L In a long-standing relationship, you are standing at the abyss of an unexpressed life; Suddenly, the accumulated jewelry and tchotchkes of your shared life exist only to mock you in your unspoken sorrow. There is no better time to get rid of things.
After emptying our house of all she wanted, I emptied it a second time, from everything we had wanted together. I Embraced the Spartan Wisdom of Marie Kondos The Life-Changing Magic of Cleaning Up ̵
As a brutalist of the inner world, Kondo envisioned a life better to be useful in its brevity. It is not a good sign of a wife's stay married to her disorder, but I grab her philosophy Hook, her string and her sink. I fold my socks together, discard projects that are half finished, and appreciate the emotional bond I share with my silverware. I start as if it actually works. Minimalism feels like a scam until you get involved, and is not it cheating right now?
But with all the physical detritus in our orbit, what's on our computers is very vague and vague; a digital footprint that is deeply compressed. There is no guide to emotional digital minimalism. Nobody tells you how to hold a file in your hand, embrace a 100KB photo, and assess whether a 10-year history of text messaging is "enjoyable."
It is estimated that the trillions of electrons that make up the system The entire Internet weighs about 50 grams, about half of a card game. But what about the emotional weight of storing terabytes of photos you made of someone when you loved him? What was the feeling of erasing it? Above all, I felt the need to find out.
We curate ourselves online, whether you're an emerging influencer, converging your Twitter followers, or the "right to be forgotten." But the unimaginable notion that no such maintenance is required behind the scenes is increasingly being sold. The cloud is infinite, a fluffy afternoon life of Sunday school for our digital debris. Google promises me more space than I could ever fathom, Dropbox will give me huge stretches of land in their digital space, and Apple pinky-swears that any blurry photo of a dog, a cloud, or my pink, bare ass will be forever safe. as long as I coughed to maintain their labyrinthine server compound.
Pilgrimage. Every photo ever taken, every file was saved – my digital history is available for review. Years of work and pleasure have become a formless sweater that has evolved over months, tearing ever more tightly in the cold every day. In the beginning is a careful evaluation that tries to account for each file since I had my teaspoons and shower gel, and is getting faster and less sensitive. In a marathon session, equipment tests and engagement parties move past me in a matter of seconds as I select the junk of the photos deemed worthy before transferring the rest to a growing garbage folder.
I tell all my friends about this trip. and their answers vary greatly. Some find my job Sisyphean, but fascinating. Others do not understand it and enjoy openly the automatic nature of the cloud. They say they will not make decisions if they find the time to make other, more important decisions. Most of the time, they tell me that they do not have the time, with the kind of gaze that betrays their concern, that I do.
A friend tells me how once in the days before Facebook she had lost a hard drive exposing the entire photographic story of her and an ex; how it felt like a split, a blade that cut cleanly through tender flesh. Such a thing could never happen these days, she says, and I think of all this data that I have no control over. Somewhere out there, knocking from a distant cloud, I met you for the first time when I first spit out "I love you" when you first saw my tits. Somewhere, the last thing you've ever said to me is the end of time, or the lapse of advertising revenue.
I also recognize how the months drag on, that this process influences and alters my interaction with the content that I am creating and curating now. Meals are prepared and not photographed. Conversations continue without anyone sneaking their phones into posterity. I watch sunsets fade into the darkness until the night cold sends me in and my phone on one of my five Ark Corps is left harmless. My memory has never been good, but I put more space in my head for moments that feel significant, and the moments I share with people are more valuable.
One day I realize that there are no more files that can go through, no more junk data, and all that's left is a big folder with all those quick decisions. I'm starting back and trying to quantify what that means, what that feels like. The boxes have slowly emptied from the rent we had once shared. The last of her self-help books is preparing for a new life outside this haunted house, and yet this portfolio stops, as if I'm waiting for it to happen. Then it's time for a whim. It makes no sense to think about it, and I delete it.
I pause, the mouse hovering over the wastebasket, as if holding these 50,000 photos in my hands. It is finally tangible. It feels like it deserves a ritual or moment of peace. I am waiting for something in this moment, but there is nothing, so I just let go. Right-click, Empty Trash – a last hand of The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Before I Tell It.
• This is an edited version of the article: Clear History: Digital Minimalism, published by the literary journal Kill Your Darlings