Online Streamlining: lowering the stakes

Paul Sockett
4 min readDec 17, 2021

There are myriad avenues for storing your various things online (or on devices in general)…

  • Your email inboxes and folders
  • Cloud storage (your Google Drives/Onedrives and what-have-you)
  • Your phone, tablet, laptop/desktop

We all keep — or metaphorically chuck — Stuff into our technological cubbyholes. Such as:

  • those documents you had to download as part of that 2-day online team-building thing your boss told you to do
  • those PDFs of celebrity-themed cocktail recipes you thought would be a fun idea for that party at your friend’s house a few years ago
  • your favourite cat- and avocado-related GIFs
  • all those blurry night-out pictures in that bar (oh heck, was it at that place round the corner from the…you know, that building with the red…green(?) sign outside?)
  • heart-warming visual/video memories of places, moments, and loved ones

Those online spaces can feel like passive vacuums of infinite capacity (whether we choose to pay for the clever-timed paid-extra space offer or not) and so, when we approach the door to our online storage —be it to have a sort out, look for a specific item orrr try to cram one more thing in— the stomach can lurch at the thought of it all falling out or, heaven forbid, telling us there is no more room.

So, let’s lower the stakes when it comes to shape space in our online worlds. When it comes to online storage sortage, lowering the stakes means:

  1. moving more data with fewer choices
  2. making choices about the items that have the smallest, to no, emotional ties (specifically helpful for images)
  3. allocating ≈5 minutes to save many more times that in the future (inbox-specific)
  4. going back in time

Filters are your friend for the majority of these Streamlining options. I am yet to find a storage space or inbox that does not have some form of filtering element, so though you may need to have a little look, it’s going to be worth it.

The aim is not to let go of as much as possible, but to notice what you have and to make a conscious choice, even if that is to keep it.

It’s important to add that you do not have to Streamline everything in one go. It’s all been there for however long, and that’s ok. I promise. You aren’t failing or succeeding. It’s just true. You get to start and stop whenever you want. You do not have to keep going until you can no longer go on. This, believe it or not (you may want to sit down for this) gets to be fun……

Jim Carrey, delirious and fainting — from Liar Liar

I know. It’s all going to be ok, just take some deep breaths. And I’ve got you. Ready to give it a try? Here we go (using the order I listed above)

  1. Use your filter to show only videos (mp4s and the like are the claimers of most space per file on average) even if you like to take tippy-top-quality photos. Start with Streamlining these files. You may not even need to watch the whole thing to know whether you want to keep it or not.
  2. Put the images in grid view. Go through, and remove, the blurry, unclear images (this may include scans you made for administrative purposes, or corrupted transfers from older devices/other formats).
  3. Pick one newsletter in your inbox that you haven’t accessed for a while (or ever(?) — no judgement here). Choose the 5-or-so minutes it will take to read a mailout…and read one of them. Does it light you up? Do you think it was boring? Does the content, and the reason you signed up in the first place, not resonate with you anymore? Unsubscribe…or stay subscribed. The aim is not to let go of as much as possible, but to notice what you have and to make a conscious choice, even if that is to keep it.
    *If you unsubscribe, use the search box to type in the name of blog/site/newsletter and remove all of the previous ‘editions’. You don’t need them. They, most likely, will not come in handy (or even be remembered). This 5 minutes will save you minutes — and energy — in the long run, not having to file/delete/scroll past/feel shame about each new one that enters your inbox space in the future.
    *If you stay subscribed, you get to make another new choice (huzzah for you!). Do you want to start afresh with the blog/newsletter by removing the prior emails from your inbox and honour the choice you made in that moment, to resubscribe? Your choice. No right, no wrong. (FYI almost every site keeps an archive of those posts should you REALLY feel called to visit old posts)
  4. Head to the final page of your inbox, or use the filter to sort by ‘date ascending’. Start by Streamlining the really old emails; chances are they are completely irrelevant now, or simply not required or desired. Fewer emotional, narrative and logistical ties lie in the older emails.

Pick one of the options; try them all; you get to choose. You always have the choice, and…wait, are you still sitting from last time? No? You may want to sit down again for this one…

I’ll wait…Ok…

You always have the choice, and you always get to make a new choice

Read that again.

Now, make a choice.

You’ve got this! One item, one file, one choice at a time

Let me know how the tips work for you in practise (if you choose to try them, of course)



Paul Sockett

A silly & sensitive storyteller; a word reframer. I am a fierce advocate for Shame- & Scarcity-free choice. 🍦 inspires me: