Humans are sentimental fools. It started off with our parents, who hoarded all baby clothes, textbooks and photo albums from the day we took our first step to the day we got married. All our milestones and everything in between are perfectly immortalized in tangible mementos and keep sakes that serve as reminders of a time long gone, bringing back smiles or tears depending on the nature of the associated memory.
Fast forward to this day and age, and our clutter has invaded cyberspace. From the very first email we ever sent to the first one we ever received; everything is available online for our viewing pleasure. You need only think back to a key word to search your inbox and behold as that chain letter from 1999 pops back up before your eyes (if you had sent it, you would have been successful today).
Even social media is dredging through the past, excavating our memories and showing us exactly how much of our lives is stored on their servers. From posts we shared to statuses we commented on, and everything in between. My history goes back as far as 2007, before Facebook went mainstream. I find myself surprised as to what I was sharing, at times bordering on the preposterous, akin to a child that just learned to use its legs for walking, and keeps bumping into everything and knocking it down. It took quite a while to be social media savvy, and learn to keep some thoughts in my mind and others on the keyboard.
However, just as thieves and fires can destroy our tangible memories, so to can our intangible memories fall prey to softer calamities, such as power outages, viruses etc.
As someone who lost a trove of memories as a result of hard disk failure (one terabyte, two decades worth of pictures, home movies, series, movies etc.), I was forced to review the memories I held on to so dearly as I attempted to salvage what I could through various software. Alas not everything was fated to return, and what I found I cannot recall ever owning – pdf files, excel sheets, word documents from my first job ever. Herein lies the concept of virtual decluttering and its effect on us.
Going through life, our technological arteries are bound to be filled by “fatty junk”, a funny video a friend sent that we have yet to watch, 5 years later. A couple of movies that were the talk of the town that we never quite got around to viewing, 7 years later. Photos from events we never attended but wanted to prove to people you intended to, by taking all the albums and neglecting to view them, 10 years later.
When faced with the conundrum of what to salvage and what to throw away, we opt to save everything and propose to go through it “when the time is right”. The sad reality is, if it is not done within the first 2 months, it shall not be done, period. We find ourselves holding on to memories that weigh us down.
It is said that the internet is made up of 1,200 petabytes (1.2 million terabytes) of information. Our brains have the capacity to store close to 2.5 petabytes.
Much like we can pick and choose what data to keep and what to throw away on an external hard disk, so to should we be able to select what to throw away and what to keep in terms of what occupies our mind.
As we embrace the dawn of the New Year, take the decision to let go of all the resolves and resolutions you made and never found the time to get to until this day. Let 2016 be the year of a memory purge, literal and metaphorical, and the setting of new goals (hopefully that will not be purged in a few years).