“Do you have any pictures from high school?” a former classmate asked me in a pub where we reminisced about our years at the business school. “I sure do. They'll be somewhere. Probably on a disc or in some cloud,” I try to remember. I found them the same night. They were lying on mega.co.nz, one of the cloud storage sites I occasionally use. I realise that my online services are a solid mess and as soon as I need to find something, I don't find it at all or only when I don't know why I was looking for it in the first place.
I've been gradually placing digital files on four cloud storage sites. It was for one reason. If I only had one, I would have had to pay for that much space. I reconsidered and sent Google an annual fee of 600 CZK for 100 GB of space and started cleaning up. I downloaded data from OneDrive, Mega.co.nz and DropBox and sorted it into photos and documents. I uploaded photos to Google Photos and documents to Google Drive.
To make the data usable, I went through it and deleted a lot of it. In the Google Photos gallery, I had 14,964 photos and videos (29 GB) in front of me at the beginning. Among them, lots of duplicates, screenshots of screens and blurry shots. I'm an expert at these, as I'm not very good at taking photos. One by one, I looked through them, sorted them into albums, and irretrievably deleted 6,533 (12.7 GB) of them. I'm sure many more could have been deleted, but I'm still satisfied. Small steps, mostly forward.
Yeah, but what about the other files? I like the movie Iron Man. I modeled my own JARVIS after him. But while Tony Stark's artificial intelligence and personal assistant controls the whole house, in my case it's just a central repository for documents and notes. I've programmed a simple interface through which I can always find a receipt for a blood donation or a fine. I also scan less important documents into the repository that are not necessary to have in original paper form. I also keep training documents in the same place. Using full-text search and tags for each file, I can always find everything I'm looking for easily.
I've also cleaned up my phone. Google Dashboard told me I was using 170 apps across three different devices. I hid one unused phone and deleted both the installed apps and those that remained among the previously used ones. I was left with 77. I also cancelled my Google Adsense and Google Ads accounts, which were from when I was still experimenting with the services. I also deleted YouTube playlists and comments. I've also deleted a few uninteresting feeds in Feedly, and I'm following the Zero Inbox method in email.
I also minimize the devices I use. I have three laptops, one desktop and a mobile phone. One laptop is already in the factory settings in the closet, along with the desktop computer and my entire desk. That gave way to a big tree before Christmas. And while I'm wondering when I'll put the computer back together so I can at least tidy it up and copy my data, my girlfriend is browsing IKEA's offerings and planning what to fill the vacated space with.
Every time I couldn't find something, every time I got a notification I wasn't interested in or a Feedly article popped up that I just cross-clicked, it cost me my time and my attention. I couldn't clean up everything and there are some things I'm still working on, but I'm glad for every bit of chaos removed around me.