Free Yourself From Your Files

Minimalist GNU/Linux recently had an interesting post on the freedom found in not constantly moving files from one computer to another.

Apparently, Aberinkulas moved back to Ubuntu and didn’t bring over many files. Lo and behold, he’s doing fine.

I’m obsessive about backing my computers up, but I rarely move files over after an upgrade and/or reinstallation. The fact of the matter is, I rarely need the vast majority of my files. So I have many of them backed up, both on a local external drive and in the cloud via Jungle Disk. But if I access a file from Jungle Disk more than twice a year, it’s a lot.

And, to be fair, I have a small core of files that I do port over from distro to distro. But I’ve long stopped trying to preserve every file and photo I’ve ever had on a computer.

Part of this is a luxury, since I know I have a copy of most important things somewhere, but a bigger part of it is just letting go and recognizing I’m going to lose things over time. Just like I often lose physical things in the real world.

In fact, when I dumped my iPod Touch for a Nokia N810, I dumped most of my music and started over. My music collection had become bloated and unmanageable from years of adding music without taking anything away. There was stuff I hadn’t listened to in years. Starting with a blank slate was completely liberating. I got to think about what music I missed and then opt into it, rather than figuring out what I wanted to get rid of. Sure, it required the re-burning of quite a few CDs, and some music did need to be re-purchased, but it was a small price to pay for a music collection that reflects my current tastes rather than my taste five years ago.

Back in 2004, weeks before my wedding, the roof of my apartment caved in. It wasn’t as dramatic as it sounds, but the damage wound up destroying my desk, along with the years worth of junk I had accumulated (both inside and on the desk). Obviously, I was upset at first, but in the end, I was relieved. I was relieved I no longer had to deal with all of the stuff I had moved from apartment to apartment (and was about to move to another apartment). The cave in freed me from the increasingly growing pile of papers I was constantly moving, like some kind of modern, white collar Sisyphus.

There’s definitely a time and a place for backing stuff up, but in certain cases, we really overthink the process. Sometimes it’s OK to leave files behind. With all of the cloud-based storage options, if you didn’t care enough to back it up when you originally created it, there’s a good chance you won’t ever need it again.

So with the new year about to start, why not make a resolution to not back up the junk that accumulates on our hard drives. Free yourself from your electronic detritus and make a commitment to leave it behind the next time you have the opportunity to wipe your computer (which for most Linux people, is like every six months or so).

And if while thinking about all of this, you realize there are some files you simply can’t live without, do yourself a favor and make sure they’re backed up somewhere.

Jungle Disk and Dropbox both have great Linux clients.

Just use them mindfully.