I have this drawer full of electronic data. By far, almost all of it is made up of copies of copies of copies. This is the problem with data, isn’t it? You back it up here, then you back it up again there later. My drawer tells the story of 20 years of technological evolution. Much like my videos, that I kept for years because I moved overseas while they were still in circulation, and never had the time, my own place and VCR to clear them, data storage was something that just kept evolving onto new devices and I never had it all together to sort out once and for all. Bet you’re not surprised about that! So how does one try to tackle years of photos, documents, videos and other data on a multitude of storage devices? How far back are we talking?

Well, if we look over twenty years, it’s quite simply data on everything.

  • Floppy discs
  • Compact discs
  • USB thumb drives
  • Portable hard drives
  • Cloud data, plus
  • iPod
  • Old(not quite smart) phones
  • Old tablet
  • Laptop
  • Current mobile phone

My initial thoughts are to tackle one type at a time. I don’t do well with forests and overwhelm and big pictures. Give me the trees and manageable chunks any day.

Recently, in an effort to get started, I purchased a floppy disc reader drive thing. I guess it doesn’t work great with Macbooks because it read one disc and couldn’t read anymore. I did have them backed up years ago but I know that not all of them read properly, so I wanted to sort them out and make sure I had everything I wanted. I had already gone through my primary hard drive and the back-up of some of the discs and reviewed everything from the 1990s. Content? Email forwards, typed letters to friends, school work mostly. Deleted a lot as I went. So I questioned myself if I really even need any of this stuff? Well, I also was a budding writer and wrote fiction stories that used to get top marks at school back then and I hope to accumulate a little portfolio and create a Blurb book of my stories. I did find one which I read about peer pressure and suicide and it freaked me out how it hadn’t really dated at all and was still a prevalent subject impacting youth today. I think letting go of the past does have its place but sometimes there are those little gems worth keeping, and it can be easier to keep the whole lot and feel overwhelm, when really It’s worth putting in the time and effort to look for your gold and hold onto only them, and perhaps transfer them into something you can really treasure and/or display.

The next time I sit down to this I want to try the floppies with my old tablet, which may be more viable. The store hasn’t been supportive in helping me find the right driver for my laptop to overcome the reading issue, so if my tablet doesn’t read the discs then the drive has been a waste of money. So fingers crossed for a solution there. At the least I’d like to delete the floppy content so I feel better about recycling the discs.

One good thing about my time poor system is that over the years, I have kept a kind of master hard drive where everything is kept and actually sorted, if not properly then at least into photos and documents, then into year and location – eg UK 2004-2006; Bahamas 2006-2008. This explains why I think everything else is a copy. While in lockdown recently I even spent a few hours going through the master hard drive and sorting the messy document folders, reorganising the folders into like with like and deleting copies. Gee it felt good.

So the compact discs will be pretty straightforward I think, they are largely photos, organised well and the folders will be the same on the hard drive. I hope *fingers crossed*. When we get to the USBs and portable hard drives things get way messier and there is actual sorting and identification to be done. And then with old devices and even new ones – ouch, my phone has 30,000 photos largely from the past 14 months of travel! – it’s more time and organisation required. Yikes.

Recently I’ve been focussing on my wins, the decluttering that was well, maybe not easy but bigger jobs definitely done and celebrated – like the negatives, the videos. The purpose of this is to identify a real challenge. It makes me recall an accountability partnership I did with a few members of a facebook decluttering group a few years back. We all set out to clear as many photos from our phones as we could, and to post about our small wins throughout the month, in a private facebook group message. I think this is a public version of that. Herein lies the intention. I’d like to check back later and say, all the compact discs are ready for recycle! All the additional portable hard drives are on their way out the door! Wouldn’t it be great?

But I also post it to put to others. How many ways are you still keeping hold of your data? How organised is it? How long would it take you to go through it? Care to join me in a challenge?

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