In an attempt to declutter, downsize, have less stuff, and be more in control of what I physically own, I have started digitise as much as I can. In particular, my office is part of that project. It’s amazing to see all the stuff I have accumulated and then forgotten about.
My main and ongoing project is my collection of documents. It seems never-ending, the number of letters and physical papers that fly into the house on a regular basis. We get all of our bills via email now but there is still a lot to do.
We started scanning documents and discarding most of them a few years ago. I used to have folders of documents I thought I needed to keep: bank statements, rental contracts, employment contracts, timesheets, you name it. It had grown into two big folders worth of paper. Now, I look at this amount of paper and most of it can go in the bin, even without having been scanned.
There are some documents I keep as physical copies just because they need to be. We have a dedicated slim folder for it. And that’s it. Our aim is to have everything in that one place and everything else scanned and as a pdf uploaded to the cloud and a hard drive.
One big and a potentially heartbreaking task is still ahead of me though. I used to be a big boyband fan and had collected, for years, every bit I could from magazines. A lot of effort and time had gone into this collection and it turned into a big folder. I haven’t looked at it for years but faithfully carried it to any new place I lived in.
A part of me knows that it’s time to let go. Another part, the teeny part, is still hung up on the boyband and doesn’t want to see her hard work go into the bin. So a friend suggested taking pictures (rather than scans) of the most important pages. I will do that and then carry it to the bin. It will be a sad day, I’m sure. But, there is nothing left for me to do with it.
Another big area of digitisation is music. Until three days ago I had a collection of burnt CDs and DVDs with music as mp3 (I had ripped my music CDs a few years ago so I could listen to them on my player). I finally found the time to move all this music onto our hard drive and dispose of the physical copies. There are still about 5 CDs to go but it’s coming along really well.
A much larger project is my collection of tapes. My first ever music came on tapes and I have a big box full of them. But I don’t even have a tape player anymore. So I got myself a USB cassette converter and I’m now transferring all my tapes onto the computer. This process takes time because I have to play (not listen to) every tape, both sides. So this project will be with me for a bit.
And then, the last area of things to digitise is my box of photos. I don’t even know what the extent of that is yet. The box is at the bottom of my shelf and I haven’t reached it yet.
A few years ago I had sorted my photos into albums but I know think I need to get rid of them and get everything digitised. And there is actually a good reason for that when it comes to photos: digital content won’t lose its quality. In college, I developed black and white photos and made a collage. Looking at the photos now, some of them have turned yellow or are losing their colour in general. It makes me sad (and mad at myself) that I didn’t preserve the photos when they were still in good condition.
Why am I doing this?
The answer is simple: I want to have everything in one place and less clutter. In particular, the clutter issue has been bugging me for months now. I want to be able to know what I have, without guessing and moving stuff around.
However, just like physical clutter, I know that digital clutter is just as much an issue. I know that in digitising my life I need to pay attention to things I need to keep and things I don’t. And I need to be smart about organising everything. I’ve even been thinking about joining an online community of declutterers to get some ideas of how to organise my digital life.