The clutter of electronic media

June 10, 2008

Electronics and computers were supposed to make our lives easier.  The rise of home computing promised a virtual (literally) utopia of composing, storing, finding and sending information with just a few key strokes.  But what happens when we get that information? Our promised utopia shatters into the reality of procrastination and clutter.  In my own life, I have found that most information on my computer ends up lost in some obscure file folder that I created so I would never lose it.  Ironic, no? 

At the beginning of this week, I set about ruthlessly decluttering my two,  yes two, computers.  My unique life of having three jobs requires some separation for tax purposes and no matter how much I love the laptop my office bought for me, I admit, I am a slave to a desktop.   With two computers and three jobs, this area of my life clearly needs work.  Four years, one full time job and two consulting jobs later, things are a mess. 

My goal is to delete, or assign folders to, the 2500 emails hanging out in my in-box and clear my in-box so that it isn’t so overwhelming when the “you’ve got mail” alarm sounds.  This is the last, and most painful, task in my self imposed punishment.  My first task seemed infinitely easier – painstakingly going through every byte of information on my hard drive to determine it’s necessity, file appropriately in well labeled files and delete anything unnecessary or unused over the past five years.  Just the first task of cleaning off unused or obsolete files has turned my previously painfully slow laptop into the Speedy Gonzales of the electronic world.  But the emails are more difficult.  Deciding what I may need in the case someone asks a question or documentation necessary in a case I may become involved in takes a lot of thought and concentration.  

Despite the daunting task, I persevere and  as with all decluttingering and simplifying efforts, I am rewarded.  For every group of emails I select and delete, my computer gets a little bit faster and I feel my energy flowing.   As I finish, I review my system resources.  I freed up 50% of my computer’s hard drive.  Wow, that was a lot of junk just hanging out doing nothing but cluttering my life.  What would that look like in the paper world?  I imagine it would be similar to keeping every piece of junk mail, catalogue and newspaper for five years.  Picture that pretty sight!

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