Digital clutter

How do you navigate in the digital Universe?

We live in the time of really big data. Huge. Humongous.

Only the year 2011 was estimated to have produced 1.8 zettabytes of data, which is 1.8 x 1021 bytes of data. You can read about this here. More data is being created this year. The prediction is that by 2020 the amount of data is going to grow by 50 times.

Some media statistics found on the Web claim that:

It took radio 38 years to reach 50 millions recipients.
It took TV 13 years to reach 50 millions recipients.
It took PC 8 years to reach 50 millions recipients.
It took Facebook 3 years to reach 50 millions recipients.
It took ipod 2 years to reach 50 millions recipients.
It took Google+ ? months to reach 50 millions recipients.

As you see our technological progress has been super fast in the recent years. See also this post for additional mind blowing statistics.

The data

There is the data produced on the Web. What you need to realize, however, is that the majority of the data is not the content that you read, watch or listen to: text, images, movies or music, but the data supporting the content.

For every piece of the data you create online there is often the double (or triple) amount being stored. This includes details about content management, style and formatting, your system setup, data characteristics, favorites,additional images, discussions or comments, etc. On the top of that we need to add the necessary data backups, or the same or nearly the same information stored by multiple users in multiple locations.

In addition, there is rehashed information, slightly rewritten or reformatted, retweeted, pinned, liked and so on, not even mentioning 2000 spinned articles created for each individual article but submitted to different article directories. Such is a path of SEO practiced by some bloggers, marketers or entrepreneurs.

Lots of content is repeated multiple times in a slightly transformed or rewritten form. The same message is broadcasted in hundreds or thousands locations on the Web. We have already stopped taking care for the quality and novelty of the message, instead we are playing in the avenue of quantity. There is a pressure for constant publishing, chat, talk and messaging.

Digital clutter

Clutter is an emotional attachment to things in your life that not only stopped serving you, but also hinder your progress. Digital clutter is of no difference: it lives in your computer, ipod or ipad, on your cameras, CDs or DVDs, or on the Web.

Digital collections seem safe because they are not physically tangible. Yet, they take up your mental space a similar way your physical stuff does. They occupy your virtual space, limiting your freedom to move, act and think. They require your time for maintenance and make all other searches difficult.

Be it hundreds movies from your student times that you have nowadays no time or interest to watch, a music collection of thousands songs that you only listen to a tiny fraction of it, hundreds of unread emails, millions of images, pdf’s and other files downloaded while browsing the Web and stored all over the place, bookmarks to every site you ever visit and so on. On the top add thousands of people whom you follow at Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Pinterest or LinkedIn.

Digital clutter puts a strong emotional burden on your shoulders, similarly as the physical clutter does. It exists and its existence is overwhelming. Clutter multiplies fast and soon you feel emotionally in debt to answer every email, every Facebook/Google+ comment and like what others say to you.

Strong emotions are tied up with clutter.These usually are

  • hope or disappointment (about the things you wanted to learn from the stored programmes and files on your computer but were never able)
  • nostalgia (about all good times, email exchanges, friendships and lovers, letters and photos)
  • frustration (about the things that constantly pile up for being done sometime in the future), or
  • depression (about the lack of clarity and sense of life cause by the overwhelm of stuff and false feeling of responsibility to do things).

“Hanging on to things is a way to avoid change… You’ve been anesthetizing yourself with things to create a false sense of stability; meanwhile, change is going on inside and around you all the time.”

Clutter busting, Brooks Palmer

Clutter may be a symptom of a hurt you and I are keeping inside, perhaps unaware of it.
Clutter may be a symptom of a decision or action that we avoid to take.
Clutter may be an excuse for a change that sleeps at our door.

Let us free ourselves.

When we clear our clutter, we clear our Spirit. We make space for creativity and inspiration to flow freely. In the newly created space, our intention seeds and motivation powers start to blossom.


Clutter-free life begins with you and me. It starts with the recognition that there is digital or physical stuff that holds you or me back.

De-cluttering is a process. It is in fact a simple process. You review your possessions, one by one, and ask yourself “Is this serving me now?” If not, throw it out or give it away. Find a person who will be pleased to receive what you can give or find an organization which can make good use of your donations.

If you don’t know how to start, the Clutter busting book is of great help. It provides a psychological help on the level of motivation and action. Two citations below reflect that:

“The truth is, you are equipped with amazing discriminatory abilities, ready at a moment’s notice to distinguish between what is a waste of your time and what is valuable… We’re used to being told that we don’t know what’s best for us… use your innate clutter-busting apparatus.”

“You are already valuable! There is no need to prove anything…anything you own to impress others is a waste of your time. No one cares. The past is as insignificant as old dishwater. Only keep what reflects your life as significant in this moment.”

Value in the digital chaos

There is an abundance of ideas, articles, posts and news on zillions of subjects. And more zillions are on the way. It is impossible to follow even a fraction of all the things you are interested in. The Universe is structured, yet it presents itself as chaos.

Why is that so?

Because there is lots of clutter flying around, in the form of spicy, glittery, shiny or tasty information we are easily attracted to. And such an attraction makes us loose the laser focus we have for the tasks at hand. 

This digital clutter is being created by tons of tweets, news, messages, movies, songs or rehashed information, either carelessly or unthoughtfully spread around by devoted digital space travelers, or repeated on purpose by entrepreneurs or corporations. The latter may serve them as a marketing tool, branding or working towards personal gains. Just because we can share something, it doesn’t mean we should. Similarly, as we shouldn’t follow all the wants we have.

How can you find value in the digital chaos?

My view is that the value starts with us, you and me. If we want to find value in our lives we need to make choices and become selective. The same holds for our existence in the digital Universe.

However, before we are able to make informed choices, we need to freely explore multiple galaxies, planets, travels and structures in this Universe. This is necessary to gain experience, or “touch and feel” about the Universe. This may include exploration of various social media tools, Web programs, forums, discussions, news, newsletters, blogs, short movies, online shops and so on. Samples are sufficient, though.

When we couple such visits with our interests and intelligent search, soon we are able to disregard the majority of tempting tools, ideas and information. This means signing off from the things that don’t serve us. And it also means freeing ourselves from the social and emotional pressure of keeping up with the digital messaging and talks.

I believe that the clearer and more structured we are in our minds, the easier it is to find clarity in the digital Universe around. Clutter-free mind is perfectly capable of finding or recognizing the right information even on a far away digital planet.

Clarity begins with us, you and me

If you want to find structure in the digital chaos, be the one who spreads valuable messages and articles. Choose to be more with less.

Any time you want to write a post, share an information or a message, retweet, comment or discuss anything, just ask yourself

“Is, what I am going to share, useful to others?”

“Is is entertaining?”

This is the ultimate criterion: usability/practicality of the message or the entertaining value.

If the answer is NO to both – think twice, or even three times, whether you want to contribute to the digital clutter around. 

The cleanness begins with you and me. We are responsible for the friendly, beautiful and clean environment, be it digital or not. 


Other clutter-related posts:


The image above shows a beautiful quilt by Inge Duin. See more of her works on


Print Friendly, PDF & Email