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  • Writer's pictureShawndra Holmberg, CPO-CD

Spring Clean your Electronic Files

Last month I suggested you focus on spring cleaning your To Do list. How did that go? Did you find a project you’re excited to get back to? Did you realize you could delete a lot of the tasks or did you struggle to dump the five? Either way - what did you learn and how are you going to move forward with your To Do list?

We are going to stick with spring cleaning again this month, and this time it’s your electronic files. It’s time to clear out the old, unused, unwanted and unneeded files.

I routinely suggest to clients who are going through their file drawers and piles of paper to scan documents they want but don’t need in a paper format. Electronic files save physical space. It’s amazing and wonderful to access a file from my phone when I’m away from my computer or collaborate on a share file remotely. Electronic files can often save time in searching for them by entering keywords and letting the computer do the searching instead of trying to remember where you filed it.

But there is a cost to keeping those old files and emails you’ve kept by default. It costs energy to keep those files in the cloud. There is a carbon footprint for keeping those old emails. And if your computer is old or full, it takes time and energy for your computer to go through and find the files you want to access. I’m picturing my computer sitting on the couch after a Thanksgiving dinner. The processor is whirring away, but nothing comes up.

Will you join me this month to clean out your electronic files on your computer, your phone, your tablet, or your email inbox and decrease your carbon footprint? This month’s goal isn’t to clear out all devices or even all folder and files on one device. Though if you want to — go for it! The goal is to throw back the curtains on those delayed decisions, dust off the possibilities, and start clearing space on your device for the files you do want and will use.

Here’s how to get started:

Go Big

Computer files: sort by size (often it’s as easy as clicking on the “Size” label at the top of your file list. Delete the largest unwanted files first. Look for videos or audio files you no longer need or haven’t made the time to listen to or watch. Get rid of blurry or duplicate photos.

Email: sort by attachment. Either delete the email or save the attachment and then delete.

Phone/tablet: Check which apps are taking up the most storage and start spring cleaning there. For your iPhone or iPad you can go to Settings > General > [Device] Storage. For Android Settings > Storage.

Go Old

Applies to computer files, storage on your phone, and especially emails. Sort by age of the file or email and start deleting.

Now’s a great time to set a guideline for the age limit of an email. Will you let go of emails that are a year old? How about 6 months or more? Could you set the limit at 2 months to either act on it (which includes getting it to storage on your computer if necessary) or delete it?

Go Group

For emails this means group by sender and look for large quantities of email from a specific sender. If you filter by a sender who sends you lots of email, you can then use the keyboard shortcut CTRL+A (Command-A for Mac) to highlight all and hit the delete button. For more keyboard shortcuts go to

For files this might mean looking for files from a volunteer position you’re no longer filling or an inactive business group you belonged to once. Do a quick review and delete all or most of the files.

Additional Resources:

If you’d like to decrease your carbon footprint even more, here are 3 electronic behaviors to focus on:

Unsubscribe to electronic newsletters you don’t read: Each email requires energy to be sent to you. Scrolling through your inbox to find the emails you need to reply takes energy. Leaving them in your inbox or even moving them to another folder uses energy. Unsubscribe to newsletters you don’t read.

Opt-out: Click or unclick that check box that offers to keep you updated with the latest deals. Not only will it save energy, it will probably save you money, too.

Go through your files regularly: This can be a quick 5 minutes to delete poor quality or unimportant photos from your phone while you’re waiting in line. It could be spending 15 minutes deleting those articles from your “To Read” app which you haven’t gotten around to in the last 6 months. You can do this while you're waiting for your next appointment.


Don’t let these unwanted, unread, unneeded files take up space on your device or waste energy. My challenge to you is to spring clean your electronic files this month. Will you join me?


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