Like many of you, I have been working online for years now, more than most. Over the course of the past 20 years, I have created accounts at hundreds and hundreds of websites. That includes all the work-related stuff, like web development, plus LOTS of social media sites, online services for everything from email to security monitoring. Not to mention all of the accounts created for mundane things like banking, utilities, Internet and phone service, and so forth.
Time to clean things up
At first I was overzealous about this task. I just grabbed my password file and started going down the list. Was this an account that I needed? If not, visit the site and close the account. Sounds simple in theory, but in reality it’s a royal pain.
Sure, some sites make it dead easy to cancel or delete your account. Other sites, not so much. If you ever go to close your unused accounts, you will discover just how difficult some companies can make it. Fortunately there are helpful sites like justdelete.me that provide information to make things a little easier.
Getting into the groove
After closing 100 or so unused accounts, my battery was drained. So I rested for a while and hit it again the next day. Like anything else, it gets easier the more you do it. Basically you gotta find a groove like:
- Pick an account (username/password)
- Ask, do I still need this account, or is it safe to close it?
- Visit the site, log in and close the account
- Wash, rinse, repeat
Unfortunately, many sites make this process super difficult, and require all sorts of “hoop jumping” to make it happen. But it’s absolutely worth it. The effort does pay off. After several days of non-stop closing unused accounts, I am happy to say that my password file is whittled down to only a hundred or so accounts. It’s a lean, mean, password-storing machine. Filled only with active, relevant, and used accounts.
How does this help? It’s less exposure. Less to worry about. Less chance that my data will get “accidentally” leaked or stolen. Plus it makes it faster to locate specific account information. Before, I needed to scroll through a hundred “A” accounts to find the one I needed. Now, only around 20 accounts begin with the letter “A”, so finding login details is much easier.
Going forward: it’s a mindset
Going forward, I’m applying the main lesson learned from scrub-a-dub-dubbing my online account profile: don’t wait until you’ve got thousands of accounts. Stay aware and actively shut down anything that you’re not using, in real time. So now, as I work and play on the Web, if I create an account that I know I’ll never use again, I close it immediately after using it. Keeping your accounts to a minimum is a mindset.
I’m a minimalist when it comes to creating online accounts, the fewer the better.
Also I try to avoid creating new accounts whenever possible. Or I just use a throw-away temporary email address and use anonymous account name, etc. Whatever it takes to avoid creating yet another account that I need to remember.
Maybe you think this all sounds crazy, I don’t care. Just sharing my experience and letting you know that when it comes to online accounts, less is more.