Digital Minimalism and the Quest for Peace in the Digital Age

Do you ever struggle to find where you left that important file on your laptop? Or have you ever wished you could get a little more life out of your tired, old phone? These problems are more connected than they may seem, and digital minimalism offers a solution to both.

A quick investigation on any social media or search platform will give you no shortage of ways to declutter your bedroom, car, office, closets, kitchen, etc. But what about digital decluttering? What about the countless photos, apps, documents, and everything else that floods your digital world with information?

Digital clutter doesn’t always attract as much attention as physical clutter because it doesn’t crowd our spaces the same way. But, like the stacks of old magazines and unworn sweaters stuffing your closet, it can quietly weigh on you. A typical person today spends much of their time inside their digital world. When that world is a big stressful mess, it takes a toll.

What Is Digital Minimalism?

Digital minimalism is a philosophy that emphasizes a minimalist relationship with your phone, computer, tablet, watch, smart shoelaces, or any other digital device you regularly use. In practice, it combines decluttering and organizing those devices with reshaping how you use them.

The idea behind this digital decluttering is to treat your virtual spaces the same way a minimalist treats their physical spaces. It works in two main components. First, remove everything that doesn’t bring clear personal or practical value, essentially a spring cleaning for your devices. Then, when you’re down to just the essentials, you can start getting organized and giving everything a sensible home.

Like traditional minimalism, this practice can improve mental health by replacing chaotic clutter with a sense of peace and calm. It can also directly benefit the devices you regularly use. Just like you declutter your home, you can also declutter your life in other ways to feel less stressed and overwhelmed.

Benefits of Digital Minimalism

1. Simplicity and Peace of Mind

When a space is full of clutter with nowhere to go, it’s easy to feel frustrated or overwhelmed. Unfortunately, this is as true for the files and apps on your phone as it is for a hectic kitchen junk drawer.

Decluttered spaces, in contrast, are easy to navigate and pleasant to look at. Tidying by clearing out things that don’t offer value is a terrific way to reinvigorate these spaces. When you get rid of clutter and decide how to organize something, your day has one less source of chaos and more opportunity for contentment and joy.

In this way, digital decluttering is no different than decluttering your home or making more room in any other area of your life. Finding mental peace by letting go of things that hold you down is a path to a natural sense of ease and comfort.

2. Device Longevity

Many believe their computers and phones slow down because of viruses, malware, and nefarious hackers. In some cases, that may be true, yet far more often, you are the only person slowing down your devices.

Electronic devices naturally degrade and decline in performance over their lifetimes. Some of this is due to planned obsolescence, but corporate malfeasance isn’t solely responsible. Factors like heat, dust, and overuse all push our devices toward retirement. On those fronts, digital minimalism can do a great deal to improve the lifespans of your devices.

There are many ways you can lighten the load on the electronic components of your devices, such as:

  • Reducing how many applications or browser tabs you keep running at a time
  • Freeing up storage space for smoother performance
  • Decreasing the total time you spend using a given device

Each of these changes is relatively small on its own. However, when you shift to a digital minimalist mindset and these behaviors become habits, their cumulative impact can be immense.

Particularly for smaller devices like phones that tend to have a shorter functional lifespan, simple minimalist practices can go a long way in reducing their rapid decline.

3. Gratitude and Fulfillment

When you love your things, they tend to love you back.

One central theme of minimalism is respect for your possessions. This respect can be a mix of your mental attitude toward your things and the practical way you treat them.

For instance, consider how you might treat a treasured keepsake or heirloom vs., say, a cheap stapler on your desk that never quite works right. The former is probably something you respect more, making you more likely to handle it with care, clean it regularly, and repair it if necessary.

Two things result from this type of respect: you feel more appreciation for those things, and they last longer. Granted, both of these could speak to the inherent quality of the item, which may be why you respect it in the first place. Even so, treating your possessions with emotional and physical care is good for them. By extension, your experience of owning and using them will improve.

For most of us, a phone or laptop is a trusted daily companion. It entertains you, helps you stay in touch with the world, and fights with you in the trenches daily at work. Treat these companions well, and they will do the same for you in return.

How to Practice Digital Minimalism

Digital decluttering primarily comes down to two steps:

  1. Finding and removing unnecessary digital junk to clear out 
  2. Organizing what remains in a simple, straightforward way

If you’ve ever reorganized your pantry or done a room-by-room sweep to purge a cluttered house, the process is pretty much the same. But this time, instead of looking for knick-knacks, old t-shirts, and unused appliances to throw away, you’ll be tidying up your photos, apps, playlists, documents, and more.

Anywhere in your digital world that you store and regularly sort through information or media is worth an inspection. For a detailed checklist and decluttering tips for your digital world, check out our 8-step digital decluttering guide below.

One unique benefit to digital decluttering is that almost anything you let go of is easy to get back later if you need it. So don’t be afraid to be pretty aggressive at this stage.

After the clean-out step, you can continue to simplify and get organized by giving everything a home that makes sense. Whether you use a home screen, desktop, dock, or file browser to navigate your machines, clean up these spaces just like you would a kitchen counter or physical desk! Group similar things together, store away anything that doesn’t need to “stay out,” and personalize it to your style. 

Also, sorting things into folders can be an absolute life-saver for this process. And unlike expensive home organization bins and physical storage solutions, digital folders are free!

Digital Minimalism, Real-World Peace

Digital minimalism is a means to create more peace, enjoyment, and productivity in your digital life. In an age where we live so much of our lives in the digital world, it deserves every bit as much attention as other areas of life.

If you’re ready to take the next step and start decluttering your digital world, we’ve created a free resource to help you get started. Click below to check out the 8-Week Digital Decluttering Challenge!

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Hey, I’m Sam. I created Smarter and Harder to explore big ideas, both old and new, about building a better life. My mission is to evolve the conversation about personal growth and have fun doing it.

5 thoughts on “Digital Minimalism and the Quest for Peace in the Digital Age”

  1. Great post! It’s interesting that you mention by respecting the device andnot overloading it, the device can give you longer life, guess I had never thought about it that way! It’s definitely time for a good “app purge” on my phone, this was just the inspiration to go do that!

  2. I upload my important pictures to Google photos. I create my notes in Keep app, tasks and appointments in Task and Calendar from Google apps, very important documents I upload to Mega. So I when my phone is full. I just do a factory reset and all important things are already uploaded in those services. Once I lost my phone and I wasn’t worry about the data all important things were already in the cloud apps.

    • I love that, Carlos! I keep track of a lot of my info in google apps as well. Keep in particular has been a lifesaver for me so many times, keeping my thoughts and days organized simply and easily. And it’s funny, I recently had a similar experience; after moving onto a new PC, I found there was almost nothing I needed to move over from the old one!


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