Eleven years ago, my husband and I were married on a beautifully muggy Ohio day. As one of our party favors, we gave our guests a CD of our favorite tunes- a mash-up of Billy Joel, Simon & Garfunkel, Brad Paisley, DMB, and the Beatles, among others. But eleven years later, we listen to music on our smartphones, satellite radio, or even robots (like Alexa). If we knew then that we only had a decade before CDs were essentially obsolete, I may have rethought that wedding party favor. But, how are we to know what the latest thing will be, and how quickly it will be here? There’s no way to tell what’s next, but one thing’s for sure- the old methods are out. Holding on to DVDs and CDs of information, especially for posterity’s sake, doesn’t make sense. Future computers won’t even have a way to insert a CD (my new Macbook doesn’t). It took me awhile to wrap my mind around the fact that our CDs are the equivalent of slides for our parents’ generation. Once I finally accepted this fact, I realized I needed to tackle some digital projects.
When I tell people that I’m a professional organizer, they often wonder what my own home is like. As someone who defines clutter as both delayed decisions and anxiety inducing, I make sure that I have my physical clutter under control. I have two young children, so I certainly don’t have a perfect, pristine home. But, I go through normal seasonal purges, and I keep up with my clutter on a daily basis, maintaining routines and practices that make sure it never gets too egregious. But, my worst kept secret was that, over time, I had let my digital clutter grow rampant. I had three computers with various data, loads of old CDs & DVDs, and photo collections galore. I knew organizing my digital clutter would be a HUGE undertaking. But, this project would not only make my life easier, but preserve digital files in a way that would make them easier for my children to access down the road.
First, I wrote down my goals: 1. to have all my photos on both an external hard-drive and in the cloud, organized into folders by year, 2. to have all my music from CDs loaded to iTunes, 3. to get any pertinent files from my old computers, have the old computers wiped clean, and recycle them, and finally, 4. to get any DVDs removed from their original packaging and put into an accordion file for road trips. (I'm sure there will soon be a different entertainment option in vehicles, but for now, DVD's are still useful in this circumstance. In almost all other circumstances, we use a streaming service, like Netflix or Amazon Prime.)
To make the project seem a little less daunting, I broke these goals up into steps that could be completed in 1 hour's time. For example, “Put all 2011 photos on the external hard drive,” was one step. Then, I dedicated an hour of time every evening toward completing these sub-steps. I was able to combine these tasks with other tasks around the house because the uploads took a while.
After three months, I was able to meet all my goals and tackle my digital clutter. Now, I have reminders set every season to keep on top of my digital clutter by uploading my photos from my devices to the cloud and external hard drive.
If I can tackle my digital clutter, so can you. If you need help with this or other decluttering projects, be sure to look for a NAPO organizer here.
- Shayla Brubaker, M.Ed., NAPO Member