Easy Solutions to Clean up your Digital Life

Warm weather signals the time to get clutter under control. A time traditionally spent cleaning out nooks and crannies in the Girl on Laptophome, this season the trend is to organize your digital world, which as most of us know, can be a huge mess.

According to a recent survey conducted by Microsoft, 60 percent of those polled say their online lives sometimes feel more disorganized than their physical lives.

Crystal Hornsby, a construction project engineer from Vancouver, Wash., is feeling the need to get digitally organized this year. “I have two mobile phones, two e-mail accounts, hundreds of digital pictures, separate online calendars for work and home, and I’m an active Twitter, MySpace and Facebook user,” she says.

Hornsby’s experience is far from unique. According to a Pew Internet & American Life Project study from Dec. 2008, the share of adult Internet users who have a profile on at least one social networking site has more than quadrupled in the past four years from 8 percent to 35 percent.

Lorie Marrero, certified professional organizer, author and founder of ClutterDiet.com, thinks there’s still hope for people like Crystal who feel overwhelmed by their online lives and the idea of organizing it all.

“Our kids, jobs and shrinking budgets give us plenty to juggle in our offline lives. Now, with so many people using various online services, it’s no wonder that many are overwhelmed at the prospect of getting digitally organized too,” she says. “Although it can be daunting, it’s a necessary step toward gaining the extra free time we crave, and finally feeling in control of our lives — both on and offline.”

To get even the most scattered computer user started on the road to freedom from digital clutter, Marrero recommends five easy tips that can help make your digital life seem more manageable:

1. Organize Your Online Activities

Have too many social networking and online accounts to keep track of? Consolidate online activities in one place with Windows Live. Partnerships with popular sites — including Facebook, Twitter and Flickr — allow you to aggregate activities from these third-party sites — such as digital photos, tweets and status updates — into your Windows Live ‘What’s New’ feed, so you can easily share content with the people in your network from one site.

2. Unclutter Your Desktop

Treat your desktop as you would the top of your actual desk and keep only active files and shortcuts there for convenience. Use your My Documents folders for more lasting storage. Clean off unnecessary shortcuts that clutter the screen.

3. Get Your Files in Order

After you get your desktop sparkling clean, take a look through your folders. Can you consolidate? Are there old files you can remove, or drafts that are no longer relevant? Remember, your time is valuable and storage space is plentiful, so archiving to a folder or external storage space is usually a better use of time than wading through lots of old documents.

4. Time for Your Inbox to Drop a Few Pounds

Do you really need those attachments in an e-mail? Save your large files to an online storage drive like Windows Live SkyDrive, which offers 25 GB of free storage. Easily upload videos, photos and files, and share them with whomever you’d like — without overloading their inboxes.

5. Optimize Your Computer’s Performance

For greater efficiency and to avoid the heartache of technical problems, remember to update and run important utilities like spyware and virus scans and defragment your hard drive periodically.

“After a week or two of following these five simple tips, you may find that you have a bit more time to finally go for that run, or play outside with the kids,” says Marrero. “I tell my clients that the key is to ensure that your computer and online services work for you as productivity tools, instead of creating more clutter and hassle in your life.”

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