifying what you need and don’t need.

  • Smartphone Apps – How many apps are on your phone that you don’t use?  Perhaps your phone came with them, so you felt like they should stay there because you might need them.  Well, if you haven’t used them in 6 months, delete them!
  • Outdated Files – When was the last time you looked in your laptop/desktop computer’s documents file? Digital photos?  I am positive there are old documents and multiple copies of photos bogging down your RAM (random access memory-what makes your computer work efficiently or not).
  • Downloaded Files – We download things onto our laptops/desktops all of them time and sometimes without even knowing it.  It’s a good idea to glance at your downloads folder to see what’s there.  Don’t recognize a filename or extension?  Delete it!
  • Desktop Shortcuts/Icons – Look at your computer’s desktop.  Does it look organized or like a minefield?  Do you really need all of those shortcuts?  Do you even need all of those apps?  Uninstall the programs you don’t need, and delete those shortcuts because they take up space on your desktop as well as in memory.
  • Email Accounts – How many do you need, honestly?  Most people can get away with only one or two, but more than that should not be necessary UNLESS you work multiple jobs that require email access (although email can be forwarded to a single account if you’ve got the know-how or access to an IT guru).  One account for home and one for work can and should suffice!
  • Connectedness – Do you really need to have your smartphone connected to your laptop, vehicle, front door, house alarm system, smartwatch, and refrigerator?  That’s a resounding NO!  The more things you have connected, the more notifications you have and hence the more you’re on your smartphone.  That does NOT make you smart!  Disconnect and check on all of these things yourself. 

Here is an insightful and helpful video with a guide to digital minimalism:

Examples of Digital Clutter from Real People

I asked 5 family and/or friends what top 4 types of digital clutter they would like most to keep clean. Here is what they shared and what I learned from the poll:

Digital Clutter To Keep CleanTally of Family/Friends
Laptop folders3
Smartphone home screen2
Streaming services3
Connected devices2
Old files/photos5
Empty folders2
Social media3
Duplicate files/folders/photos/music2
Junk email4
Spam calls6

Other Resources:

Disconnecting from digital junk can be an awesome, freeing experience.  When you delete the unused, unhelpful apps from your smartphone, disconnect your smartwatch from your car, and even if you just turn off the notifications from your social media it can have a dramatic effect on your well-being.

Going digitally minimal may be challenging in the beginning, but once you get started you may find you can’t remember why you got so connected in the first place.

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