Virtual Minimalism: Reducing Digital Clutter

Marc Bilodeau/ Health, Minimalism, Self Help, Subjectivity

Minimalism is consciously choosing to live with less so one may pursue a more meaningful life. However, an area often overlooked is our virtual life. A life filled with distractions from apps, emails, social media, and notifications.

One’s vision of a minimal life does not necessarily mean it’s perfect for someone else. However at any level, reducing any physical, mental, or virtual burden means more freedom and time to do something new or enjoyable. This really is the goal, isn’t it? The freedom to choose where to focus our time and energy.

I’m sure it sounds wonderful. Who doesn’t want more time? However, many people don’t realize how much time they spend using smartphones, tablets, and games. It’s quite surprising. If you search the web on this topic, you’ll find various articles that show people are online anywhere between 6 to 11 hours a day. For many people, that’s more time then they sleep!

If asked, most people don’t think they are online that much. However, tracking your own usage will help you realize that it might be time to minimize some of those virtual habits and rituals.

Start with Knowing Your Virtual Habits

Most people could name the devices, games, and apps they use. Furthermore, they will likely underestimate how often or how much time they use them. With that said, this makes the first objective clear. Know what you do with your devices.

How often do you surf the web? Do you play the same games every day? Do you really use that program as often as you think you do? How much time do you spend on social media? Regardless, it’s very important to understand your virtual habits. Knowing these answers is helpful when making mindful choices on what we really should use and why.

A list can be very insightful. It can be written on a scratchpad or tracked in a spreadsheet. Start by keeping a separate column for each electronic device you own. This includes smartphones, tablets, PCs, game consoles, cameras, printers, and anything else you may want to include. It’s completely up to you.

Next, write the name of the app in the appropriate column for that device every time you use it. If you’ve already noted a game or app, then add a hash mark beside it. With devices like cameras and printers, the idea is to track how many times you actually use them.

logging virtual and online habits helps educate yourself on what you use and don't use
keeping a log of what you do helps determine digital habits

At first it can seem daunting to track activity. However, taking the time once per day to mentally review that day’s usage is quick and easy. Then, repeat this process for a period of time. I recommend at least 30 days.

The List of Knowledge!

We make countless decisions everyday from the very trivial to the complicated. Over the course of the day, our decision making abilities decline. Why use precious brain power hunting for something on your smartphone? Don’t be afraid to get rid of something that you think you will need just in case.

Do you have devices or games you don’t use anymore? If so, maybe it’s time to getting rid of them. Do you have multiple tablets, or use the same apps on a tablet and smartphone? Then, perhaps it’s time to consolidate those devices.

Now that you have a good idea of which devices you use, the next step is to compare the apps on your list to the apps installed on your devices. Are there apps installed that aren’t on the list? If so, consider deleting those apps. If you need an app in the future, you can always re-install it. Of course, if you know you’re going to use an app, then it’s okay to keep it. It’s up to you.

The Next Step

You’ve identified devices you no longer use and deleted unused apps. That’s a huge step. But what about the devices and apps you do use. How much time do you use them? Are they distracting you? Do they provide real value and contribute in a positive way? These choices can be difficult. However, it’s important for each of us to find the right balance in our virtual life to be valuable without consuming too much time.

My Google Nexus 6P is my PC
My version of Digital Minimalism at work after evaluating my needs several times over the years

By now, you should have a good idea of your virtual habits. Next, it’s time to ask if each one of these habits is truly providing you value. Ask yourself “Why?“. Why do you use that app or device so much? Is it providing value to you in some way? Is it helping you grow as an individual? If you’re struggling to answer these questions, it might be time to let it go.

I’ve asked myself this same question countless times. It’s a big reason why I’ve stopped playing a few games, and why I got rid of some devices. They simply didn’t provide enough personal value and they were consuming precious time for no reason. Even today, I use this technique regularly to help improve and optimize my life.


The digital world has no shortage of great apps, fun games, and engaging media. There are always new technologies and exciting gadgets ready to be used by millions of people. However, each of them requires your time. Will your life be enriched by using them?

Take the time to review your habits regularly, ask yourself why, and remove anything that doesn’t contribute to helping you become the best you you can be.