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6 Tips to Renovate Your Digital Life: A Resolution You Can Actually Achieve in 2023

Updated: Feb 27

SurroundUs digital organizer working on photo organizing.

*Some of the links included in this post are affiliate links, meaning that at no additional cost to you, I will receive a commission if you choose to click through and make a purchase.

Setting New Year’s intentions and resolutions is an age-old tradition that dates back to ancient civilizations.

The Babylonians, for example, made New Year’s resolutions as part of their religious practices. They believed that the gods would bestow good fortune on those who made amends for their past mistakes and resolved to do better in the coming year.

Though we’re guessing the goals of the ancient differ greatly from our modern ones, the sentiment is the same. We are all striving to make progress towards a more fulfilling life.

One of the modern pickles we’ve found ourselves in is a glut of disorganized photos that we can’t ever truly enjoy because we lack a cohesive system for editing and organizing our digital libraries.

Regular readers of ours know how passionate we are about photo organizing, as we have seen first-hand the transformational impact of a fully curated and edited digital photo library.

For this reason, many people choose digital organizing as a New Year’s goal, only to find that this daunting task isn't achievable due to the time constraints and pressures of daily life.

Apple desktop computer.

Why Do We Keep Failing at Our Digital Organizing Resolutions?

If you find that you have set such a goal, but have yet to come up with an actionable plan for achieving it, don’t be too hard on yourself.

In fact, studies have consistently found that only 8-12% of people successfully keep their resolutions in a given year. Some common reasons for this failure include: setting goals that are unrealistic, failing to keep track of goals, and simply forgetting about them altogether.

Organizing your digital life on your own may fall into the first category: your expectations just aren’t realistic.

Consider your digital photos alone (just one aspect of your digital make-up). Recent studies suggest the average person stores around 2,000 images on their phone alone, though we usually see a MUCH higher number (more like 10,000-15,000!) These stats don't even take into account the cloud, external hard drives, and the computer’s internal memory.

While you may have the basic skills, you probably lack the time to bring order to the chaos if you have yet to implement a sustainable process. What this means is that your most treasured memories and important files could be buried under piles of duplicates, screenshots, and junk.

This year, we encourage you to keep your digital organizing resolutions! Don't give up! With a little bit (okay, a lot) of patience, dedication, and persistence, you can see real change. To help get you started, we’ve compiled a list of practical tips from our pro digital organizers that will put you on the path to finally renovating your digital mess in 2023, DIY-style.

The laptop of a digital organizer working.

Tips to Regain Control of Your Digital Life in 2023

Disclaimer! The tips below are simply a big-picture overview. Consider them an outline to help you move toward a less cluttered digital life.

You'll find as you dive deeper into the process, new complexities and obstacles will arise. This is normal! We never promised renovating your entire digital life would be easy (pst... that's why we exist!) What we really encourage you to focus on is using each of the below to form new habits and improve your all-around digital hygiene.

As we already mentioned, this will require intentional planning, research, and time. The good news is that you do not have to go it alone if you don't want to. Enlisting the support of pros still counts as achieving your goals! Getting help is simply a click away.

But, for those of you who are fired up and ready to tackle your digital life on your own, here's how our pro digital organizers recommend you get started:

1. Declutter Your Desktop

2. Tackle Your Email Inbox

3. Backup Important Files

4. Use a Password Manager

5. Establish a Digital Legacy

6. Organize & Curate Your Family's Photo Collection

Tip #1: Declutter Your Desktop

Let's be real - your desktop can be a scary place if you're not constantly working to keep it clutter-free.

Maybe you've even tried to organize it and reduce the mess a time or two, but with constant downloads, projects starting, and new files cropping up, it's impossible to stay on top of.

What ends up happening is that your desktop becomes a nightmare of icons and files, and it can be overwhelming and difficult to find what you need. It honestly seems easier to just give up or ignore the mess than to face it.

A laptop with a messy desktop filled with icons and files.

But here's the thing - a messy digital workspace can still contribute to unnecessary stress, procrastination, and a cluttered mind (just as a physical mess does). This impacts productivity and efficiency as you work through your day. Studies have even shown that excessive visual clutter has a negative impact on working memory, reducing cognitive capacity for everything you need to get done.

So, next time you sit down to watch TV for the evening, perhaps consider going through your desktop at the same time to delete any unnecessary files or icons and create folders to organize the rest. It can be a fairly mindless task, depending on how much clutter you've accumulated.

Mockup of an Apple desktop computer.

To help you get started, we've included our Clutter-Free Desktop Organizer Freebie. (If you're Photoshop-Savvy, we've linked an editable Clutter-Free Desktop Organizer here, enabling you to include your own background image).

Tip #2: Tackle your Email Inbox

An overflowing email inbox can be stressful and time-consuming to sort through.

Just like our messy desktops, it's easier to avoid our never-ending and ever-growing list of unread emails than to tackle them head-on.

But if you truly want to reclaim your digital life for the better and plan to tackle it DIY-style, you're going to have to be intentional and set aside the time.

Some actionable steps to make real changes in your inbox include going through your emails and deleting or archiving any that are no longer needed. You'll also want to consider setting up relevant folders or labels to organize your emails by topic or priority.

Ever heard of Inbox Zero? Sounds like an impossible dream, right? Well, achieving zero visible emails in your inbox might not be as challenging as you think.

A digital organizing working on a contact management project.

Tip #3: Backup Important Files

We all need a realistic way to store our digital stuff. Losing important files can be a nightmare, so it’s crucial to make sure you have backups of your data in case something goes wrong.

At SurroundUs, we recommend having 3 full-size/original copies of your digital files. This may be your personal computer, the cloud (think Google Drive, Backblaze, or Dropbox), and an external hard drive that you use to back up your computer and important files. These copies shouldn't include ‘optimized’ versions of your photos or files (like what you might have on your phone to save device storage space).

One caveat to this is that storing excess data in the cloud can have consequences for the environment, so it’s important to be intentional about what you're backing up. First, eliminate unneeded files and duplicates. Plus, this has the added benefit of making your files easier to find later on!

Tip #4: Use a Password Manager

Online security is a hot topic right now. It's more important than ever to have a solid system in place.