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What is Digital Minimalism? A Guide for Beginners

It comes at no surprise that the concept of digital minimalism was born, given that it’s natural to find ourselves mindlessly scrolling through our digital devices to provide us with on-demand information at any time.

It’s true that we rely on our digital devices for just about everything, in both our professional and personal lives.

Given that we live in the digital age and have the power of technology readily available- we could find ourselves asking why not use it to its complete advantage? It certainly saves us time.

But when does it reach a point when it doesn’t do what it’s supposed to, like as I mentioned before, actually save us time?

Are we doing just the opposite, spending more and more time on our digital devices to the point of no control? Let’s dive into what digital minimalism is, the benefits of becoming a digital minimalist, and how to get started as soon as today.

What is Digital Minimalism?

Digital Minimalism origins from Minimalism, which carries different meanings but is all based on the concept of living as a minimalist- having less is more.

Cal Newport, author of the bookDigital Minimalism: Choosing a Focused Life in a Noisy World.” defines it as:

“Digital minimalism is a philosophy that helps you question what digital communication tools (and behaviors surrounding these tools) add the most value to your life.

It is motivated by the belief that intentionally and aggressively clearing away low-value digital noise, and optimizing your use of the tools that really matter, can significantly improve your life.”

The key takeaway is not that all things digital are bad for you, but consuming too much information or wasting time… takes away from the positive aspects of technology and the benefits it provides us.

Our lives are now built around being online and we could start to be more intentional about what we share and how much time we spend in the digital space. This is a great benefit of practicing digital minimalism.

A Beginners Digital Minimalism Guide: Step by Step

Inspired by a less is more approach, I created a living as a minimalist “7 Day Digital Minimalism challenge” designed to declutter all the digital noise in your life.

So why did I start this challenge? I found myself spending way too much time on social media, had too many emails piling up in my mailbox, and my computer was running at snail speed due to unnecessary downloaded files.

If you find yourself in the same boat or just want to start living more minimally, you can simply follow these 7 steps- one step each day to create more digital space in your life. These steps can be done little by little throughout the day.

Following these steps are guaranteed to help you to achieve the ultimate goal of digital minimalism.

No more mindless scrolling and no more countless emails to ignore.

Day 1

Delete and Backup Old Photos on Your Phone

If you are anything like me, I find it SO HARD to delete my photos. It feels like I’m deleting memories that I want to stay with me forever.

But thanks to free photo storage apps, savoring those memories just became easier. You can store your photos automatically and effortlessly.

Not only does storing your photos declutter your digital space, but it saves you time if you happen to be searching through your phone for that SUPER CUTE pose your dog did last month.

 I admit it, I was SO BAD at deleting photos that I actually saved photos that had terrible lighting or didn’t serve any real purpose.

Take a chance and go through your phone, deleting photos one by one that you know you won’t miss at all.

 Day 2

Delete Applications

I admit it, I use to scroll mindlessly through Instagram and Facebook, without looking for anything specifically.

Did you know that Instagram has an option where you can view how much time you are spending on the application daily? Don’t say I didn’t warn you, I was SHOCKED.

 While social media does have some positive impacts on society, it is also linked to a rise in depression, anxiety, and unrealistic expectations. Social media platforms portray certain lifestyles as being perfect, while severely lacking authenticity.

People tend to only share what they want you to see, not the whole picture. And since we are only seeing one side of the story, it could create a feeling of disappointment within our own lives.

 If these social media applications are not serving a positive purpose in your life or enhancing it in any way, try to remove them from your phone and see how you feel.

I happen to spend a lot of time on the metro, commuting to and from places and replaced these social media applications with the amazon kindle app so I could spend more time reading material that was purposeful and provided value to my life.

 Other applications you can delete are ones that you hardly use and are just taking up digital space.

Keep applications that are useful (in my case, google maps is a non-negotiable) and ones that bring you joy.

Day 3

Clean Up Google Drive

 Google drive is a LIFESAVER for me, I always use it for work and personal purposes. It’s super user-friendly and I’m able to store my stuff right where I need it.

BUT, it does have a tendency to fill up pretty quickly and turns into it’s a place that also stores information that I might not make use of anymore.

Take the time to clear out your google drive, allowing you to have more digital space to store information that is important, and once again, serves a purpose.

Go through your google drive and organize the files you need into folders, while deleted files that are just sitting there gathering digital dust.

Day 4

Email Cleanup

This day may be the most challenging one, depending on how many email subscriptions you have or old emails you never got around to deleting.

I was SO that person who had thousands of unread emails piling up until it got out of control.

Let’s start with subscriptions. Have you ever subscribed to something and can’t quite remember why? Don’t get me wrong, I love receiving emails from people I admire or people who provide great content and teach me a thing or two. These are really valuable resources to keep.

But let’s face it- if you are subscribed to something and haven’t opened up an email from them in like a year- it means you’re really not that interested in what they have to say.

And that’s ok, you can simply unsubscribe and move on.

Maybe you subscribed to this newsletter because, at that time, that topic was interesting and beneficial to your life. But if that time has passed, so has the time to simply delete and let it go.

You can use a free service like UNROLL to filter through the notifications and newsletters you’re subscribed to and simply unsubscribe within seconds.

I ABSOLUTELY recommend using this application instead of spending hours manually going through each email and searching for the hidden unsubscribe button on the bottom.

Now it’s time to go through old emails and simply deleting those that are just taking up too much digital space. If you are using Gmail, you can star the ones that are important and that you wish to keep and delete the rest.

This part of the challenge may take the longest and may even be the most tedious, but you are now one step closer to digital minimalism.

Day 5

Delete and Organize Your Downloaded Files

This can be beneficial for both your phone and computer, go through your download files section and begin clearing it out.

Sometimes I download a document, read it, and just left it sitting there- once again taking up digital space and seriously slowing down my computer.

Organize the downloads you wish to keep by adding them to a folder and deleting the rest.

You can do this manually or use a program that may already be built into your computer.

Check the search button for storage usage and see how much digital space you can achieve by deleting temporary or downloaded files.

Day 6

Turn off notifications

Have you ever gone to a website and accidentally hit the subscribe button to notifications? This happens more often than not, and soon your phone or computer is flashing notifications at you all the time.

Go through your phone applications and simply turn off notifications. This prevents distractions and saves you from checking your social media networks every 5 minutes.

We can supply let go of the fact that we need to be informed all the time about different things and learn to live more in the moment.

Notifications are nothing but a distraction that can take away from living in the present.

Day 7

Take a Digital Detox

This may be the most important step towards achieving a less is more approach to digital minimalism.

A digital detox is time spent away from all your digital devices, an extended break. Think of it as a temporary digital cleanse.

I usually like to pick one or two days out of the week to take a digital detox. This means no checking my phone, computer, emails, or messages. Sometimes I’ll do it for half the day or sometimes longer.

I feel that it helps me to clear my mind and be more productive. I spend this time writing, reading, and simply being with loved ones.

A digital detox is SO REFRESHING, and a must-do when it comes to practicing digital minimalism. How much time you want to spend detoxing is completely up to you.

And there you have it! Your Ultimate 7 Day Guide to Digital Minimalism. Are you ready to hit the ground running and start living with a less is more approach? I’d love to hear your progress in the comments below!

Rebecca

8 thoughts on “What is Digital Minimalism? A Guide for Beginners

  1. Absolutely priceless approach in this time! I’m all in for the detox!! I’ve done it in the past and I felt such a mental release, I thought clearer and produced more.
    I must thank my phones lack of memory and icloud payment failed as I was forced to remove a lot of useless apps and reduce the amount of stuff I do and how I interact with the phone, that with the excuse of it being a work tool I cannot let be so easily!

  2. I do some of these regularly, and love UNROLL, but it’s so nice to have a step by step guide. Also, so needed in this digital age!

    1. UNROLL is my ultimate email decluttering resource! I’m glad you liked the guide!

  3. I love this idea of digital minimalism. The hardest part is staying consistent on the "cleaning up". Using apps that do it for you automatically is key! Thanks for all the tips. We can definitely all use a little less tech in our lives so we are happier and healthier.

    1. I agree! The key is balance, which can be tough nowadays! I’m glad you love the idea of Digital Minimalism.

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