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Time to Declutter?

The time is always right when it comes to decluttering your devices.

This is one of a series of articles provided by the Oakmont Technology Learning Center on the use of technology by seniors. Tina Nerat Does the sheer volume of your files and photos seem daunting sometimes? When getting a new computer (or tablet or phone), decluttering on the old computer or device is a good idea to make the transition easier. Since new devices get purchased every 4-5 years, it doesn’t hurt to plan ahead and make your life easier now. With existing computers, think about backing up, doing a purge, and reorganizing/cleaning up as well as changing bad habits about how you store files. Why declutter? Just as it is with “things” in our households and garages, there are negative psychological effects of “too much” with our internet usage, social media, and storage of digital data “I might need someday”. It’s a daunting task, likely best done in short bursts by prioritizing what’s most important to make your life easier. Start by doing a backup, then purging the oldest “stuff”, then look at the following topics: Files. Name files with something logical (date, place, topic, who, club, etc). Know how to search by file name or file content on your computer. Create folders and subfolders by topic. Consider creating “cloud” folders in the same architecture. Know how to search for files on your computer and in your cloud files. Clean out spacewasting documents you no longer need. Keep a backup somewhere other than your house, given our experiences with wildfires here in Oakmont. Downloads. How many of us have a bunch of files we’ve downloaded and then they live long term in a Downloads folder? Purge this folder when you’re done with the files or move the files to your data folders/subfolders or to the cloud that you’ve created. Email. As with files, create folders and subfolders with logical names (Club, Nextdoor, Facebook, House, Family, Sender, Topic, etc). Group by sender or topic and use subfolders. Consider using the same folder/subfolder architecture that you use for hard drive files. Learn how to use “rules” in your e-mail app to direct incoming e-mail to subfolders so they don’t clog up your inbox. There’s nothing worse psychologically than a huge e-mail inbox that looks like a “to-do” list. Photos. Back up photos in case of emergencies and store them off-site and in the cloud. Scan in photo albums so they are stored in the cloud; this frees up space in your house taken up by dozens of “paper” photo albums. Organize photos into digital albums using an app (Apple or Google), store in the cloud, delete lousy photos. If photos are on your computer, name files in folders and subfolders with date/who/where.

Desktops home screens. Keep most-used apps in your computer taskbar/dock/shelf or phone or tablet home page. Keep less-used apps on secondary screen(s). Do you need a bunch of shortcuts on your computer screen? If not, clean them up. Do you have a bunch of files in “downloads” for one-time use that can be deleted? Apps and Notifications. Remove or disable any unused apps/bloatware that might come with your computer or device. Disable non-essential apps for startup and check if unnecessary apps are running in the background. Look in app settings to see which notifications you want enabled/disabled to keep from being inundated. Subscriptions. Unsubscribe from sites you no longer read. Get off unwanted email lists by unsubscribing. Online accounts. How many of us have logins on a lot of retail web sites? Time to delete those you don’t use anymore. Many sites ask if you want to sign on with Google or Facebook. Here’s what Norton Lifelock says about that: “Yes, it's technically safe to sign in with Google or Facebook. But it's a good idea to consider the privacy and security risks of social sign-in before you decide to use it.” Social media. Think about privacy - look through your apps settings. Turn off non-essential notifications. Facebook “cloning” of accounts usually occurs because your “friends” list is not set to “private”; then someone can create a fake account and phish your friends. Check your friends list on Facebook: are there people you should “hide” (the annoying or political posts) or “unfriend” (just aren’t important to you any more)? Nextdoor notifications have a number of settings that can be fine-tuned. Another note about Nextdoor: if you are posting “Oakmont only” information or complaints, don’t post to tens of thousands of North Bay Nextdoor users, which is the default! Select “Oakmont Only” for posting. Browsers. Whether you use Chrome, Safari, Edge, Firefox, or some of the newer browsers (Vivaldi and Brave, for two), clean up your “cookies” and “history” on a regular basis. When accepting cookies, don’t just automatically click “accept cookies”; customize them to only necessary cookies, not marketing and other cookies. When starting your browser up, how many tabs do you want open on startup? More tabs=more computing resources used. Do you still need all the browser extensions and bookmarks that you have? If not, clean them up. Consider taking on OTLC class this fall to better understand your computer or device settings. For an electronic copy of this article as well as Part 1, go to under “Tech Articles”.

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