How to Tidy Up Your Digital Life

The title here refers to the popular Marie Kondo books and Netflix series all based on the concept of “tidying up”:

Our goal is to help more people tidy their spaces by choosing joy, and we are committed to developing the simplest and most effective tools to help you get there.

Even without reading the books, at my house we’ve been taking this approach and discarding, recycling or donating clothes, books, and other household goods. Getting to a clean organized drawer or closet is a great reward and we’re using that to keep us motivated as we work our way around the house.

However, there’s a big pit stop for all the digital devices. They end up in the garage waiting for something before they can be donated:

  • For computers back up the hard drive then wipe it.
  • For phones make sure all the photos are copied off, then do a full erase; but maybe keep it around in case the new one breaks or something.
  • For older electronics and games, save them for nostalgia reasons or maybe someone else could use them.

You can guess the result here: everything has piled up in the garage for years.

Collection of used computers

I have a similar “collection” going which is content stored in so many different online services. These too need tidying up and consolidation (but without the extra step of hardware to deal with).

Taken together I’m capturing here my to-do list to tidy up my digital life and get back to some level of normalcy. I’ll report back with a follow-up post to see how well I’ve done!


Here’s all the old hardware I can think of so far, with a rough plan for what to do:

  • Synology NAS: buy a couple more drives to upgrade capacity and look at cloud backup options. Done
  • Old laptops & desktop PCs: the oldest computers are probably 20 years old at this point; boot up and then back up any useful data (mainly digital photos/videos) to my Synology NAS station– waiting for data to be backed up, drives wiped, and then recycled. DoneResurrecting a Dell Precision Workstation 410
  • PC parts & cables: recycle all the PC parts; for cables which are still relevant just keep a couple and recycle the rest. Done
  • Cell phones and MP3 players: I think we still have almost every cell phone anyone in the family ever owned (along with a matching giant box filled with phone charging cables). Some of these may be interesting to save as classics, but the rest need to be wiped and recycled.
  • Multiple boxes full of backup drives, CDs and DVDs: review and consolidate anything still relevant (again, mainly looking for digital photos) to the Synology. In Progress
  • Video games: we have Xbox, Xbox 360, PlayStation 2, Nintendo Wii and GameCube systems, accessories and games, and a bunch of Windows PC games. Likely keep the Nintendo system (which the kids still like to play) but donate the rest (hopefully to The MADE). In progress: Barcode Scanning Video Games Collection

Data / Content

  • Passwords: 1Password and Google Docs; probably a few on paper in my desk. Need to get all of these captured just in 1Password and probably need a round of password updates especially for the older ones.
  • Cloud storage: I’m using way too many services, including iCloud, Dropbox, Box, OneDrive, and Google Drive (2 accounts). This is a good example of free (cost) actually being non-free (time) with everything spread out and so close to the respective limits. The plan is to consolidate down to one paid service plus likely Google Drive.
  • CrashPlan backups: this is currently costing $10/computer/month and I’m up to 10 devices now, some of which are dead computers. The plan is to check for any files needed first, then reduce the number of computers on the account while I look for better alternatives.
  • Notes: these are scattered across Evernote, text files in Dropbox, RTF files on my Mac, Simple Note, Google Keep, Google Docs (2 accounts) Mac To-Do app and Trello boards. I’m not sure the plan here but need to reduce to just a couple of places (probably Evernote + text files in Dropbox + Google Docs).
  • Source code for personal projects: this is spread across Dropbox, my Mac, GitHub, Box and on my Pair webhost. The plan is to move “real” projects onto GitHub (possibly some of which will be marked as private) and the rest of the scratch or test code get organized under Dropbox.
  • YouTube videos: I have 2 separate personal accounts, neither of which has many videos, but my older account has the more popular screencasts. The likely plan is to delete any obsolete or private videos, keep the useful live ones, and for anything new create them on the newer Google account (
  • Photos: Many are on Flickr (which was sold and is changing) but the bulk are on backup disks or in my Mac Photos library. I need to get a better workflow without relying on Mac Photos and get everything organized in one place on the Synology.
  • Bookmarks: I previously used Delicious and XMarks sync, both of which are gone now. I do have a few backups from Chrome and Firefox, although they are not in sync with each other. Need to come up with a better sync solution here, ideally across browsers.
  • Personal files on work laptop and vice versa: Get these sorted out and separated.
  • Web domain names, hosts and contents. I’ve already started cleaning this up a bit by letting domain names expire and creating my own static sites for parked domains. Still to do: move WordPress to a new location and cleanup/shutdown my old shared hosting account on Pair.

Now that I’ve put my to-do list out here, it’s time to get started! Stay tuned for updates…

Photo credit: ademrudin on Flickr