Purge Your Inbox

For those of us with thousands of emails, this can be a daunting task. But instead of spending hours tackling your inbox, focus on deleting emails for just 10 minutes a day. You also will want to click the unsubscribe link for those pesky marketing emails.

There also are some helpful tools for keeping things organized going forward. Microsoft Outlook’s Sweep feature is great for cutting down on countless notifications. Gmail users can use the free Sortd plug-in to organize emails based on priority. SaneBox is a paid service ($7/month) that does an excellent job of keeping your inbox clean. The service makes it easy to move unimportant emails to the “SaneLater” folder, and you can also unsubscribe to emails with one click. 

Tighten Security

It’s now time to make sure your devices are secure. Make sure your devices have the latest update installed, and do an anti-virus sweep on your computer. Don’t forget to update your Wi-Fi routers, smart TVs, and gaming consoles. 

You also should consider changing your passwords, especially for important social media or banking accounts. Many security experts now recommend using pass phrases instead of just passwords. Basically, a pass phrase consists of several easy-to-remember words with spaces in between. You also can capitalize words or include letters and symbols if you want. For example, “Eastside magazine best! 425.” However, make sure to avoid lyrics, movie quotes, or phrases with personal info.

Another great idea is to get a password manager tool. Password managers essentially act as a digital “vault” for your important accounts. Let’s say you want to add your bank account. The manager will remember your username and password and then let you log in with just a click. This means that you need to remember only one master password for the manager instead of dozens! My recommendation for a good manager is Dashlane. It’s user-friendly, has a great reputation for security, and offers a free plan that lets you store up to 50 passwords on one device. If you want to sync multiple devices or take advantage of security monitoring, you will need to sign up for the $5/month plan.

Finally, take a moment to double check your online presence. Make sure your social media privacy settings are properly set, and delete any online accounts that you are no longer using. 

Back Everything Up

This is an excellent time to make sure your important files are backed up. There are several ways to save your precious photos or important spreadsheets, depending on whether you want to save them to the cloud or an external hard drive. Apple offers 5 GB of free storage space to all iCloud users, and Microsoft offers the same amount if you sign up for OneDrive. Meanwhile, Google offers 15 GB of free storage.

Adding more storage is relatively cheap — you can get 50 GB for $1/month on iCloud, $2/month on OneDrive, or a full 100 GB for $2/month through Google. If you already have a personal Office 365 account, you can access a terabyte of storage for free.

If you want a cheap and easy way to store files at home, check out the Western Digital My Passport portable drive. This device is lightweight, easy-to-use, and comes in seven eye-catching colors. Most users will be fine with the 1 TB version, which is an affordable $60. 

Ditch Old Devices

Now we come to the hardest part. We all have an assortment of old smartphones, laptops, and other outdated devices gathering dust. Now is the time to use the Marie Kondo method of thanking the items and then either selling or donating them. If you’re looking for an alternative to Craigslist and eBay, letgo is an excellent site for selling stuff locally. Simply take a picture of the old device, and letgo will create the listing for you. The service will even give you a suggested price and estimate how long it will take to sell. The chat feature also makes it easy to communicate with potential buyers.

If you’re trying to get rid of an old or broken device, visit the E-cycle Washington page. There you will find guidelines for what electronics you can recycle for free, as well as a search tool for finding local businesses or charities that will take your stuff. Just be sure not to throw your gadgets out with the yard clippings.