Digital Spring Cleaning: Consolidate Your Life Online

Spring Clean Your Digital Life!

By Gavin Sullivan

Gavin is a junior at Loyola Academy. He’s a student reporter for The Mash, a weekly teen publication distributed to Chicagoland high schools.

During this season of fresh starts, tackle the digital clutter piling up on your smartphone and computer desktop.

As you streamline your tech life, the good news is you’ll have company. Yahoo Clues, an online traffic monitoring service, shows searches for “organization” and “spring cleaning” jump to their highest levels around April and May.

Whether you want to tame an overflowing inbox or bring schoolwork to the cloud, here are some tips to slim down your digital footprint.

Cut the clutter from email

Google spokesperson Kat Eller says Gmail can help students escape inbox overflow with the priority inbox feature, which helps determine which messages are truly important by highlighting them at the top of the screen. Not a Gmail user? No problem — sign up for free and then visit the settings page to import other accounts into Gmail.

All your music, all in one place

Thomas Douglas, a junior at Deerfield, like many teens, accesses music on a variety of platforms. “I use iTunes, Pandora, YouTube and the radio,” he explains. Spotify, a free download for Mac and PC, removes some of the complexity from finding music by pairing your own collection with millions of online tracks, making nearly any song instantly available.

Best of all, Spotify is social: you can create playlists and share them with Facebook friends. Want to take your music on-the-go? Upgrade to a $9.99 monthly plan and enjoy unlimited mobile access.

Simplify social networking

Instead of crashing your Web browser with multiple tabs, control all of your social networking from a single location. TweetDeck, a free download in desktop and mobile versions, lets you manage Twitter and Facebook without flipping between screens.

If you want to reach some of the Internet’s less common destinations — from WordPress to Yahoo Answers — try out, a website that lets you control more than 220 social media services in one place.

Ditch ‘My Documents’ folder

New Trier freshman Ainslie Martin says she juggles schoolwork between “one computer at home and one at school.” But shuttling files between multiple devices carries risks: Flash-drives can be unreliable and easily misplaced.

You can avoid losing your precious work with Google Docs; simply drag-and-drop files into the browser window and they instantly upload to the website. Then all of your documents are readily available on any computer or smartphone.

Eller also touts the benefits for group projects. Host a Google+ video Hangout and all members can see the document on one screen and make real-time updates, she explains.

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