From Minimalism To Tech

Three Ways to Deal with Data Hoarding

Posted in Minimalism on July 20th, 2017

When it comes to minimizing, I tend to overlook digital data. From my background, majority of my work involves using a computer. The work involves sending and receiving emails, creating Excel spreadsheets, or designing presentations. Since large hard drives are ubiquitous, it becomes easy to just store all the files in folders and access them when needed. However, I have noticed that many times, I forget where my files are and I forget which version of the files has the pertinent changes or information. This also includes many of my photos that I’ve taken on my phone and digital camera. Thousands of digital items can accumulate quickly and many times, I do not want to sift through the files and organize them. I guess I am not on the OCD spectrum to be organized enough to keep my gigabytes of data manageable.

Suggestions to Minimize Data Hoarding

One obvious suggestion is to chuck it all. Get a new computer or a new hard drive to start fresh. Not having to worry about looking at old files, it should ease the mind because it is unlikely you will need those files. I have kept emails that were 10 years old, thinking that I would need to refer to it. I realize now that even if I try to do a search, I would not be able to find what I am looking for.

When it comes to email, it is easy to archive emails into a separate email database. Outlook has a handy feature that will allow automatic archiving. I like to create a separate Outlook file where I can move all my emails for each year. This includes all my sent email. That way, I can narrow down the search by year. Here are some information from the Office team on creating that file. Sometimes company IT will set my inbox limit, which would force me to delete or move emails to my hard drive when large emails are sent to me. If I am over this limit, the system will not allow me to send out any emails. This becomes common when large organizations have inefficient system of sharing data files, like large Excel files.

Like spring cleaning, another suggestion is to do a regular cleaning of folders. I tend to move folders that I have not accessed over three months to a “review” folder with a target date. When I need a file from the review folder, I would move it back to my active folders. Otherwise, by the target date, I would either have organized it or moved it to the virtual trash bin.

Last suggestion would not necessarily be minimalistic. It is more of a lazy method. Or maybe managing risk better. Data loss can be serious. It has become really easy to save everything you own digitally and cheaply. Also, it will not take up more physical space unlike other types of hoarding. Most people will only need one terabyte of digital space, which is very common on most hard drives today. Security and prevention of loss are very important in this information age. The government recommends using the 3-2-1 method for data management and backup. There are many options for securing:

  • Buying an external hard drive and copying all files on a regular basis. Or may decide to move any files I don’t need immediately and save space from my main computer or laptop.
  • Subscribing to a cloud service, like Backblaze or Dropbox. Storing files into the cloud that you can access anywhere without fear of losing the data (unless the company stops doing business). There are other services where the application will automatically copy the files into cloud from your computer at regular intervals.
  • One of my favorites is to backup the whole hard drive of my computer. This will take some technical know-how, as the process may be a bit complicated. This will copy an image of the hard drive, thus if my computer hard drive crashes and is no longer readable, I can either swap out the hard drive, or copy back the image to a new hard drive and run normally without having to reinstall everything.

I have been fortunate to not lose any serious data or valuable hard drives. I also realize that it will be extremely inconvenient if I do lose some of my files. When I had lost my phone, getting a new one and reloading all my apps and contacts would have been a frustrating whole day affair. Backing up the information from my phone has helped ease the process to a couple of hours, instead of the whole day. But, for today I will be cleaning out some gigabytes!

Stay cool this summer, everyone…at least those in the northern hemisphere!

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