Data Purge

15th August:

I’ve already confessed that my Internet Holiday in August was enforced, and that I had to re-build my PC. I couldn’t bring myself to spend 80 quid on an external drive large enough for all my data, so it seemed simplest and cheapest to ditch a load of it.

Now to understand the hyperventilating terror that this idea induces, you need to know that I am a 5th or 6th generation squirrel. I come from a long line of hoarders; hoarders by temperament and hoarders by opportunity and hoarders by simple laziness, hoarders who bought furniture and ended up with antiques.

I am better than I was. I have moved to progressively smaller flats and houses, discarding possessions every time, and now live quite happily in a space I would have been patronisingly sniffy about a decade or so ago. The list of things I’ve got rid of is actually quite substantial.

Books! I got rid of over 1000 books four years ago. Took them all to local hospitals or gave them to friends. Clothes. 12 bin-bags of clothes in 2001. (I have never owned 12 bin-bags of clothes in my entire life, so goodness knows where they all came from). Sofas made for a bigger room than I now have; magazines I didn’t read when I bought them; furniture I asked for because my sister wanted it.

I’m actually quite good at getting rid of things. Not as good as I should be. This time last year my stuff was in storage while I rented a place and waited to buy somewhere. Four containers of stuff. Two medium sized lorries. And I didn’t miss any of it. Not a pot, not a pan, not a CD, not a shoe, not a cushion, not a picture, not a jot, not a tittle. And when I started unpacking it, item by item, I thought “oh, no, I cannot get rid of that … or that … or that”. Maybe one day.

And now data. Data takes up no room. It costs nothing. It is the easiest thing in the world to keep, (and the easiest thing in the world to lose, of course). I kept emails going back to 1998 on my previous hard drive. Letters and poems and random acts of writing going back to when I finally moved away from Macs in the mid 1990s. Data is much harder to get rid of than stuff, because stuff collects dust and takes up space and sits there annoying you.

But when I got this PC I only put on it the data I needed at the time, none of the emails going back to 1998, none of the letters and poems and random acts of writing.

I felt cleansed. Lightened. Relieved. We are transient creatures, we are not meant to carry our histories around with us like this. Yes, childhood photos are important, but not four cardboard boxes of them. Yes, it’s nice to have a souvenir of gigs and plays and nights out, but not envelope after envelope of ticket stubs. Yes, it might conceivably be useful to have soft copies of expenses claims going back 10 year, but it is hard to see how.

And now I stand on the edge of an abyss – having to decide what data to get rid of and what to keep….

I know I’ll feel better when I’ve purged that D: drive.

Addendum: 29th August:

I didn’t of course.

I got the dodgy external drive to work, and then added belts to my braces by copying loads of it onto CDs. In doing so I found three letters I wrote to my ex, one sent two weeks before he said “I want a divorce” and two in the month or so after.

An odd thing to find, but that is another blog for another day.

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7 responses to “Data Purge

  1. Getting rid of data? Practically impossible – apart from accidents, of course! I have often found intriguing items when rearranging folders on the PC, but your find is probably much more intriguing than most.

  2. *puts out bowl of fish*

    Blimey – you were circling!

    *blushes*

  3. :purr:

    Getting rid of stuff is very liberating.

    The week before I got married – I spent an evening shredding and binning assorted billet-doux from other men because I thought they’d never again be interesting or relevant. Silly me.

    In the months before we moved south from Scotland I ditched a load of unnecessaries which had been acquired over twenty years of living in the same house. Clever me.

    And now – after six years here I’ve manged to amass another load of junk which I really don’t have space for and which really should be recycled along to the nearest charity-shop. And it will be – one of these days. Lazy me.

  4. Storage is cheap. Data is plentiful.
    What’s missing a lot of the time is the ability to turn the data to useful information. Information of course can rot down to just data again if you forget why you needed to know such and such and the usefullness can diminish after you’ve used the information (eg. like why would you need the information gathered for your expenses several years down the line).
    Distilling the information down further is harder still and comes down to what other information we know and our experiences.
    Still storage is cheap and data is plentiful, we can work it all out again, can’t we…

  5. OOh! A composting metaphor… 😀

  6. Oh no! I hadn’t even thought about my messy hard drive when I was cleaning out my office last week. Drat. Someday, it’ll come to that. For now, I’m still getting rid of clothes and paper clips, and a lot of other things in between.

  7. I’ve still got stuff on our hard drive at home that was backed up from the laptop I got in my first proper job. That is full of documents for projects I was involved in five jobs ago. When am I *ever* going to need any of that?!

    I almost* feel shamed into doing something about it.

    *almost. But not until after I have tackled the Stack of papers. And that won’t happen until a week before the next tax deadline…

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