Unplugging the Collection

It’s really getting down to the wire here for reaching my goal of 52 posts this year. It seems such a small number, and yet, I couldn’t get myself to write even a simple post once per week.

So now I’m cranking them out any spare moment I have. I’m not joking when I tell prospective employers I work extremely well under tight deadlines.

I’ve freed myself from the mindset that each and every post has to be 750 words or longer, or else filled with an array of photos. I’m simply WRITING. More on that to come (soon, obviously).

For today, since I’m in the middle of another project, I’ll tell you about it.

Along with focusing more on writing, I’m trying to focus a whole lot less on everything else. Earlier this week I announced my intent to step away from the massive time-suck known as Facebook at the end of the year. More people than I expected have expressed sadness, but it’s also made me look at how I manage relationships with the people in my life. Are they true, authentic, and genuine relationships, or have I been collecting “friends” the way I had, for years, collected music and photos?

This digital age allows us to amass huge “collections” of whatever we desire: music, movies, books, photos, inspiration, and yes, even friends. But do we really value what we collect?

Over the last few weeks I’ve been purging my obnoxiously-large iTunes library. Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I listened to about 94% of the music on there. Why do I let it sit there, collecting digital dust? Do I want to honor the money I spent buying the songs? Am I trying to impress anyone with an offhand, “oh yeah, I have that album” comment? Or is it time to let go? I tossed all but about 15 of my CDs in the Goodwill bin about six months ago, and I haven’t missed a single one. It’s time to do that digitally. Sure, I’ll keep some rare music, or albums from local bands I loved who’ve since broken up, but I really don’t need every single Ben Harper album. I can just go listen on Spotify if that’s what I really want. As the Minimalists state, access, not excess.

So too have I begun purging my photo collection. I realized not only do I have way too many photos, but I’ve also shared way too many. What happened to my pioneer mentality? Pioneers didn’t bother showing people what they were doing. They just did it, and appreciated it themselves. I went back and deleted about half the photos I’d shared on social media because they weren’t contributing anything to the world, aside of stroking my ego with “likes.” Then the truly tough task began: purging the photos from my phone and computer.

I was able to narrow down the pics I wanted to keep into a few key categories: family, friends, pets, music (as in, bands I was in, or gigs I played – probably not a very standard category), adventures/travel, and current life. Quite serendipitously, I received a free photo book coupon from Shutterfly when we ordered our holiday cards, so – as with the blog – I had a deadline to narrow down my photos in order to get a printed fancy photo album.

You may have by now guessed I’m in the middle of arranging the album, and that’s why I stopped to write today’s blog post. Turns out I had fewer photos than I expected, after deleting ones that didn’t truly bring me joy. So instead of being just an album of family and pets, I’m having to take the next step and pare down my adventure photos to 10-11 per trip and pop them on a page too. I wanted to put that off, because I didn’t want to narrow my travel photos down. How do I choose the best photos from over 200-300? But, back to the pioneer mentality, who NEEDS 300 photos from one week of their lives?

Sure, I’ll keep some of the travel photos on my computer to post on my Instagram and on this site when I’m writing about certain places, but are they all album-worthy? Is every single photo worth putting into physical form and carrying around with me, wherever we end up next?

I thought not.

Having deleted over half the photos on my phone and thousands off my computer, everything feels lighter. It’s also allowing me to spend less time on my devices. If I open Instagram with the intent to post a photo but realize I only have pictures of my cat and my fiancé on my phone – which matter to me, but nobody else – I put my phone away and stop the over-sharing. Baby steps. The photo book coupon expires Thursday, so I have one more day to review my choices. Whew.


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