So I made washing powder today. I do it all the time and love that I know exactly what has gone into it, I have the ingredients I need in bulk, and it takes almost no time at all. But the inevitable reaction when I tell people that I make my own washing powder is “how do you have the time?”.

I really don’t like this statement, it implies that maybe I should be doing something else, that making a cleaning product from scratch is not a good use of my time or that I am somewhat deranged (well maybe a little!) and should trot off to the shops and purchase a pre-made product immediately. I can tell you now that that would take exactly 20 minutes longer than just making it myself.

We all make decisions about how to spend our time and there are many tasks that are just not enjoyable enough to prioritise. Today I offer up 2 potential declutter tasks – one super quick and another a little more detailed. The first involves attacking your computer desktop which can either be a beautiful clear space with maybe a serene landscape shot for inspiration. Or, it can be a jumbled mess of craziness that you perpetually ignore in favour of reading another article about Beyonce and her pregnant with twins belly. The second more detailed option involves starting to clear through your emails – dun dun dun. Scary huh! I’ll teach you a couple of tricks to get on top of the mess.

Desktop Declutter

This is a quickie and is particularly directed at those of you who leave your computer desktop full of files that you “might” need later (I’m looking at you Fiona). Undoubtedly there are important files here so you could follow a similar technique to that described in Digital Declutter – Part One and sit 2 windows side by side and move the important files into their correct folders. Examples might include moving invoices to a finance folder, PDFs into a learning or reading folder, photos into the pictures folder – you get the idea.

Secondly, delete any program shortcuts you don’t need – these are particularly prevalent on PCs and often create themselves when a new program is installed. They have a little arrow in the bottom-right corner like these:

Windows shortcut files

Unless you use these they are just visual clutter and can be deleted with no issues. Just right-click on the icons and select Delete. If a whole bunch are sitting next to each other, click and drag around all of them and then delete them all at once.

On a Mac, you are more likely to have leftover installation files that look this:

Mac Desktop Clutter

The simplest way to get rid of these is to right click and eject – just make sure you are not ejecting an actual disk as confusingly they look identical.

Once all these items have been removed, what is left it the mights. The I might need it, I might want it, I might watch, listen etc. To deal with these create a new folder and call it Clutter, or Stuff or whatever connects with you (mine is called clean up desktop). Drag all the leftover files into this folder. If, over the next few months you actually need any of these items, take them out and save them in the logical location. If you haven’t accused them – odds are they can be safely deleted.

So mine wasn’t too bad to start with but I thought a before and after was in order:

Before Cleanup

After cleanup

Email Declutter

This is only step one in decluttering your emails so be brave. Often people feel they need to hang onto communications for way longer than is actually necessary. Of course, legal information, disputes, tax and finance information is important. But if you sent someone a presentation via email 3 months ago – you probably don’t need to keep that one.

A massive space hog in email is attachments and what people often don’t realise is that the main contributors are the emails you send, not the ones you receive. If you get rid of the largest of your emails – searching should speed up which means you can find what you need so much faster.

Most email programs have an inbuilt way to find the largest emails and I have detailed three options below:


Google is known for its fantastic search capabilities so it should come as no surprise that this is really simple. Simply open up gmail in your browser, logon if you aren’t already, and then search for the size of email you would like to see. 5MB is a good starting point and it looks like this:

Filter gmail by size

That is a five (5) with six (6) zeros after it in case you were wondering. To see emails larger than 10MB it would be 10000000 and so on. One the emails are displayed, put a tick next to the ones you think you can do without and then click the little bin icon up the top.

Deleting large emails

Google automatically deletes your trash every 30 days so you don’t have to worry about these emails hanging around forever.

Outlook for PC

Outlook uses an interesting feature called Search Folders. These folders do not contain any emails but run a search for a specific type of email every time you go to them. To find emails with large attachments follow these steps.

  • In your list of folders, scroll down and right click on “Search Folders
  • Click on “New Search Folder

New Search Folder

  • Then select “Large Mail”
  • Click the “Choose” button and change the number to “10,000 KB

Large Mail Settings

  • And click “OK
  • Outlook will now search all email and display a list that has attachments totaling more than 10mb per message.

Go through these emails and delete any that are unnecessary or unneeded. Once you are done, right click on your deleted items folder and empty it. The scrunchy sound will be super satisfying.

Once again, the advice offered in these posts may not be for everyone. If you are in any doubt about something, please do not delete or empty trash. If you would like some more personalised advice, please do not hesitate to contact me.