“As undergraduates, you realize that cleaning is very cost-ineffective, and why would you bother?”
Professor Ralph Noble, professor of psychology
One thing I learned about cleaning up is that you should do it regularly and ruthlessly. Sure, there are some memories one want’s to keep, but most of the stuff that accumulates over the years is just baggage … encumbering you and slowing you down.
And there was one tip that is really helpful — if you are unsure about whether to keep it or not, pack it into a box, write the date on it, and put it away. If you haven’t opened that box for a year, throw it away, unopened.
Personally, I tend to throw it away whenever I ask myself whether I should keep it or not, but that’s only for physical objects. With digital data I’m more of a squirrel — I keep stuff I wanted to read, to do something with it or just to enjoy for ages. But now that I’m transferring much of my data from two Wikis into DEVONthink (more on that in a later posting) and reduce the Wikis to a single one that serves as a pure Archive, I’ve started to clean up my harddrive. And finding a lot of really interesting files (again!) I’ve started to transfer that tip to the digital world.
I could make a folder with the current date and put all the stuff inside, but it would still show up in Spotlight or Quicksilver (unless I exclude it in the System Preferences). And the thing is, I want it gone. I want it off my harddrive and so I’m burning it on DVD, write the current date on the DVD and if I do not use that DVD in a year, I’ll throw it away.
That’s not the way to deal with photos of course, who might show their true value only after a few years (decades even), but with web clippings, pdfs, and other stuff, I think that’s the way to go for me.
Perhaps it’s of use to you too.