Digital dump

20 03 2017

We are in a data explosion era. No surprise there. Unprecedented amount of data is being captured virtually about everything everywhere. Each day we are leaving a detailed digital footprint across the web and through several other applications and connections. Apart from the Internet, myriad gadgets and software applications, each one of us is also accumulating huge amounts of personal data. It’s all over. Filling the hard drives of the multiple computers we work with, storage on smartphones and tablets, and cloud storage services like Google Drive, One Drive, iCloud, Dropbox, Box etc. Not to mention external hard drives and pen drives.

The moment of truth finally struck me as yet another of my cloud storage accounts has reached its limit and refrained me from editing. I could have paid for increasing the storage space, but that’s not the point here. I have several online accounts that I leverage for cloud storage and almost all of them are full – with pictures, videos, documents, and music. Lots of them. And it never seems to end. This hoarding.  I periodically take backups of the contents of my laptop and store them in an external hard drive. I’m not sure how much of it is repeated and how many times. I collect articles, documents, books, my personal projects forever in progress, learning material, notes and many more. And all this outside of what’s in my email inboxes.

Why keep it all in the first place?  Preserving history. You never know what part of your past you might want to look at in future for reminiscing or what part of your past might hold a key to your present or future problems. Or so we rationalize. Storage is cheap. So, we store. Almost everything. Creating a huge digital dump.

Do I always know what all I already have? Not really. Oftentimes I can’t even remember the number of accounts and storage devices I have, let alone the contents of each. Even if I remember that I had something stored safely, often I can’t find or get to it efficiently. This is not just a simple “organization” issue. Though of course, it helps. The sheer scale of the data one gathers makes any attempt of periodically cataloging and maintaining the data dumps appear insurmountable. Even more so because cleaning up and organizing stuff is perhaps one of the least appealing tasks one can do. (Please note that here here I’m speaking more of myself than anyone else 🙂 ) Especially because one has to do it regularly to maintain.

When I started thinking about digital hoarding, I immediately saw that the minimalist approach that we (some of us) try to apply to our physical possessions can be extended to even these virtual possessions.  With physical objects, you can at least get a sense of magnitude by virtue of the physical space they occupy, the amount of money you expend on accumulating them, and the resulting impact on quality of life. But with digital hoarding, it’s difficult to get the head around the extent of your possessions beyond a point. And the fact that the costs are minimum doesn’t help either.

But one may argue that if the costs are minor, why bother. Valid point. But I believe that there are hidden costs. Most of the data just lays there, dormant, waiting, and completely ignored. Passwords forgotten and accounts seldom logged in, DVDs/CDs gathering dust etc. If all that data could think, it might have had some serious existential questions. 😛 . This massive amount of digital data – where does it eventually go? What happens to it? If it’s in the cloud, privacy is definitely a concern. As for the physical storage devices, they create clutter and have some of the downsides of other physical possessions; harder to maintain and difficult to find and retrieve information.

Of course, as with physical possessions, it would be very difficult to let go of your digital history. Especially, pictures. But do you really need all of those tens of thousands of pictures? Anyways, one has to start somewhere while pruning. The easiest task would be to eliminate duplicates. Then tackle obsolete notes and documents. Movies and old music that you seldom peruse can be next. Consolidating, grouping, and labeling help a lot to bring structure to your digital universe.

It’s not about the quantity, but the quality. My guess is that when you tackle the former, the latter will emerge by itself. When you have low inventory, finding stuff and maintenance will be more efficient. There is definitely hope. I hereby avow to embark on the journey to transform my personal digital footprint (at least what’s under my control).





Wastefulness

6 02 2017

Of late, I’m reminded of “Total Quality Management” concept I’ve studied years ago. It’s fascinating and involves improving efficiency by eradicating waste, among other things. It is this aspect of waste I’m concerned about now. In day to day life, I aim for efficiency too, by being frugal with my resources. While I admit that I don’t definitely set an example, I like to be careful with my spending and generally evaluate the utility of whatever I expend. Despite my best efforts, I realize from time to time that there’s a lot of unnecessary and wasteful consumption/ expenditure. It takes different forms.

Things, which seem very attractive and useful at the time of buying seem meaningless soon after. Items are bought on impulse or with some deliberation, and then ignored once unpacked. Or cast away after only a perfunctory use. Whenever I keep coming across such things at home, I’m baffled afresh and vow not to indulge in such meaningless and wasteful behavior in future. But it seems like, how much ever I try there is still room for improvement. I would think a radical lifestyle change aka adoption of minimalism can address this. But isn’t it such a big deal? A radical mindset change. Sigh!

And then there are other kinds of wastefulness. Late charges induced by missed deadlines, premium paid to accommodate lack of pre-planning,  sub-optimal and sometimes irrational expenses that can result from endless procrastination, opportunity costs involving missed deals/discounts: where’s that coupon when you need it? And of course, there’s also sheer negligence or lack of knowledge/information that can result in some wasteful expenditure. So many factors.

I wonder how much of costs is wasteful. Depending on circumstances, I guesstimate it be anywhere between 10% to 25%. Or at least, it feels like 25%. Oh my god, that’s more than my savings. 😐

I congratulate myself on saving a few bucks here and there by being really frugal and wiser in my shopping decisions. But then suddenly I face myself losing a larger sum to something or the other. Oh, the despair I feel at those times! Everything feels like a sham. Life is unfair. In many cases, I’m aware of the lapses even while they are happening. But I can only watch helplessly as the ball gets rolling. Nevertheless, I keep trying to learn lessons, be vigilant, and reduce the waste. But I quickly realized that it takes a tremendous effort to fuss about each and everything, which ultimately affects my happiness levels. Being wasteful doesn’t definitely make me happy. Neither does micro-managing. I’m damned either way.

So, I have decided to come up with a rule that defines the acceptable levels of wastefulness. I have figured that it’s easier to accept the fact (or fiction) that some level of squandering and irrational behavior is an integral part of life than to attempt to completely eradicate it. Peace be onto me! (Note: I’m still debating with myself on the right percentage. Any help appreciated!)

To any purist out there, who can perfectly manage his/her life and purse, my confessions here might seem silly and childish.  By all means, roll your eyes. With all due respect, I stand on my stance that non-purists, like me, need to come up with some strategies for peaceful survival. 😛





Minimalism

4 11 2016

This could well be another case for “connecting the dots“. Truth be told, almost anything could be interpreted as one.

Minimalism as a concept has been in vogue forever. In its purest form, beings who are on the path of or have achieved spiritual enlightenment forsake any attachment to material things and thereby live with barest of them in order to survive. But I’m not talking about that kind of minimalism, but instead the fad that’s been gaining more practice these days, wherein normal people like you and me, tend to realize the benefits of living with less, and make it their life style to live with as minimum as possible. Truth be told, it’s not at all a new idea. People like that existed at all times, but why is it as a practice gaining more popularity these days? In this world of rampant consumerism and materialism, it can be said with certainty that this perspective of life is an uncommon thing.

My foray into this concept or rather my introduction to this phenomenon started when I came across an article about “tiny houses”a few years ago. At that time, it fascinated me. It awakened my dormant childhood memory of playing for hours with imaginary tiny houses on wheels. I used to setup small house like structures that supposedly contain all I own (hypothetically) and making the best out of it. I remember being  so content and proud about my humble lifestyle. ;). Boy, I was so excited to read about them. But the idea didn’t stuck with me for long. I wonder why. Just being my usual conformist self I guess. 😛

I want to first start thinking about why we usually want big houses in the first place. What does the “excess” space that we can call ours signify? Is it just ostensibility or is there a deep psychological need? Of course, it’s not just space and you typically feel the need to fill it with as much as you can. It’s mostly for the comfort that various things bring to us. It could also be because we perceive the vastness of space to signify the extent of freedom and privacy.

For me, one practical downside of having a very small house is – how can you invite any of your friends and family? It’s a big deal to me. Even with minimum things around, I feel that tiny houses could feel real cramped. But maybe not. In all fairness, minimalism calls for a shift in perspective – how you look at things and your relationship with them. In the case of houses, it extends to how you view space around you and challenge all your preconceiving notions about them. Wow, it’s a huge thing.

The “tiny house movement” is gaining traction with its proposed benefits and as a way to break the circle of consumerism (?) and focusing on only what’s needed rather on what’s wanted. Well of course, a tiny house comes with its own challenges. It’s not a magic mantra to solve your materialism problem. Also, the tiny house  bandwagon may not be about minimalism at all but rather a rather an attempt to achieve affordable housing (Read here.)

All this I absorb as a bystander. I cannot say that I’ve been inspired to action . I haven’t actually considered going this route. Not yet!

Marie Kondo, with her art of tidying up, puts forth the idea that having less is the solution, not organizing more stuff better. When I read through her instructions on how to discard your things, clothes, books etc., and how you actually need much lesser than you would have ever imagined, it’s a sudden revelation. Despite the fact that I was fascinated by Marie’s book and philosophy , I didn’t think I can take the advice. Again!

And then one fine day not long ago I was just casually toying with the idea of taking a resolution of “no shopping” for the coming year. My sudden inspiration was more a result of getting weary about maintaining a huge wardrobe, not to mention accessories, and having to shop periodically to keep up, than a consequence of sudden spiritual awakening or disillusionment or simply wanting less.

Just the other day, I listened to a podcast by Joshua Fields Millburn of The Minimalists, and I must admit it’s damn inspiring. (At last!) It’s amazing when you actually realize how less you need to live your regular life and how much you are stockpiling just for the sake of it. How much time, money, and energy will be saved if I just follow Steve Jobs’ and Mark Zuckerberg’s footsteps and stick to one dressing style. (Extending it to just one color is a bit too extreme for me.) However, I agree that much money and peace of mind can be saved if I cut down buying most non-necessities – clothes, books, accessories etc. Of course if one doesn’t want to steer too much away from the current lifestyle there are certain limitations as to how far you can cut down buying stuff or discard things. But if one is up to drastic life style and perspective change, sky is the limit. 🙂

A part of me still thinks it’s impractical. At least for a hoarder like me. But change is in order. It would be a nice challenge to get over my life style and habits. It won’t be easy. But will it be worth the effort? Will I experience all those benefits, or at least a sense of calmness and clarity, the ability to focus more on what matters rather on dispersing my meager attention on to myriad insignificant things/aspects? I hope so. I start small. Some day! 🙂 As far as “tiny houses” go, I think I’ll pass. I believe we need to have reasonable space to accommodate important aspects of our lives – people, passions, and physical & psychological well-being. Sustainability is the key.

Moreover, I was long sold on the idea that accumulating experiences is much cooler than accumulating things, thanks to Thomas Gilovich. Minimalism also preaches the same thing. So, here I embark on a journey to accumulate experiences, not things. Cheers to “accumulating experiences”!