When we think of minimalism we are normally thinking of getting physical stuff out of our lives to free up space and resources that gets absorbed by the stuff. But what about all the non-material stuff that takes up space in our head, and ultimately leads to us spending time on it, even if there is no physical manifestation involved?
Specifically, I’m thinking of stuff like the following.
My Kindle Library: I download my Kindle format e-books via the web browser and run them through Calibre to strip the DRM. Originally I was doing it as an F.U. to Amazon for blocking my ability to loan a book to a friend, as once stripped of DRM I can email the file to somebody else to read. And I still do that. However, I also back all those files up to a server, in case Amazon were to lose my account somehow or some publication rights issue leads to them revoking access rights to books I’ve already paid for. It’s happened before, and comically the book involved was 1984.
However, here is the thing. Why do I care? I paid less than $2.99 for over half of the books on my Kindle, and I will never read 90% of them again. Would I even notice or care if a couple vanished from my Kindle due to a publication rights issue? Would I really care if I lost access to all of it?
MP3s - I don’t have a large MP3 library, 547 albums to be exact. 530 of those albums are probably available on demand on Pandora, Spotify, etc. I still mostly listen to my copies of my music being played on a server I control. Again, why? I also have a family account with Pandora as it’s a great way to discover new music and sample stuff before deciding if I want to buy it. However, with 2-3 hours of effort I could recreate my collection on a streaming service, so why not do it? Originally I was not convinced that the business model of the streaming services were going to last, but I think we can assume I was wrong there. I also didn’t like that the artists were basically screwed by the streaming services. However, the idea that me still buying digital albums has any impact on the artists' income is laughable. Streaming won, maybe it’s time for me to get on the bandwagon.
News - I’ve gotten much better at this over the last year. The first takes on Twitter and Facebook are often wildly wrong. I have no news apps on my phone, and I don’t have FB or Twitter apps either. I just use the mobile website, which are not great user experiences, and that is the point for me. It’s a built-in disincentive. I get a daily US news email from The Guardian, which keeps me up to date on stories of global interest, and I subscribe to the local newspaper, although I rarely look at the digital edition. I should probably make an effort to make that a habit again. So I think I’m generally good at controlling the quantity and quality of digital news I consume.
I’m not a digital pack rat. I don’t have the source files for versions of this website from the 90s or even 10 years ago. I rely on archive.org if I want a screenshot from an older version of this site. I don’t have half-finished projects from 2010 sitting in a folder on a hard drive or in a cloud account. I don’t have accounts at every social media site that was ever popular. Generally speaking, I’m not a hoarder of bits, so why do I find it so hard to let go of the music and book bits?
I wonder if some of this goes back to the value of a curated collection? It’s something I wrote about a few years ago. I can have the same albums ‘saved’ on a streaming service, but then it’s not really my collection, is it?
Anybody else struggle with this stuff?