10 Ideas to Conquer Digital Clutter

One of my goals for 2021 is to conquer digital clutter. That is a vague, ambiguous goal so I set a more specific, measurable goal to clear the digital clutter from my phone weekly. Generally my digital clutter falls into three categories: photos, notes, and websites. Here are ten ideas in these categories that will help you reduce the digital clutter.


This is the largest bit of digital clutter I have – and I bet most of you are in the same boat. Right now I have 685 photos on my phone. It is overwhelming to go back and declutter all of them so I am starting where I am. Each week I deal with those photos I took in the previous week. There are a few of the actions that you can take.

  1. Delete. I cannot be the only one who tries to carry too many things and ends up taking photos of the side of the car. Or trying to get a cute photo of the dog sleeping, I end up with 10 of the same snoozing pup. Delete the obvious, narrow down the precious.
  2. File. Screenshots fall into this category. Some examples might be the screen shots of books I want to read or products I might want to purchase. Each week I add to my To Be Read list on Goodreads, buy the item if is a no brainer, or add it to my Amazon wish list.
  3. Inspiration. Quotes, ideas, or other inspiration I want to use for Sustainable Sue work goes to Trello or Scrivener. Trello is a project management app where I can create a “card” with the quote (or whatever I took a photo of) and add it to the board. For example, the board might be quotes on digital clutter I could use in a post about the same topic. Then when I want to write about digital clutter, I pull that quote off of my Trello board and place it in the post.
  4. Save. Some photos I save for scrapbooking – these live in Lightroom. Each week I put a heart (on my iPhone – I bet Android has an equivalent) on those photos I want to save. On the first day of each month, I have a reminder that pops up telling me to move photos to Lightroom. I don’t have to scroll through 600+, I just get the hearts and move them to Lightroom and then delete from my phone once Lightroom is backed up.
  5. Share. I share memes and old photos with friends and family. Here is a gem that came up this week of me and The Girl back in the day.


This is the digital equivalent of Post It notes.I keep notes in a couple places on my phone so decluttering my notes is a critical component to conquer digital clutter.

  1. Lists. When I am driving down the road and need to capture a thought, I ask Siri to capture it and she adds it to my “Braindump list.” This is a catch all that is sorted at least weekly. Sometimes I add things to my calendar, sometimes things move to another list, sometimes things are deleted because I have no idea what I meant.
  2. Notepad. This is another catchall spot that builds up. If I hear something meaningful I want to remember later I will open the Notes app and jot it down. Same with a website I want to check out later from a webinar I am watching or perhaps shared notes. But these notes are not helpful if they just live in the Notes app. Weekly I move them to a place that is more useful. This might look like any of these:
    • Set a time block in the upcoming week to review the website.
    • Move the quote to a Trello board.
    • Delete the idea that seemed brilliant in the middle of the night, but seems useless in the light of day.


This is a recent pain point for me. I am not sure when my browser got so out of control. Today I have 64 windows open. Experts disagree on if this impacts your phones performance or not. What I am interested in is whether or not this is Sustainably Productive. When you shine the lens of sustainability on 64 open Chrome tabs – no big deal. But the productive side of the equation is different. I can’t find a ding dang thing amidst 64 open windows. Not productive.

“Clutter is not just the stuff on your floor – it’s anything that stands between you and the life you want to be living.” Peter Walsh

For this task I set a timer as part of my weekly digital declutter session. 5 minutes to close windows. I start with the most recent and close. I look at the website that is open before closing it in case there is an action step I needed to take.  For example, I may have left the window open because I was halfway through paying for an online meal pick up for the week when the doorbell rang and I forgot to go back to it. Some windows are quick – when Facebook opens in Chrome, for example. No brainer – close it, I would rather use the app.

I would love to help you conquer digital clutter. Check out the Sustainable You Environmental Surroundings course to learn more today.

By |2021-01-23T18:47:55-05:00January 26th, 2021|Environmental Surroundings|0 Comments

3 Must Have Tools for Digital Organization

Experts estimate we will each spend 3,680 hours in our lifetime searching for misplaced items. As we spend more of our lives online, more of that time is lost on digital clutter – on our computers, phones, and tablets. I want to share with you three must have tools for digital organization that keep our house and family sustainably productive.

Long Term for Reference

Google Drive is our family’s choice for long term storage of files we need to keep for reference. These might be files we are actively using or just need to archive. Google Drive is free and can be used on Mac or PC, Android or iPhone for mobile. Here are a couple ways we have used it recently.


The Girl graduated high school this spring, and we wanted to send announcements. She and I created a spreadsheet on Google Drive and shared it with her mom so we could make sure friends and relatives from all four of her parents’ families were included. Google Drive makes it easy for several people to work on a document together. Bonus points because you can all be in the document at the same time, and it will tell you who else is in it and where they are. This eliminates version hell that can happen when collaborating on files.


Like many of you, we have about a zillion owners manuals. They took up about 4 folders in our filing cabinet. In order to find something, we had to sift through all 4 folders to find the manual we needed. We decided not to do a “Command Center Binder” with all of them because it is a waste of space (and ugly, in my opinion) to have a row of binders.

One evening while watching some random episode of The Office (again), I pulled out all of the manuals and searched for them online. Then I saved them to Google Drive by the title of the appliance. This helps tremendously with retrieval. When an appliance breaks, I am already annoyed. When I just need to know what the model number for a replacement part at Lowe’s Hardware is, I am already inconvenienced. This is the time to make life less of a hassle. One of my rules of organizing is to think about what will make it easier to access something as you plan for its storage and organization.

Sustainable Productivity Tip: Plan your organization and storage around retrieval, not clean up. Make it easy to find, then train yourself to put it away in that spot.

Down side

It will fill up – you only get 15 GB free. Sometimes I use Google Drive to share photos when I do volunteer photography work or am just sharing with several people who were at an event together. Each year (usually at the end of the year) I make sure to clear them out of Google Drive because I am too cheap to pay for storage. Pro tip – don’t forget to empty your digital trash, it counts against you with the free storage.

Project Work

The Pain Point

Although the tool I am going to tell you about is used in corporate America, for our family’s purpose I use the term “project work”  very loosely. But we take it very seriously. It is our food. Bixby is quite a foodie and an excellent cook. He is in charge of our meals. This was something we agreed on early in engagement. He said he would cook meals as long as when he said he wanted to go out to eat, I would not complain.

I agreed quickly before the concussion cleared up. I jest! There was no head injury, just new love.

So while he is quite a chef, he is also an absent minded professor type that hates to meal plan. So that leaves me to nag him and the kids into picking dinner for at least the next three nights, checking to see what ingredients we have, ordering groceries online, and reminding him to start making dinner. [As I write this we are still distancing due to COVID so the only time The Girl leaves her room is to pick up groceries from the curbside service so I am relieved of that chore currently.]

I could not keep track of what meals we had picked during meal planning so I tried to keep a list in the kitchen. This system quickly went by the wayside. Sometimes the paper would be lost. More often Bixby was in his office and did not want to take 20 steps to the kitchen. Sometimes I had a recipe to share and I would email it, but he has over 11,000 emails in his inbox so he could not find it. I would text it, but then 4 days would go by, and it was lost in the texts I had sent since then. This was not a sustainable system.

The Solution

So my programmer husband introduced me to Slack. The tool Silicon Valley uses to create a new digital world is what we use to organize our grub. Here are a few features:

  1. You can access Slack on a website (what I do when I am at work) or download it to your computer (what I do when I am on my laptop at home) or as an app on your phone (what I use when I bully them into meal planning around the dinner table).
  2. Slack is free and can be used on Mac or PC, Android or iPhone.
  3. You can chat, drop in links or add photos.

Screeshot of Slack in action

You can see on Thursday, June 25th at 6:20pm I shared a recipe and added a comment that we would use halibut instead of tilapia. Then Friday, June 26th at 12:31pm I reminded my people what the dinner plan was for the next few days. At the bottom where it says, “Message #dinner” is where we type messages to each other. #dinner is the Slack “channel” we have dedicated to food. We also have a channel for Sustainable Sue since Bixby does tech support for me. I do not want to mix up food and tech support.

Screenshot of Slack in action

Here you can see a photo of a less formal recipe posted to Slack. To the right of the screen you can see you can set a reminder to pop up – maybe so you know when to start cooking or as a tickler to remind you what is for dinner. You can see above that on Wednesday, June 24th I still have to remind the chef manually. Perhaps he will learn this reminder trick from this post?!

Shared Tasks


The third tool sustaining our digital organization is the Our Groceries app. It has benefitted us in several ways with issues we were struggling with.

  1. Like many people we were forever forgetting to bring the list to the store. Since we never forget our phones, we always have the list.
  2. Bixby was forever asking me to swing by the store on my way home from work. If I was driving, it was difficult to write down what he needed me to pick up. Now he can just add it to the app.
  3. I try to get as much out of my brain as possible so I wanted to keep a running grocery list. It was not sustainable for me to have to remember that 3 days ago someone said they needed XYZ product. Especially as the kids got older and they had preferences about toiletries.
  4. Which leads me to my last major benefit of this app – it helps us teach the kids that groceries do not just magically appear.
How We Use It

All four of us have the app on our phone. No matter if the kids are at their mom’s house or out and about (during non-COVID), I can send a text asking them to add what they what by thus and such time. Then when the deadline comes, I take what is on the app and order groceries online. If they run out of an item, they can add it with specific details as soon as it runs out. No one has to remember they needed it.

This worked so well, we expanded to other lists. Here is the list of our lists.

Screenshot of Our Groceries app

Bonus points for the Our Groceries app is that Bixby has integrated Our Groceries into the Alexa and Google Home devices we have. [Yes, we have both home assistants. Jesus take the wheel.] This is really helpful if we run out of something while Bixby is cooking. He can ask the home assistant to add it to the app without having to stop what he is doing. We like to keep him focused on a single task at a time (see previous absent minded professor).

What digital clutter pain points do you struggle with? How can the tools covered here help you be more sustainably productive?

By |2020-06-29T14:27:53-04:00June 30th, 2020|Environmental Surroundings|0 Comments

Digital Organizing – Books, part 3

Parts 1 and 2 showed how to use the scanner to add the books to our TBR, and what to do when that goes awry. The next step I do is to mark them as books I own so that if I want to loan it out or give it away after talking about it with someone, I have a quick reference. Also, there are times when I am grounded from the library and book store (maybe Bixby will need to do a guest post about that). If I know what books I have in the house, my “Read My Shelves” blitz is a little easier to organize and carry out.

Note: Currently the instructions outlined here are only available on the desktop version of Goodreads, not on the mobile app.

Click on the “My Books” section of Goodreads and you will see the screen below. On the right most column, you will see “edit / view” as in the blue circle below.

After we click “edit,” you will see lots of options for adding details about your book. Below you will see how I edited Goodreads to indicate I own Letter to my Daughter by Maya Angelou.

At the bottom of the screen, you will see a box next to “I own a copy of this book.” Click that box.

After you click the box next to “I own a copy of this book” you will see the screen below. I generally do not fill these boxes in because my plan is to not keep my books unless I LOVE LOVE LOVE them. No sense for me to spend the time entering these details if I will just give the book away. These details do not help me choose books to read or rate them.

Also note you see the box is checked next to “Add to my update feed” at the bottom. If this is a book you do not want others to know you are reading (in case you are reading a book about how to fire your hairdresser and you don’t want her to find out), uncheck this box and it will not be posted to your feed or the weekly summary email others receive about what you are reading.

Then click “Save” and repeat the same for each of the books you own.

This process may seem time intensive and laborious to some of you. That means it is not something that is a high priority for you and not something to spend your time on. That is ok. I am here to give you permission to NOT do this if it does not put wind in your sails. If it does not help you retrieve books in a way that will help you save time.

Let me know how this works for you or if you have other tips and tricks!

By |2019-05-14T09:46:27-04:00May 16th, 2019|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

Digital Organizing – Books, part 2

Yesterday we looked at using the scanner to add books, but alas – sometimes technology fails us. Let’s talk about what that looks like and how to maneuver around it.

We pick up this book, scan it…

Sparkly dots? Check. Must mean I am killing it on the scanning. And reading about improving communication? Fantastic! Except….

This was really the book I was trying to scan. We all get a little mixed up from time to time. It happens. My general process is to scan the bar code, flip the book over to check what the cover says matches what the app says I scanned. For this book, when I flipped it over, the scanner did the sparkly dot thing on the cover and corrected itself.

This is another book I tried to scan the barcode (note the sparkly dots trying their darnedest), yet failing and announcing its failure so dramatically, “No books found!” Calm down Goodreads, no need to panic. We have a workaround.

On the landing page / home page / first page you hit in Goodreads, there is a search box at the top. Simply type in the name of the book that did not scan. When you click on the title, you will see the selection’s details as show below for this example.

On the left third of your screen (see below) you see a green box that defaults to “Want to Read.” If it is green, it is not selected. Hover your mouse over the green box to get the drop down list of “Read, Currently Reading, Want to Read” (the other lists of 2017, 2018, etc. are ones I added). Choose “Want to Read” unless this book is going straight into service, then change to “Currently Reading.”

By |2019-12-12T19:11:16-05:00May 15th, 2019|Environmental Surroundings|0 Comments

Digital Organizing – Books, part 1

One of my favorite things to do when I travel is the Read and Return program certain airports have. On this particular trip, I popped into the shop and bought a book that sounded right up my alley, made my purchase, and tucked into my seat at the gate (and by that I mean sat uncomfortably in a seat surrounded by strangers coughing up lungs). After about 10 pages I realized I read the book already. So I went back and did a regular return and bought another book. Back to the gate and seat made of concrete only to find I HAD READ THAT ONE TOO. I decided this was nonsense, and I needed to get it myself organized.

I use the website / app Goodreads to organize my books. Apparently there is controversy about the reviews and ratings there and who the website is more geared towards – authors or readers. However, organization is about retrieval – it does not matter how easy something is to put away or how pretty it looks when it is put away if you cannot find the thing / information when you need it. I store book information for 2 specific reasons:

  1. I want to know if I have read it so I don’t waste money with repeat purchases. My library also only allows 5 holds at a time so I also don’t want to spend that precious real estate on a repeat read.
  2. I want to know if I have read it so I can talk about it. I refer to my rating and quick Goodreads review to refresh my memory on whether or not I liked the book.

This post is part 1 of 3 to show you how I add books to Goodreads to organize my actual books and the digital record of them. Let’s say for example I went to a book sale and arrived home with 2 bags of books – just hypothetical, of course. Today’s post will cover step one in the process – using the scanning feature to add my new friends to my Goodreads TBR list. It is easier than it seems – WAY easier than scanning my own groceries and saves so much time from entering them by hand typing in the title.

On the screen shot below, you will see the main screen of the Goodreads app on my phone. You will see “Scan” (circled in blue above). Click on that and hover over the bar code on the back of the book you would like to enter.

You know it is working when you see the little sparkles appear as in the screen shot below.

The book you just scanned should show up in the “Scanned Books” tab where you can add them as a batch to your To Be Read list. The picture below shows you what this will look like.

Part 2 will come out tomorrow and will cover what to do when the book you scanned is wrong or Goodreads cannot scan the barcode.

By |2019-12-12T19:11:39-05:00May 14th, 2019|Environmental Surroundings|0 Comments


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