Simple Life: Digital Closet Space

by Elizabeth on September 13, 2012

For the past four days, I’ve been out of commission.

I got nailed with a pretty nasty cold around the end of last week.  I thought it might be allergies, but, because Murphy’s a jerk with his laws, it was a nifty little virus.

Needless to say, doing too much physical simplifying was right out the window.

But while I was staring mindlessly at the computer and singlehandedly helping Kleenex’s stock go up, I took a look around at another kind of closet:  my digital one.

It’s one of those perils of modern-day living:  digital clutter.

You probably have some, yourself.  All those free e-books and random downloads, attachments from emails and things that, frankly, you have no idea from whence they came.  It’s worse if, like me, you’re a digital artist or scrapbooker — every free thing anyone’s ever put up is probably sitting somewhere on one of your drives.

I’ve got two external drives full of stuff, in fact.

There was a bit of a facepalm moment this week when I finally started taking a look at it, too.  Sharing my shame:

  • one nearly-full drive was full of kits, downloads, clip art and varied scanned oddities to use for things (which, of course, I’d either barely — or never — used.)
  • Another drive held all my pictures since 2008 and before.  (Including, for some reason, the bad ones.  I can’t delete photos for some reason.  It’s a compulsion.)
  • One had every blessed thing I’ve ever written.  Even the stuff that makes me cringe now just thinking about it.
  • An archive of emails from a job I don’t even have anymore.
  • So many ebooks that I could read from now until the end of time and still never finish them all (much less be interested in them).
  • Backups of every website I’ve ever done…including ones that didn’t have anything worth saving, really.
  • An archive of work projects (which I still maintain is a good idea).
  • A lot of duplicates of things. Why, I have no idea.
  • Patterns.  OMG, patterns.  Patterns for things I have no intention of ever making, in fact.  But I bought them, so I kept the patterns anyway.

And that’s just on my drives.  It doesn’t include facebook stuff, dropbox (which is almost full), my email, googledrive, all the books on my kindle app/iPad, or any removable media I might have squirrelled away around here somewhere.  Or the laptop.


At some point, enough is enough.

Now that my physical space is so much more clear of crap I don’t need, it baffles me as to why I still have stuffed-to-the-gills hard drives and services.  In my decongestant-ed state, I thought very hard about just scrapping it all — but there’s actually some useful and important things in there.  Tackling the mountain of it, however, feels just a little bit like beginning the whole decluttering process again…huge and overwhelming.

Here’s what I did so far:

  1. Anything I knew I wasn’t going to read – ditched.  There’s no point in feeling guilt every time I look at a mountain of ebooks I’m just meh about.
  2. I started organizing all the photos.  It’ll be a while before that’s done…there are a lot of them.  I’m also trying very hard to ditch any that are just so-so.
  3. I’m zipping any patterns I don’t need and donating them to friends who still knit.  No point in worrying about the money that’s already spent — if they’re just sitting here, they’re being wasted twice.
  4. All my old writing?  The stuff that sucks?  Old emails?  Anything not-mine is history.  Anything I think I may want to embarrass myself with later?  Burned onto CD and well-labelled.  (As opposed to my typical method of throwing the CD in a box and figuring I’ll label it later.)
  5. Crafty stuff – severely weeded. There is precisely zero reason to keep stuff I know I won’t use.  Zero.  Going through and ditching a lot of the freebies or ill-advised digital purchases from the past four years cleared up more than half of a terabyte drive.  That’s right.  Half a TERABYTE.  It’s a sickness.
  6. Archives of old sites and job stuff — burned CDs.
  7. Music got cleaned up, too, while I was at it.  I wasn’t all that conscientious when I added CDs to iTunes, so I’ve got a big project ahead in labelling everything and tagging it correctly and adding the cover art to things that aren’t in the database.  It’s my own fault, but wow is it a big job.

Pretty much everything else got tossed, if it wasn’t immediately needed.  Seriously.

I learned something, though, in this digital closet re-do.

It may be smaller, but your hard drives and services are prone to the very same choking-with-clutter that your physical spaces are.  Just because you can store a freakin’ terabyte of digital scrapbooking papers in a 1″ x 4″ x 5″ metal rectangle doesn’t mean you should.  And that free e-books that just sit there causing guilt aren’t worth your time and energy, even if that’s just virtual energy and space.

I also learned that, if your tendency is to be cluttery in your life, you’ll be cluttery in digital stuff, too.  I know, now, I need to be just as vigilant about keeping everything in its place (and pared down) when it’s on a hard drive as I do when it’s actual stuff on the countertops.  Popping things in a folder to deal with later is a whole lot like making a pile and intending to go through it later — later never really comes.

So what’s on your hard drives?

I’ve heard from some folks that, while they’re slobs in real life, they keep meticulous digital spaces…and vice versa.  Mine were about middle-of-the-road (while there was too much of it, it was all very well-organized, just stuffed to the gills/overkilled).

How do you keep your digital life clutter-free?

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Boursin September 14, 2012 at 3:02 am

I don’t. You don’t EVEN wanna know how much junk is strewn across all my WoW toons!!! It’s a joke in my guild that if you need some low level crafting mats or whatnot that I probably have some somewhere.


Elizabeth September 14, 2012 at 3:22 am

That’s it. I’m joining *your* guild. WoW NERDS, FTW!



Boursin September 14, 2012 at 4:15 am

Even worse, if I don’t have it I’ll go farm it for guildies… if you’re not a butthead. XD


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