Decluttering Your Life
Purging the digital hoard
When I was a wee bairn, we used to live in a pretty decently-sized house in a small village. I was the youngest of the three kids my parents had in total, and until my older siblings moved out, we were… actually pretty argumentative and didn’t get along well. Probably no surprise there. We get along fine now, but as kids? Yeah, things got heated sometimes.
But there was one pastime we would occasionally come together for: raiding the loft! Note, loft in this instance means the large storage area beneath the roof, but not in the sense that you could use it as a living space. I realise some people use their loft/attic for this purpose, but we didn’t.
No, my folks used the space to store junk, and lots of it. They had old books, photos, one of the original Pong game consoles they picked up in the seventies, various souvenirs and memorabilia from a decade spent in Germany, and all manner of other stuff. It was junk in the ‘stuff we value for sentimental reasons that doesn’t need to be stored somewhere easily accessible’ sense of the word.
Anyway, the folks would sometimes head out for a few hours for whatever reason, and leave the three of us to our own devices. I was preteen at the time, and my older sister was gearing up to move out, so she was considered more than old enough to look after us while the parents were out.
So we’d grab a stepladder from the shed, lug it upstairs, and climb up into the loft to spend the next couple of hours digging through random stuff. It was basically the only time (until an incident later in our lives brought us closer) that we got along as siblings and had fun doing something together.
We’d check out old books with funny words in them (as in, older-style English that sounded weird to my young mind), look at photos, a lot of which were in black and white, and just generally explore the stored hoard of memories and memorabilia. It was a lot of fun, all things considered.
When we eventually moved to a larger town so I could attend secondary school (11-15 years, roughly speaking) more easily, the folks decided to clean out most of the junk they had acquired over the years and generally simplify their lives a bit. In a lot of ways it was a shame not just for them, but for me as well. After all, I’d had a good amount of fun with that stuff.
So why am I regaling you with this tale of my childhood? Because that experience probably led me to where I am today as a digital hoarder. It should be clear just from the term itself, but a digital hoarder is someone who hoards—what else?—digital crap. Movies, images, music, random memes, interesting website pages downloaded and stored locally, the works.
The funny thing is that I actually don’t have all that much crap in the real world. I got rid of physical media years ago (though not before ripping everything to digital for storage; I’m not foolish enough to trust duplicitous streaming services who love to censor shit), and only have what I absolutely need as far as everything else goes. No problem.
Unfortunately, I have OCD, but apparently I developed a fairly specific form of it that only really applies to digital clutter. In the real world I don’t give a toss about clutter, I don’t have any compulsions about lining things up or cleaning or any of the other things OCD sufferers deal with. Thankfully.
But on my PC? Jeez, it’s a nightmare, lol. If I have clutter, like images saved from the net that aren’t sorted in some way, or music that hasn’t been sorted into appropriate subfolders, it’s one of those things that niggles at the back of my mind until I do it. Some people compulsively wash themselves (why can I not get rid of this blood? It’s like sand, it gets everywhere… wait, I think I’m mixing my references). I compulsively tidy my PC. It’s the worst, heh.
I’ve actually done a bit of Googling on this, but apparently digital OCD isn’t really recognised as a specific thing yet, it’s just one of many forms that condition can take. This annoys me, because now I don’t feel special ;p It also ties into the idea of hoarding, as we briefly discussed at the start of this post.
Anyway, that’s where the concept of decluttering comes in. I was reading a book by Jeff Goins a couple of days ago, he writes some good non-fiction books if you’re at all creative and want to be more efficient. The one I was reading was mostly on blogging, titled ‘Your Are A Writer (So Start Acting Like One)’, though a lot of the advice works for fiction as well. But mostly there was one little thing that stood out to me; he talked about decluttering your life.
Just swap out social media for digital hoarding and OCD-fuelled cleaning and you basically have me. As much as I dislike not actively writing, sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and get on with other necessities. That said, I’ve actually been taking his advice and decluttering my PC. Thousands of images I never look at? Gone. About 1,000 songs I basically never listen to? Gone. Videos and other distractions? Also gone.
It’s an oddly dichotomous feeling, lol. On the one hand it feels good to be rid of all that crap. On the other hand it feels bad getting rid of stuff I’ve been hoarding for months or years. I suspect I know now how my parents felt when they got rid of all that stuff from the loft. But that’s kind of the point, isn’t it? It just sits there doing nothing useful, and causes me bother in the process. So yeah, all gone 😔
I even got rid of (or consolidated) a bunch of story ideas. Nothing especially important, just some random junk I’d never be likely to write since I already have so much else of higher importance to be getting on with. That helped as well, as it means less stuff in my ideas folder tempting me away from what I’m already working on.
All in all, I feel a lot better. Less stuff sitting around my hard drives doing nothing useful, and less impetus to continually sort through it all. The impetus isn’t gone completely, I still get the urge to sift through everything and try to find a better way to organise so I can be more efficient—ironically destroying my efficiency in the process, because I’m doing that instead of actually writing—but overall I’ve been finding I can get more done now.
Do you have similar problems with hoarding? If so, maybe it’s time to take a good, long look at it and decide whether it might be best to lose some of the clutter. Or not. Whatever works for you 😃
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