I am currently in the process of a big clean out – going through trinkets and papers, throwing out what doesn’t “spark joy”, and keeping everything else in a functional and easily accessible home. One thing I learned is just because you have the space doesn’t mean you have to fill it. This couldn’t be more true of our digital space.
As technology gets better, we can store more data in less physical space. It’s great! But one can get just as overwhelmed opening up a hard drive as opening up a busting-at-the-seams closet. Just because it’s easy to store every document from high school on a hard drive doesn’t mean you should.
So much of being a witch is about maintenance. A good practice centers around a clear physical and head space. It takes quite a bit of checking in to keep things shipshape but check-ins allow us to engage more actively in our work. Having an organized workspace also makes initiating the work that much easier. So why not take this practice to our computers?
The maintenance of a clean, clear, and healthy digital self isn’t given the time I think it deserves – yet we are still expected to conduct productive work in this realm. Below I lay out the ways I conducted my digital clean-out and maintain organization.
To start, I set a tangible goal.
I wanted every file that wasn’t an application or program operating in the background to live in one place. I have two 2-terabyte hard drives, my Google Drive space, and my laptop. My archive of every file would live on one hard drive and I would use the other as a back-up (I cannot recommend back-ups on back-ups enough).
After relegating all my files to one place I would be able to keep my current projects on my Google Drive. This way they would be accessible from the road. My other goal was to keep a clean desktop except for a few files I needed to access quickly and constantly.
Next, I assessed the files I had.
I collected all my digital belongings in one place and took inventory. This way I really saw what I accumulated and it sunk in that some shit has. Got. To. Go.
Because I knew I wanted everything to eventually live on my hard drive, I relocated all my computer files, Google Drive documents, and social media photos to my two designated terabytes of hard drive space. Once it was all in front of me I would see categories emerge. I found mostly old school files, important/financial documents, writings, video projects, and tons and tons of photos. However there were some hiccups.
I had accumulated over two terabytes of files. This meant that I needed to do some preliminary cleaning.
~We interrupt this program for a note on clean-outs in general~
When doing large clean-outs I think there is a misconception it’s a one-and-done deal. Even with physical clean-outs, once you think you are done there is always more to let go. And, naturally, after a couple of months, more stuff will accumulate.
The clean-out will give an awareness of what you own and where everything lives so you can better and more mindfully accumulate things, but I still recommend quarterly maintenance to keep (literally) on top of your stuff. I do my clean-outs on each equinox and solstice – it’s a nice way to boost any spiritual practice around those times too. This way I don’t find myself buried again a couple months or years down the line. Plus each pass through gets easier as I gain familiarity with my belongings and where they live.
The same goes for digital accumulation. Cleaning often requires a first pass to assess and clean out the stuff that is obviously trash. Then I recommend at least two more refined passes to filter and then organize and curate what you know you want to keep.
There are also going to be moments when you just won’t keep up with the clean – physical or digital.
No matter how noble the effort, we are all just human. That’s why the quarterly check-ins are helpful – for those moments when you just don’t put things back where they should be. Forgive yourself if you find your files in disarray. You cleaned out once, you can do it again! And because you did it once, doing it again will be easier than the first time. I tell myself this constantly.
The preliminary combing through of my files helped me minimize to my 2-terabyte limit. It also gave me time to organize stray items into the categories I mentioned above. This helped with future passes of cleaning since I could compartmentalize and comb through one category at a time.
A Note on Photos
With a camera in basically everyone’s phone, it is easy to accumulate photos less mindfully. In all honesty, I am still going through my photos. Some people may choose not to do this – it is a big undertaking. But I found going down memory lane rewarding. Looking through old photos allowed me to reminisce then curate albums from only the experiences worth remembering. Now they are easier to look back on. I don’t have to filter through a hundred screen shots of memes that were funny in the moment but hold no sentimental value in the long run. See what I’m saying?
To stay on top of photos, I make sure to mindfully upload. I set a monthly reminder in my calendar to import, label, and file pictures from my phone and camera. I don’t always get around to it but when I do I make sure to choose my uploads individually rather than doing a large dump. This makes future check-ins that much easier to go through.
A Note on Important Documents
Some papers are easy to skim through – like old college essays or notes from the middle of the night. You decide what’s worth hanging on to. For things like important documents, it’s smart to do some research or get a guardian or financial advisor to weigh in on what is worth keeping. It is important to store documents for taxes and medical information in an easily accessible place, but old lease agreements and receipts from more that five years ago may just be cluttering up your space. If you really aren’t sure always ask! If you don’t have a trusted advisor, those are the documents you can and should hang on to just in case.
With those notes in mind I have to manage some expectations
THIS TAKES TIME!
The transfer alone from my preliminarily-cleaned-out Google Drive to my hard drive took hours. Then you factor in the time to do at least two passes… well I just had to pace myself. To take on this task, one must have patience and mental fortitude. This isn’t a day or even week-long task. It may take a month. It may take more. It depends on how detailed you want to go.
Last step, filing.
After cleaning to the level of detail I desired, the final thing to do was file everything in a manner that is easy to maintain. This way, it is much easier to search for and find everything you decided to keep.
For me, I file everything by date. Then I add some indicator of what the file is – like pictures from prom, budget spreadsheets, video projects, etc. Because of the way computers search for and catalogue files I find the format below the most useful.
Sub Folder: 05_30_2019_Beach_Day
Then all the files in the sub folder would be labeled:
(I use the underscores because some computer algorithms don’t like searching for spaces. This ensures no file will get lost.)
It can be a lot of work to re-label files you have already stored. Again, be patient and forgiving. Once everything was relabeled I found I just had to get in the practice of labeling properly as I upload new material.
- I started with a tangible goal of the digital space I wanted to fill.
- I assessed all the files I had and sorted them into categories.
- I did a preliminary clean in order to get all my files into one place.
- I allowed PLENTY of time for digital transfers.
- I did multiple passes of cleaning on each category of file.
- I asked trusted advisors if I wasn’t sure what I absolutely should keep.
- I relabeled my files in an easily searchable manner.
- I maintain the filing system as I upload new materials.
- I set calendar
reminders to do quarterly or monthly (depending on the type of file) maintenance
of my filing system.
- (I also always do quarterly and monthly back-ups just in case!)
- I forgive myself when things get messy and get right back up on that horse!
The process of cleaning, organizing, and seeing what you have collected is always a worthy pursuit. Now I feel excitement coming to my workspace, not dread! Opening up my digital space to a clean desktop and easily searchable hard drive allows my mind to rest when I sit down to work. It is easy to get distracted and hard to remain productive in the digital sphere but organizing my digital belongings keeps my mind from wandering.
This whole process also gave me a sense of ownership over my digital self. I know what I have and know what I have put out online. There is power to that in this day and age – the same way there is power in owning your intentions through witchcraft.
If you are a clean freak like me and have journeyed into the world of digital cleaning, I would love to hear tips and tricks you learned along the way. Please HMU!
Much love in tidying up!