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Don't be a digital hoarder

In the real world the act of hoarding brings with it a clutter blindness. Hoarders don’t see the mess no matter how large the mess is. In the mind of a hoarder their hoarding of objects is a means of preserving their memories. The object itself has some personal significance or is part of an uncompleted task.

Throwing things away? Well that’s like choosing to forget. Or giving up on a small job they keep meaning to do but have put off until tomorrow. Years of tomorrows pass, the job will never be completed.

I confronted my own digital clutter blindness a few weeks ago. Hard Drive capacity kept getting larger, each move of the information mess to a larger set of drives giving the mess more space to grow. The starting point was sorting the mess. I wrote some rules to classify the data by extension and last access time into different folders. I hashed them to find and eliminate duplicates, and then I went through the folders with an unmerciful use of the delete command.

I deleted hundreds of Gigabytes of digital cruft that had been hanging around for more than two decades. I organised my photo collection for offsite retention and dug out some old written work I was happy to find. I was even happier to finally finish it.

It’s a cliché in information management that the first step is classification, but it’s true. If you want to deal with your own clutter blindness get something to sort your data first. If you're not one for writing your own automation scripts there are apps that will sort it out for you and they only cost a few quid. Then you work the delete key hard. You have to be merciless, and if in doubt you delete it.

I assure you that you'll feel that you have achieved something afterwards. It felt like it was leaving the burdens of the past, and its unfinished jobs, behind me at last.


Photo by UX Indonesia on Unsplash