Marie Kondo’s approach to organization is, in many ways, very ancient, as it sees material things as a burden. She is deeply opposed to keeping things just for the sake of keeping them. To hang onto things, simply because we “might” want them someday, creates a burden in the psyche. Things that you care about should be kept, but anything else should be discarded. Her message is Stoic and Epicurean, that more is less. She is even opposed to storing your winter clothes, because once they are hidden away then they are forgotten, and those stored items invite more clutter and debris in our homes and in our minds. Winter clothes should simply in with your regular clothes, so they are seen and available. Storing things somewhere else, in a hidden place, is a recipe for clutter.

How does this apply to our digital life? Following her principles, just because you can keep something doesn’t mean you should. Having a large hard drive or NAS is, potentially, a recipe for disaster. You COULD keep all of those PDFS of your utility bills and bank statements, but then you create the burden of storing, filing, and maintaining them. Her advice regarding papers (that we simply throw them away), is so beautifully freeing, and I think it applies to our digital lives as well. You don’t need those PDFs of your gas bill. The utility company can produce those bills, if need be. Have you ever needed any of those things, and if you did, could you not get them some other way? I think this applies to all sorts of digital media. I don’t re-watch things, so I really don’t need to spend time ripping DVDs and putting them into Plex. If I want to watch something, I’ll find something on Netflix. (If a particular movie does bring you joy, them absolutely preserve it in Plex or another system, but don’t bother with a system that doesn’t spark joy or that burdens you with its maintenance.)

Important files, such as photos and home movies, should be kept if they bring you joy. They should be carefully maintained with appropriate backups, and re-watched. But videos that are unloved, unused, and unimportant should be thrown out. Anything that doesn’t matter to you should be discarded, digital or actual. (An obvious exception is something you are bound legally to keep, such as tax returns.)

A NAS that perpetuates all sorts of data, files, and baubles is no different from a scary closet that contains all sorts of doo-dads that nobody cares about. Anything kept will make demands of you – you will have to organize, maintain, copy over, or back them up. If, when you see those files you dread them, then they are a weight on you and your mental energy. So why keep them? Why devise a system that requires maintenance, backups, synchronizing applications, and so on? Why give up a Saturday to fix your NAS and archive systems? We often underestimate how much time and energy is required to maintain archived electronic files.

With a virtual world, there is a temptation to think of the data as invisible, since it can be copied and preserved. But this is inaccurate. The files are still there, and they will demand your attention, just like your stored winter items. They may not occupy a physical clutter, but they will create a psychic clutter as you deal with those files over time.

Instead, preserve only what you care about, and delete the rest.

Posted
AuthorKevin Taylor