Digital Minimalism Project: The Big Dropbox Declutter

Dropbox logo

Dropbox logoDropbox is a wonderful invention, isn’t it? Masses of cloud storage that make collaboration, remote working and generally managing the masses of ‘stuff’ we accumulate in our digital lives that much easier.

Yep, that’s supposed to be the case.

However, as with all the things that triggered my urge to carry out a digital declutter, Dropbox caused me some amount of anxiety, mostly because I knew I’d have to clean it or do something with all that stuff eventually.

And when I say stuff, there was a lot of it. Don’t ask me how, but over the course of a few short years, I managed to stuff one Dropbox account to capacity, and found myself well on my way to filling up a second one.

It was time to go through all this stuff and sort it out, so I started with the Dropbox account that was already connected to my laptop and phone, in other words, the one Dropbox account that seemed to be at the heart of my online life.

Cleaning Out My DropBox

This was the Dropbox account that I used to collaborate with several clients on their freelance writing projects, so I had a few folders in there that didn’t actually belong to me, and that was fine. I left those alone and concentrated instead on the mass of crap that I’d accumulated.

Just like the clean out of my actual hard drive, I had to divide files into three sections:

1) Sentimental
Anything that really brought back wonderful memories for me that I would ultimately want to keep for those reasons.

2) Practical
Anything I planned to use for a project. I had to be extra strict with this one.

There was to be no “well I might use it some day.” – If it wasn’t sentimental and I didn’t know of an exact reason how or why I was going to use this file, off it went into the third category.

3) Crap to Delete
Simple really. If it wasn’t in any of the other two categories, it had to go.

Almost immediately, just looking at the Dropbox account as it looks in the first picture above, I could see a whole bunch of stuff that I’d just let accumulate and had absolutely no use for, especially since I’d already used those files on other projects. So, off they went.

Ultimately, I was left with just two pictures that I wanted to keep for sentimental reasons. These were moved onto my 1TB external hard drive were I was planning to keep them.

Camera Uploads

With that done, it was on to the Camera Uploads folder – a folder I’d tried to make some sort of sense of in the past (as evidenced by all the sub-folders in the next picture) but never quite succeeded. Part of the problem here was that every photo I took with my iPhone went directly into this folder. Sure, that sounds great, and I’m sure some people use that feature to great effect, but I’m not one of them.

Digital Minimalism - Cleaning Out My dropBox

Part of the problem is that I use my iPhone camera much like a reminder system or note-taking device.

If I see posters or notices for events that interest me when I’m out and about, I take photos of them.

If I’m working on a project or a piece of art, I often take photos of my progress mostly so that I can look back and learn from them.

And then, of course, there’s all that “stuff” that I take photos of just because it’s easy to do.

Having a camera in my pocket the whole time means I often take pictures of pretty much everything, sometimes for sharing on social media, sometimes because I just think something looks cool.

So it was time to face facts:

Most of these pictures – over a thousand of them- were crap. They added no value to my life and simply had to go.

I can’t tell you what a relief it was to get rid of them- to just dump everything I didn’t need into a file and delete all thousand pictures.


Of course, I then had to stop that from happening again, which means doing things differently.

First of all, it meant disconnecting Dropbox from my iPhone camera.

Yes, I know that’s a really handy feature for some people, but for me, it just means double the clutter.

it also meant being more selective about what I take pictures of, and what I do with them.

Just because it’s easy to take photos of anything and everything doesn’t necessarily mean that I have to do it, especially not if all those pictures are just going to languish forever in a Dropbox folder without me looking at them ever.

So I’m more selective. If I’m going to take a picture, it has to be one of two things.

1: It has to be something special, something I’m not going to see every day.

2: It has to be something practical – like an event poster – that I’m going to process (set a reminder, book tickets, whatever) immediately.

Of course, that took some getting used to, but I’m getting there and finding that simple things like this help reduce the anxiety I have around my digital clutter enormously.

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