White desk with desktop computer, laptop, table, and phone with same apps

A Student’s Quick Guide to Master Digital Decluttering

Digital clutter may not seem like a big deal, but too much on your laptop or phone can hinder productivity. Learn how to clean up your digital space now.

Having a cluttered physical space makes it difficult to find what you’re looking for and much more challenging to organize—and digital space on your phone and computer is no different. The start of a new year presents students with a perfect time to declutter their space and mind to set goals and figure out how to achieve them. Learn more about digital decluttering and how it can help you stay organized and focused this year.

What makes up digital clutter?

Anything that pulls away your focus, causes mental stress, or makes it difficult to find what you need when using your digital device can qualify as digital clutter. Your clutter might look like:

  • Endless apps or desktop icons: Is your home screen full of random files, photos, and app icons? Eventually, it’ll become problematic to find stuff as you scroll through countless pages. Pare down to only what you need and put those loose files into folders.
  • Rows of open browser tabs: Open tabs are a massive drain on your system’s memory and having too many eventually gets overwhelming, like there’s so much to do even when there isn't.
  • Sound and pop-up notifications: There’s an alert for just about anything on everything now, including smartwatches, earphones, and fitness trackers. It’s incredibly hard to focus when these notifications are buzzing around you all day.
  •  Overflowing inboxes: Sometimes the allure of freebies is tempting, so you subscribe to more stuff. But a cluttered email inbox is the fifth-leading productivity killer in the workplace, so imagine what it does for students?

Related: Over 20 Apps to Help You Get Through Tough Finals This Semester

Decluttering your digital space

First, you want to figure out what exactly makes it clutter. Why are these files, apps, and emails causing you to lose concentration? Can you do without them, or can you tweak a few settings so they’re less in your face and keep them? Taking a step back helps you get a broader view, ensuring you only get rid of the things you can absolutely do without.

Start small

Just like decluttering a physical space, many things you get rid of in a digital declutter likely meant something to you once, which is how they got there in the first place. It’s okay to start small so the act of purging your digital life doesn’t feel stressful. Delete a few random files, repetitive photos in your gallery, forgotten downloads you don’t need, and the like.

Purge your inbox

Scan your inbox for emails you never opened (or opened and never read), group them by sender, and unsubscribe from them all. Be as thorough as you need to be. There’s no reason for things you don’t have interest or value in to take up space in your inbox.

Modify your notification settings

A barrage of alerts and notifications all day disrupts your thought process and workflow. Plus, they can drain your device’s battery because it keeps apps running in the background. Keep only the notifications you absolutely need and turn off or mute the rest. Sign out of social accounts you no longer use as well and consider silencing certain alerts when you need to get work done.

Clean up your browser

Your web browser can only handle so many open tabs at once, so close all the ones you don’t need. You can always reopen a tab later, but sifting through a bunch of websites you don’t need in the moment just wastes time. Also, go to the browser settings and clear your cookies so you’re bombarded with fewer intrusive ads when surfing the web. Lastly, turn off any unnecessary extensions and plugins that could be eating up system power.

Classify and organize the rest

By now, you should be left with only the files, apps, and email subscriptions that are useful for your set goals and interests. Categorize them and place each in a designated folder so it’s easier to know where to find them when needed and your main desktop looks neat, organized, and easy to navigate. 

Related: Tips for Better Organization and Study Habits in High School

The benefits of digital decluttering

Now, we’re not telling you to declutter simply to do it. It really does benefit you in the long run and improves your quality of life! Here are four benefits of doing away with digital clutter.

Reduced stress

Too much clutter, digital or otherwise, can overload you with too much visual information, making you feel more stressed. That’s why decluttering feels mentally and physically freeing when you do it; you no longer have to deal with or think about the disorganization around you.

Improved focus

A digital declutter helps you free up your time to focus on your New Year’s goals. For example, suppose your goal is to apply for and land an internship—having an organized desktop will make it easier to keep track of your application materials, and a cleaned-up inbox will make sure you don’t miss an offer letter.

Decreased cybersecurity risks

Hanging on to old apps and files you no longer use regularly can increase your device’s vulnerability to cybersecurity threats like account theft. According to Kaspersky, 56% of users have lost data on their phones due to digital clutter. You can clean up your space and improve your online safety in one go.

Environmental impact

Reducing your digital footprint can help improve sustainability efforts. Although you can't see the data and how it impacts the world, all digital clutter that exists is stored on servers somewhere, which consume large amounts of energy. Data centers that house these servers are expected to consume 20% of the world’s electricity by 2025. So try to be a part of the solution by keeping your footprint small.

Related: How to Utilize Technology to Get Ahead of the Class

Decluttering your digital space can improve your productivity and help you focus on your goals with fewer distractions. The key is to make sure you’ve properly identified the source of the clutter and organize or get rid of it without looking back. Start the year off right by deleting the digital mess from your computer and your mind.

Once you’re done decluttering your files and apps, consider reviewing your social media accounts too with advice like How Can I Clean Up My Social Media for the Job Search? and How to Be Responsible Using Social Media as a Student.

Like what you’re reading?

Join the CollegeXpress community! Create a free account and we’ll notify you about new articles, scholarship deadlines, and more.

Join Now


About Carolina Jacobs

Carolina Jacobs is a Managing Editor at Classrooms.com.


Join our community of
over 5 million students!

CollegeXpress has everything you need to simplify your college search, get connected to schools, and find your perfect fit.

Join CollegeXpress
Abhishek Kumar

Abhishek Kumar

High School Class of 2022

As a high schooler, I know how hard it is to plan for college. You have to consider a lot of factors: SAT/ACT scores, college searches, scholarships, and more. CollegeXpress has been a helpful resource that solves all these problems. One can easily create a free account and search away. They help you search for scholarships and colleges, they have graduate program search, they have lists and rankings, and so much more. CX also has a lot of articles and advice to read—whether it’s financial aid, test prep, campus visits, internships/careers, or anything. Not only that, CX gives out free scholarship money to students who sign up and create a free CX account. I love CX and will continue to use it! Thank you CollegeXpress for making my college journey easier!

Maurice Whan

Maurice Whan

$2,000 Spring Scholarship Contest Winner, 2021

This year has been tough for my family and myself, so receiving this scholarship has been a blessing in disguise! CollegeXpress has been an excellent resource in helping me prepare financially for college. Thank you again for this amazing opportunity!

Heather McCarty

Heather McCarty

High School Class of 2020

CollegeXpress has helped me with the college application process. The tips and tricks for important essays were so helpful. I also gained useful knowledge about college life. Even though I’m fully online, CollegeXpress has helped me develop a sense of how college is in person. The experiences from college students that were featured on their Instagram page have shown the good, the bad, and the “secret” life on campus from a reliable perspective. Not to mention, they relieved my feelings of anxiety about the workload. I can now understand how it can be stressful, but it takes self-control and willpower to get assignments completed on time and with quality.

Elizabeth Stafford

Elizabeth Stafford

High School Class of 2021

As a UK student moving to California due to my dad's job in the military, when I first signed up for CollegeXpress a few months ago, the college process ahead seemed daunting and incredibly stressful. That all changed after I started to explore what this website had to offer. Not only was I helped by the vast array of resources available to me, but through being a CollegeXpress member, there have been so many more benefits. There have been emails with college tips—all of which I found incredibly helpful—as well as invitations to events and notifications of scholarships that'll make college possible for me. Overall, I'm very grateful to CollegeXpress for all of these things and more. Not only have they helped me grow my understanding of the college process, but they've also helped me to grow as a person, giving me new skills that I can take with me through life.



High School Class of 2022

CollegeXpress has provided me with tips that were for college students, but as a high school junior, they were still very useful. Not only that, it also gave me an idea of what to expect when it comes to going to college or already being in college. I want to say thank you to CollegeXpress, and I hope you continue the wonderful tips until I hopefully get into college and throughout my college journey.

College Matches

Colleges You May Be Interested In

Michigan State University

East Lansing, MI

Caldwell University

Caldwell, NJ

Kean University

Union, NJ

Lynn University

Boca Raton, FL