10 simple steps for successfully spring cleaning your computer

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As media types who spend most of our working days sat in front of a screen, we’re big advocates of spending as much time away from computers as possible. It’s also important to make sure that the time you do spend on the computer is productive, to avoid endlessly scrolling through Tumblr timelines or stalking old Facebook friends until you accidentally (and embarrassingly) like a photo that has nothing to do with you.

Spring is a perfect time to change old habits – we use it as an opportunity to clean out our homes, so why not our computers? These 10 quick tips will help you to make the most of every moment you spend logged in, leaving more time for the real fun stuff.

1. Have a Facebook cull

You know that cocky Facebook friend who bragged about unfriending half their contacts in one fell swoop? They’re actually on to something. By getting rid of any person who makes you do a little internal ‘ugh’ whenever you read their cringey status updates, you allow yourself to focus more on the people who really matter to you. The same goes for all those Facebook apps you signed up to when you first joined the site, unless you want to be constantly reminded every time your friend’s Mum who still plays Farmville wants a new chicken.

2. Create Twitter lists

This oft neglected feature will revolutionise the way you use Twitter. Sort everyone you follow into lists – close friends, companies you’d like to work for, parody accounts, and so on. This will mean you don’t have to spend all your Twitter time scrolling through a constantly refreshing timeline, trying to find updates from the people you’re curious about. It’s especially useful if you use apps like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite, where you can make separate columns for each list.

3. Decide which apps and websites you really need

7910370882_39d180fb66_zYou don’t need to be on every social media site. Make note of the ones you find useful or enjoy spending time on, and delete your accounts on the rest. It’s a liberating feeling – no more emails or push notifications reminding you to log in and check the multitude of time-sapping content you missed doing something more important.

4. Stream what you can

Computers obviously have limited file space, so if you want to keep yours running fast and smooth, make the most of streaming services. This way, the big media files you need access to will all be stored on massive internet servers instead of your modest hard drive. You may decide it’s not worth migrating your entire iTunes to a new laptop, in which case you’ll probably find most of the songs you want to listen to on Spotify and Soundcloud. Likewise, you don’t need to download entire films and TV shows when they can be streamed online.

5. Clear out your bookmarks

A super quick one that anyone can do in less than a minute: delete all those bookmarks that are taking up space at the top of your browser. Yes, all of them! Start fresh, and only create new bookmarks for the sites you find yourself visiting time and time again. If you desperately need anything else you previously bookmarked, it’s only a Google away.

6. Delete your cookies

Unless they’re the chocolate chip kind, I don’t fully understand what cookies are. However, I do know that periodically deleting them can miraculously cure your browser of any niggles you’ve been experiencing. For this reason, it’s well worth doing every once in a while.

7. Create a filing system that works for you

15846226225_e487ef842b_zDesktops crowded with files are a drag to look at every time you log in. You know what else is a drag? The solution! Create a glorious multi-layered filing system, then drag (see?) and drop your files into the relevant folders to achieve beautifully organised bliss. Celebrate by setting your desktop wallpaper to something you like looking at, and vow to keep that pretty picture free from clutter.

8. Use productivity boosting apps

While many things on the internet are designed to waste your time, others are designed to help you make the most of it. Evernote, for example, has completely revolutionised my note taking. No longer do I scribble things down on easily lost scraps of paper – I simply add an item to my ‘to do’ notebook and it’s instantly there to read on both my phone and computer. Dropbox is similarly handy, especially for accessing larger files on the go. A ruthless little app called SelfControl is the ultimate weapon in my productivity arsenal. It lets you to block yourself from certain sites when you can’t afford to be distracted. Cruel but effective.

9. Procrastinate with purpose

If you REALLY aren’t in the mood to get on with that thing that needs doing, you may as well spend your computer time doing something useful. Research fun things to do on the weekend, find the best price for that holiday you’ve been planning, catch up on current affairs, write a blog post. When you’ve scratched one of those itches you’ll be in a better frame of mind to get on with the bigger task.

10. Literally clean your computer

Computers can get pretty mucky. It’s important to keep their components squeaky clean to avoid them overheating, breaking or generally being a bit gross to use. Turn the thing off, let it cool down and unplug it. To clean the inside, carefully remove any detachable parts (laptop batteries, fan covers and the like) and use a can of compressed air to blast the dust out of delicate bits. For the screen and keyboard, a microfiber cloth is ideal. Dampen it slightly if you need to – as long as you aren’t dousing your device with water, you’ll be fine.

Got any computer productivity hacks of your own? Leave us a comment below or tweet @Creative_Hacks and let us know!

Matt

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Small space solutions: how to live comfortably in a compact home

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Not many people are lucky enough to have the luxury of moving straight from their parents’ house and into a perfect first home. When Amy and I finished our university courses and decided to find a new place together, we had a choice to make: a slightly shabby house in the suburbs with room to spare, or a significantly less spacious modern apartment in the city.

We chose the latter, and haven’t regretted it for a second. It’s fantastic living so close to the places we love to spend time in, and we’ve enjoyed kitting out our small but sweet flat with furniture that fits our style and shows off our creativity. That said, many people are worried about feeling cramped in a small home. We’ve picked up several tips that should help to alleviate those concerns, letting you feel cosy and content in your compact pad.

Think vertically

15-corner-shelvesIf you don’t have much floor space in your home for furniture, use the height of your ceiling to your advantage. Storage becomes easier when you decide to use the space on your walls, instead of just cramming everything under your bed.

If you want to show off your stuff, you can’t beat a good wall mounted shelf – thoughtfully arranged, these will display your personality and give you a place to keep your favourite possessions. Books, pictures, cameras, toys and souvenirs from your travels all look pretty out in the open.

Alternatively, keep your things dust free behind closed doors in cabinets. You can often pick up nice vintage-looking ones dirt cheap from flea markets and car boot sales. Sand them down and give them a fresh coat of paint in your favourite colour for easy, attractive storage.

Be picky: choose furniture that works for you

shelvesDon’t listen to the people who tell you flat pack items are flimsy and unattractive – we know first hand that they have their place. The key advantage when shopping for mass produced furniture is the incredible amount of choice you have, and if you’re limited for space, you need to make the most of this variety.

When we moved into our little apartment in Cardiff, we immediately noticed a narrow nook in the wall – ideal for a bookcase. A quick flick through the IKEA catalogue revealed several that would fit. It was tempting to automatically go for the iconic BILLY bookcase, but we eventually decided that a taller shelf in a dark colour would better suit our needs.

Similarly, when we got fed up with eating off plastic boxes on the floor and decided to invest in a dining table, we were concerned about it taking up too much room in our already limited living area. With tape measure in hand, we explored the local superstore and discovered the perfect solution – a folding table that’s big enough to accommodate a small dinner party when fully extended, but barely noticeable when folded and pushed against the identically white wall. Even the chairs fold down and fit snugly between the table legs.

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Live a clutter free life

This one’s easier said than done, but listen up. You REALLY don’t need all that old tat that’s cluttering up your cupboards. You know the stuff: clothes you don’t wear, mementos from friends long gone, boxes for every electrical device you’ve ever owned. Be brutal. Sell the high-ticket items on eBay. Donate your unwanted clothes, books and DVDs. Chuck the rest.

It’s a liberating experience, and when you live in a small space, you badly need that extra room for storing the things that matter. Now all you need to do is decide on a place for everything and stick to it. You don’t have to be a neat freak, just pick one day of the week when you’ll put everything back where it should be. We like doing this on a Sunday – there’s always a lull in the late afternoon that’s perfect for end-of-week tidying, and it feels good to reset your home before Monday rolls around.

If you enjoyed reading this post and have your own secrets for small space happiness, share them with us! You can tweet us @Creative_Hacks or drop us a friendly comment below – we love to hear your thoughts, and always reply!

Matt