Letting go of digital clutter

What do you do when a digital storage drive fails?

What if it’s your primary photo library for a blog or other important personal project?

Do you panic? Worry? Purchase data recovery software?

I had the opportunity to examine these questions recently when my USB drive suddenly quit working. I had been importing photos to my blog library, and Lightroom was in the process of upgrading the library file when everything went belly up. Lightroom crashed, the drive ejected and an error popped up claiming that I removed the drive before it was “properly ejected”.

And that’s all it took to ruin the index file (or whatever it is) that allows my computer to read the drive and know where the files are stored. My USB drive was dead, unable to mount and unable to recover via my laptop’s built-in tools.

My first thought was “what am I going to do about my coffee photos?”

All the images and photos for this blog were kept on this drive, including a good chunk of images for possible future posts. While I keep regular backups of my laptop, I don’t often have the USB stick plugged in during a backup process, so the most recent data I had available was several months old.

In short, all the coffee-related photos from 2017 were lost.

Technically, the photos were still there; my computer just didn’t know how to find them. I could have purchased recovery software that would scan the USB drive and recreate the necessary index files to bring it back to life, but instead, I asked myself how important this digital “stuff” was, and realized that I didn’t need it.

All those old photos from previous blogs? Once they’ve been processed and uploaded, I don’t need to store original copies forever. Hundreds of other photos intended for future topics, most of which I ignored for months? If I’m honest, I must admit that most of the blog ideas are too old and no longer represent my current focus.

Letting go of those photos is allowing them to teach me the one lesson they were meant to provide: it’s ok to let go of digital clutter.

The same is true for a lot of other digital junk that I hold on to for years on end, and I’m curious what clutter is hiding in forgotten drives stored around the house. The principles of minimalism apply to our digital lives just the same as our physical reality. To surround yourself only with the things that bring you joy, consider the impact of a minimal photo library or a focused music collection.

And just as in the home, eliminating digital clutter shifts your need for space, and can open your eyes to just how little you need to be happy.

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