Spring is the season of rebirth, positivity, renewal … and cleansing. Which nowadays means cleaning your virtual, as well as your physical, space.
After all, many of us have increasingly digital lives, with huge amounts of passwords and digital files that are emotionally important (family photos), financially important (insurance, medical records) and sometimes both (diplomas, mortgages). And if you’re like most people, most of that is not as well organized as it should be. Which means that a digital spring cleaning is in place. But where do you even start?
Haven Life can help. Thanks to Haven Life Plusa bonus rider available to eligible Haven Life customers, you can take advantage of free services from two companies that can help with digital organization, LifeSite and Faith and will. We asked them for advice. (And hey, even if for some reason you are not a Haven Life customer ̵1; and you can do something about this – these tips are still useful.)
Here’s what we learned:
Why you should do a digital spring cleaning
You may be wondering if it’s even worth doing a digital spring cleaning. Mitch Mitchell, assistant advisor for property planning at Trust & Will, explains why the answer is absolute: “According to password manager Dashlane, the average American owns 150 online accounts that require passwords,” he says. “They predict that this number will rise to 300 in the next few years. These figures paint a picture of how digital our lives are already and how our digital footprints will grow even larger.” Managing hundreds of passwords – especially if they are more complicated than ilovedogs1234 – is almost a full-time job in itself. This is where LifeSite comes in.
“Every online account can store important data, photos, documents and other proprietary information,” says Mitchell. “They can even provide access to digital assets such as artwork, music or cryptocurrency.” Add everything you have to computers, hard drives and phones – more photos, media, documents, communications that you may want to keep – and it becomes clear that we need to process our digital information and files with the same weight as e.g. , a beloved analog family photo. “To begin with, we want to ensure that we can maintain access to our own accounts for the foreseeable future,” says Mitchell. “We also need to start thinking about ways to transfer our digital assets to loved ones,” and to make our digital files and accounts “part of our property plans and legacies.”
How to get started
The best way to centralize your digital life is with a digital vault. This is essentially a cloud storage account with extremely high encryptions that can receive all types of files, from medical information to passwords. When choosing one, look for a service that is designed to facilitate the organization of all your files; offers a password management feature so you do not have to keep using the 150 different passwords; and allows you to share (and revoke) access for other users such as family members.
“Many people think they’re just taking a weekend to do this. It’s impossible,” said John Hoye, VP of strategic partnerships at LifeSite, Haven Life’s favorite digital vault. He advises people to accept that even if digital organization can start with spring cleaning so it will be an ongoing process. “It’s OK to start small,” he adds, perhaps with something like community vaccination information.
LifeSite chairman and CEO Chris Wong says “you should accept that things come to pieces; you will add to it as you go. My family started with baby steps; at least the passwords so we can all see Disney Plus together.” On that note, “getting buy-in from your family is important,” he says, because the more everyone uses a digital vault, the more useful it becomes. “For us, it was about prioritizing, thinking ‘what is the most useful thing we can share today?'” For him and for many other families, it means starting with passwords, insurance and medical information that can be accessed by the right people in an emergency (which can mean “someone had an accident” or “I travel and want to see The Mandalorian”).
When it comes to the mechanics of starting to fill a digital vault, “we have a template,” says Wong. “You just attach the documents we propose and fill in the forms.” The process is quite painless and the end result is much less stress.
Digital spring cleaning for today – and onwards
Whether you believe there is an afterlife for humans or not, it is undeniable that our digital selves will live on after us, whether we like it or not. Just because you’re dead does not mean that your Facebook page goes offline or that your online savings account disappears. Which means you have to make sure your loved ones can access these things when you can no longer. (One thing that all different versions of human life after this have in common is that there is no wifi.)
“It’s so rare for anyone to happen that their iCloud photo device or Instagram account, for example, should be included as part of their property plan,” says Mitchell. “But these everyday accounts are part of our digital heritage that we will want to leave behind one day. We want to make a plan so that someone we trust will have the right access to manage our accounts when we are away.
“We call this process digital real estate planning,” adds Mitchell. “If you are already in the process of implementing a digital spring cleaning, why not create a digital property plan? You can do this by creating an estate register that names a digital executor, who is a person you trust to ensure that your digital accounts are maintained, or to extract and distribute files or assets, as you wish. You should also name any beneficiaries who will inherit all assets held digitally, such as cryptocurrency. ”
“Be sure to include any specialized instructions or information that are not easy to obtain or that are specific to you. This executor may be the same person as your executor, but you may appoint another person who is particularly good at technology.”
A digital spring cleaning will not be easier, but it will put you on the path to having your life organized and easier, both now and in the future.