All those things were related to getting started, of course. One year on, and assuming you have been active over many years, you find yourself with a plethora of accounts you had to set up for all kinds of activities. You cannot really finalise any online transaction without giving some level of information, or else payment and delivery would be totally impossible. So you give that information, even though you might never use this account ever again.
Tip #1: If you shop with an online presence for the first time, check if you actually have to set up an account! If there is a one-time-customer option, why not make use of that? If you find yourself returning to this page more regularly, you can still set up a proper account, but until then, stick with losing one minute before checking out your wares and keep your list of accounts shorter.
In the light of the recent (and sadly, ongoing) GDPR craze, you will have received loads of emails from senders you weren’t even aware you had an account with. While that may come as a shock, and your inbox might be overflowing, try to think of this as an opportunity rather than a chore: this is the perfect time to clean up your act!
Tip #2: Take a moment to look at each of the GDPR related emails separately, and decide if this particular supplier is worth your while. If they are not… unsubscribe, but do nothing else as those emails really are intended to tell you the same thing: that you have certain rights, and how to exercise them.
I have found that many of those emails have misleading options, where you either have to check boxes to unsubscribe from receiving certain things they offer, or to clear the boxes to indicate you don’t want this. Read the unsubscribe page properly to make the correct choices.
The interesting thing here is that you will receive a lot of emails that – by rights – you really should not have been sent in the first place. There is currently a discussion going on about this: if the supplier had the right to send you an email in the first place, they would not need your consent once again. If, however, they never got proper consent, they would not have been allowed to send you that email in the first place. It’s a rather theoretical issue, of course, but it showcases how wonky most people and suppliers are on the subject of GDPR.
Tip #3: You could deactivate some of the accounts connected with those emails you got. If there are providers like train companies you used once or an online shop who keeps sending you advertisements because you used them years ago, maybe it’s time to close your account with them?
I know, finding out exactly how to do this can be a thousand times more complicated than signing up to these things. It is worth your effort though, as decluttering usually is, because it will not only keep your inbox one email more empty, but it will avoid that sense of annoyance each time you see ‘yet another one of those’.
GDPR is all about personal empowerment and control over your own data. While that is extremely important, I believe that we cannot simply rely on legal and regulatory options to keep anyone from abusing our trust and running off with our precious data. No: in fact we need to be careful and make better choices to start with.
Tip #4: Think twice before providing any personal information. Firstly, ask yourself if you really need to sign up for something. If you cannot answer this question with a resounding “YES!”, then don’t. You can follow up on those products without an account. Secondly, if you decide to sign up, provide the absolute minimum of information only.
Sticking to those two steps will ensure that you never give out information without a good reason. I’m amazed at how much I am personally okay with sharing on social media – I can only see that I have been lulled into a false sense of security that whatever I put there can 'only' be seen by my facebook friends, my twitter followers, my Instagram fans, etc. On the surface that may be the case, but all that data sits somewhere and some anonymous conglomerate has access to all of it.
Tip #5: Don’t make yourself vulnerable by sharing too much personal information on social media. I understand that they serve a purpose, of course, but there is a difference between confiding in a friend and chucking it out for the world to see. Keep that in mind.
All that being said, of course we will end up having too much stuff out there, even after culling what we become aware of, but it appears to be a wise step to limit what we put out there by considering it properly before doing it. This is what I would call “clutter prevention” in a physical decluttering session: making sure that whatever my client decides to bring into the home is something that makes sense, doesn’t serve teh same function as another item in the home already does, and will ultimately end up being clutter, and nothing else.
On the other end of the spectrum, it also seems like a proper decluttering activity to go through your online accounts and decide which of those have become irrelevant, which ones you have not used in a long time, or which ones you feel uncomfortable about. I consider this a “proper decluttering session” because it involves a mental process of consideration, an emotional decision to let go of something that no longer serves you in any way.
There’s no time like the present to get started. Turn your GDPR email avalanche into an opportunity!
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Hi, my name is Tilo Flache. My current mission: help my clients declutter mind and space.
This blog contains pointers for your journey towards a happier living experience.