Packratism, Online and Off

I’m the first to admit that I’m a packrat. I’m not anal retentive because that would imply I’m organized about it. I’m more of the “throw it all in that room and sort it out later” type guy, where “later” is always a day that never comes. I’m also like this with not only physical goods but the digital. I know intellectually that all of these atoms and bits of squirreled away stuff is in fact a manifestation of my procrastination. I don’t want to make the decision about what to do with it now, so I push it off to the horizon on a timescale that will always be safely distant as to be assumed to be not happening. At this point I’m fighting a rear guard action to avoid becoming one of those crazy old guys that gets buried in their own house under 30 years of unread mail.

Just today I noticed that the same external drive that holds my Time Machine Backups also has a folder called “Videos to Watch.” This thing is full of 56 GB of vlogs downloaded between November 2006 and July 2007. The funny thing is the vast majority are of shows that I probably unsubscribed from right around that time. Channel Frederator, Command N, the Scoble Show on Podtech, Rocketboom in the Joanne Colan era, etc. I unsubscribed because they built up and I didn’t watch them. When I posted about this the other week, this is not a new phenomenon. I was interested in all of these shows in the abstract enough to subscribe but not enough to make the time to watch them with any regularity. It’s an ongoing problem.

Now I have all these episodes of these shows that are a slice in time. One part of me wants to hang on to them for their value to the historical record of new media. The other part of me, the one that is winning right now, wants to delete the whole fricking directory and never think about it again. If I had forgotten I had it, it couldn’t have been that valuable to me. Sure, watching Robert Scoble get demos of products that probably didn’t interest me at the time and may even already be defunct or out of business by now has some mild morbid curiosity factor but frankly I’d rather have those gigabytes back.

Today and through the rest of next week, I’d like to throw away as much stuff as I can stand to from my office. It has become a disgrace that makes my loved ones unhappy and me unproductive. Although I have bounced off of GTD several times, I appreciate the value of its central tenet. Don’t procrastinate, deal with things immediately and decisively and don’t put them off for later or chuck them in the pile of things you will never look at again. This is truly the aspect of myself I like least, and I need to work on it to make myself happier in life. Maybe I’ll find bliss in a pile of trash bags. It could happen.

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Dave Slusher is a blogger, podcaster, computer programmer, author, science fiction fan and father. Member of the Podcast Hall of Fame class of 2022.