The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up Your Computer

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clean up mac

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“All the things you own want to be of use to you.” — Marie Kondo, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up

In 2014 I embarked on a personal journey of minimalism. When I started, I had not heard of Marie Condo or her best selling The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Truly, I had not read or seen any thought leaders talk about minimalism yet. My mission can from a deep place of unrest. After years of growing into adulthood, I felt my life had too much noise and I was ready to quiet it down.

I started with my closet and moved on to my bookshelves. Soon, I was pairing down the items in my kitchen cabinets. By 2016, my life looked radically different than it had just two years prior. The physical changes around me manifested personal changes. Yet, I wasn’t done with my work.

I, my friends, was a digital hoarder. My hard drive was chock full of files, images, and videos. Things were scattered throughout my folders. My computer ran SLOW. I couldn’t find ANYTHING. I was frequently frustrated. It was time to clean up and make my computer useful again.

How to Begin Organizing Your Digital Life

clean up mac

clean up mac

This is an overview of the process I went through to get a handle on my digital life.

  • I moved all of my files, images, and videos to an external hard drive. I only left programs and apps on my computer hard drive.
  • All of my photos and videos went into a Media folder I created.
  • I used Mac’s Finder features and sorted those media files by Date Created. I then created folders for each month and year and filed the media into the appropriate month/year folder.
  • My files separated into either a Personal folder or a Business folder. Within each, I created sub-folders that made sense for my situation, such as Personal Finances.
  • Files that I was actively working on for myself or a client moved to my computer’s desktop. I resolved to move them off onto the external hard drive as soon as they become inactive.

How to Clean and Sweep Your Digital Life

clean up macNow that I had a general system set up, I knew I needed to clean my files of junk and check for duplicates. To do this I used two apps made by MacPaw.

First, I used Clean My Mac 3 to do a high level cleanup of my machine. I installed the free trial version and ran that within minutes of download.

A basic Clean My Mac 3 scan runs through the following items: system junk, photo junk, mail attachments, iTunes junk, and trash bins. It cleans up each of these areas creating more space on your hard drive and speeding up your Mac. It also identifies files on your hard drive that are particularly large and/or old, allowing you to make cleaning decisions on these individual items.

My first scan with Clean My Mac 3 cleared up over 10 GB of space. It also identified nearly 12 GB of large and old files for me to review. And at its conclusion, it succinctly reported its actions, without asking me to investigate complex technical issues like my PC software had done back in the day.

clean up mac

Second, I ran a free trial version of Gemini 2. This program identifies files that are duplicates, or nearly duplicates, and helps you make decisions about eliminating them.

After downloading Gemini 2, you are directed to a simple screen prompting you to select a folder for review. You may drag and drop or click and select any folder on your hard drive, or any folder currently running via external hard drive or cloud drive. Once you select a folder, Gemini 2 will review the folder structure and then begin a scan — searching for files that are either identical or very similar.

All of my scans completed quickly, in about 30 to 90 seconds. Gemini 2 then let me know it had automatically identified duplicate files or folders. I was able to select Smart Cleanup or Review Results. I always chose to Review Results, in order to get a better idea of how the program worked and to ensure my files truly were duplicate

Keeping Your Digital Life in Order

clean up mac

Because I had such a great experience withClean My Mac 3 and Gemini 2, I purchased the programs. I now use their automated features to regularly review and clean my Mac. It’s like running a Roomba. Most tasks are on autopilot and I can just do a simple review of the activities.

I also updated my Mac to the latest macOS and keep it updated whenever a new update or macOS releases. These updates have critical impacts on your computer performance.

Finally, I set aside one day at the end of each month to move my files and organize them within my created file structure. It usually takes no more than 10 minutes.

Clean Up Mac: It Makes a Difference

As with the minimizing and organizing the physical items in my life, cleaning up the digital parts of my life dramatically impact my day-to-day experiences. Give it a try and let me know what you think! What about this would you change or suggest someone do differently?

PS: if you have a PC, you can still do everything described above. MacPaw makes a Clean My PC program.

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About the Author
Kylie Larson is a content wrangler, helping both small businesses and large organizations get their message up and out. When she's not writing and organizing online, you'll find her walking the dog, with a camera in hand, riding the Chicago blue line, and in the midst of a home renovation project that never ends. Connect with her at
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