Thursday, August 5, 2021

Digital Decluttering Part 2: Old Accounts and Saved Passwords

With my social media presence reduced as part of my digital decluttering effort, I decided that old accounts and saved passwords would be the next leg of this journey. This has turned out to be a fairly time-consuming project, but it is one that can be worked on whenever a few minutes present themselves. Cleaning up online presence overall has a lot of benefits, from not needing to remember and store to many passwords to reducing the likelihood of becoming the victim of a data breach. And of course from the minimalist perspective, less stuff to worry about means more time for the important things. I'll take a different tack from my usual style and list this post out in steps so it's easier to follow along at home.

Step 1: Sign up for a new (second) password manager
I know I essentially said that less is more in the intro paragraph, but using multiple password managers is only a temporary step. I started off with all of my accounts saved in Google Password Manager and chose Bitwarden to transfer all of my keep-worthy accounts. At the end of this process, every account I want to keep will be in Bitwarden. If you're a paper-and-pen kind of person, that's fine. Some IT folks do not like the idea of hardcopies of passwords, but I personally think it is a fine plan as long as the hardcopies are kept safe. 

Step 2: Transfer the obvious keepers into the new password manager
As I go through my long list of accounts, I see the bunch that I use every day. Those are important to transfer first, as they set the mood for what kind of accounts you'll likely keep, and which you will want to close. Once I have the keep-worthy accounts saved in the new password manager, I delete the entry from the old manager. The original password manager essentially becomes a graveyard for unwanted accounts, but I find it to be helpful to separate out accounts this way--useful accounts go into the new password manager, and anything else gets left behind until it is cancelled or closed.

Step 3: Close or cancel unwanted accounts
Sometimes this is as easy as going to the website on which the account is registered and finding a "cancel my membership" or "close my account" link and filling out a short form. However, I have found in too many cases for my liking that closing an account entails emailing support with an account cancellation request. Some sites have had a quick turnaround, but others have taken weeks to respond and close an account for me. Some of the easy "close my account" links and forms, such as for social media or email accounts, will keep an account open for up to two months before they are finally closed, and logging in will break the cancellation process. Closing down accounts can be annoying, but it's a much safer option than just leaving hundreds of useless accounts open and vulnerable to attack or breach. Anyway, once an account is cancelled or closed, it's safe to remove it from the password manager in which it was stored.

Step 4: Transfer, then generate strong passwords for unwanted accounts that can't be closed
I wish I could get rid of every last account that I never really use, but sadly that isn't the case. I have to keep some odds-and-ends accounts open for tax purposes, such as anything relating to my federal student loans. In cases such as these, I transfer the account details to my new password manager, then make it a point to go in and change the password to something as strong as possible. That will at least make the semi-abandoned account more secure.

Let minimalism help you stay safer online, and get rid of any accounts you no longer need. You'll have less to worry about, which means more mental real estate will be available for finding and keeping joy.

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