Honey, I Shrunk My Digital Life

We live in a culture of the Upsize. The bigger the better. And it’s a one-way street; hardly anyone likes scaling down and back, let alone consider it.

Yet in almost any situation, we gain more than we lose through downsizing. Downsizing frees up space, and often not just in the literal sense. One can downsize almost any aspect of one’s life, be it one’s house, car, comsumption, or even business. Here are some aspects of my digital life that I’ve downsized.

Music

Working exclusively off of a 64gb 11-inch MacBook Air means space is precious. I’m constantly trimming, and that’s intentional.

Using Disk Inventory X(free) one day, it became obvious that my music folder was one huge guzzler of space. To free up some desperately-needed space, I began deleting some of the music I never really liked. When it became obvious I wasn’t accomplishing much, I changed my approach.

I decided I would only keep albums which I really enjoyed.

After a swift and merciless purge of mediocre albums, I arrived at the somewhat comfortable and very arbitrary limit of 5gb (my iTunes folder now fits snugly in my Dropbox folder).

What started out as an act of practical necessity has slowly evolved into something akin to a philosophy. If it were entirely about space efficiency, I would probably have started using some music streaming service like Spotify.

These days I am more selective of the music I listen to. I no longer have to skip songs which I don’t like; every single track has been handpicked. I listen to my favorite tracks more often. I probably could prune my music library more. I probably should.

RSS subscriptions

It’s easy to get overwhelmed. Information overload is very real and dangerous.

The number of subscriptions does not matter as much as the average number of posts daily; different authors post at different frequencies. I find that

Pocket (or any other Read Later service)

It’s convenient to clip articles so you can “read it later”. The premise underlying such services was very appealing to me — save articles which are too long to read at the moment and always have access to a ready source of good materials when I am bored.

That was, until I started clipping everything. At one point in time, I realized I would never be able to read every single article I had saved. It nagged at me, the equivalent of an overflowing inbox. It takes up the mental space that GTD David Allen likes to talk about.

Here are some rules I followed.

  1. Maximum of 10 unread posts.

  2. If there are more than 10 unread posts, I cannot visit sites which are potentially “pocketable”. (reddit, HN, Lifehacker, gamasutra, etc)

Don’t try to delete/archive everything at a single sitting. Take your time, read what interests you, delete ruthlessly. And of course, no new saves in the meantime. Personally, the transition took about three days, and was surprisingly painless.

Conclusion

Personally, such housekeeping has been incredibly refreshing. Without conscious effort, your digital “treasure hoard” is only going to keep growing indefinitely. Those rare gems either get buried, or seem to lose their sparkle. Think about that for a moment.

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