September 12, 2006

Letting Go of Computer Clutter

My husband was shocked when we did our tape backup of my TWO hard-drives. I had over 20 gigabytes of mail on my computer. To call myself a computer pack-rat would be putting it ever-so-lightly. I tend to save all of my mail. I had a spidery network of folders in my Outlook program that covered every imaginable email topic. I had friends folders set up by city. I had homeschool folders set up by subject and KONOS topics. I had personal folders galore. I had home-and-garden folders for every household topic you can think of. You name it; I had it in my Outlook personal folders!

My computer got a worm through me clicking a "sign up for Yahoo IM" that my father-in-law's computer (also infected) sent me. I thought it was from someone I knew, but it really was just a worm inside his address book that was sending all of his contacts the same message. I usually don't fall for those types of things. In fact, I delete almost every attachment that is sent to me. Not this time. The worm completely halted my email functions. I couldn't send or receive email through Outlook. I had to go to my internet provider's website to check my mail. The worm made it very difficult to save my older emails. I kept getting errors when I tried to export to a .pst file. There was just too much mail for me to manually click and drag it all into folders. It was overwhelming.

I had to come to terms that there were going to be a lot of emails lost. This is no easy task for an email pack-rat. I lost all of my husband's emails from Iraq. I lost all of my saved KONOS emails from the past five years that were meticulously organized by character trait and subunit. I lost all of my co-op emails. I feel very blessed that the worm didn't completely destroy my computer, however. I had so many digital photos on my PC that it quite literally would have destroyed up to five years of my life in memories if that were the case.

The point of this post is this: After going through all of my email when the clean-up was complete.... I realized that there was a CRUSHING amount of email I was amassing. It was stressing me out. I vowed that I was going to eliminate all the intricate subfolders and save things in general folders such as "Friends", "Homeschool", "Recipes", etc. No more of this time-wasting habit of keeping everything I get. Yes, it is nice to be able to pull up an email from 2002 on a whim and let someone know definitively what you ate for lunch that day... but is it really necessary? Will the planet stop if you have to say, "I don't know" once in a while? Also, saving emails in a general folder saves time when things are coming in. I can't imagine how much time last year was wasted by me searching for what folder to put things in. Now I can let my computer do the searching for me. There is a keyword search option in Outlook - "FIND"!

I tend to be one of those people who learn things the hard way. When God wanted me to let go of material clutter, he sent a flood. There's nothing as helpful as two feet of oily, fire-ant dotted, muddy water that smells like sewage to help you let go of things you don't need to be hoarding. I guess this worm was my email wake-up call. After praying for God to help me simplify and be a good steward of my time... I think this is an excellent answer to prayers. I honestly feel quite a bit lighter now that I have lived through loosing a lot of email (and not for the first time, either). I'm still breathing. I'm OK. It is going to be a lot easier to store the mail I do need now.

I may be able to find a silver lining to my rain-cloud in regards to the email I've lost... but I'm not sure I can give up my digital photos with such a positive attitude. I have backed those up on tape and am working on a plan to slowly get all of them printed out! Maybe it is time to just go back to 35mm after all! Computer storage isn't all it's cracked up to be.

OH... and if you emailed me in the past month or so and I have not responded... you might want to re-send it! I lost all of my inbox also!

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sagerats said...

You couldn't export your e-mails? That is sad! I have tons of folders and subfolders as well. It's too hard to sort through just one folder. I don't save everything, and I go through them fairly regularly to delete what is no longer pertinent.

Oh, next time you want to copy a bunch of files over at one time, hold the Ctrl key down and click on each folder with your mouse. DON'T scroll and click though that will just copy the files. You need to click, move, click, move.

Abiding in the Vine!

sagerats said...

I guess I should have said that would just copy the files right there in that folder. It doesn't move them to another folder. Trust me, it is very frustrating to discover you have over 200 file copies waiting for you at the bottom of the list of what you thought you had just copied, deleted or moved!

Abiding in the Vine!

Sprittibee said...

Yes, Tia... I have been using Outlook and other email programs since the early 90's. We had Outlook before it's "release" due to our office using NT way back when. I am quite familiar with the procedures of getting mail exported and saved. However, this WORM was really destructive. Even simple procedures were VERY hindered. I have never gotten a virus that was this destructive before. The longer I use computers, the worse the viruses seem to get. I used to be a desktop publisher, administrative assistant, database administrator, etc... so I LOVE ME some EMAIL. I have a tendency to go overboard when it comes to SAVING it, however. It came from the old office-mindset of "covering your rear". Office politics are hard to let die! I have found, as an educator, that saving email has been very beneficial... but on the extreme (as I tend to go to the extreme with anything!), it is also a time-waster. The great thing is that SOME of the emails I saved were sent to me by Yahoo Groups (which saves emails by default). So, in essence, if I really needed something I remembered saving that was from a homeschool e-mail loop... I could go to that yahoo group and do a keyword search to locate it within seconds. I did that not long ago on a local homeschool group and found an email I wanted a quote from. It searched tens of thousands of emails all the way back to the year 2002 and found the EXACT email I remembered!

Here was the quote that was on that email:

"When we started Homeschooling, I felt as though I had tucked a child under each arm and jumped off a cliff. Imagine my surprise to discover we have wings." ~ Maura Seger

I did a keyword search for "cliff" and came up with this email from soooooo long ago! Computers really are wonderful things if used properly. ;)

Thanks so much for your invitation to join the HSB team for the month and leave a tip for the day on the Front Porch. I'm looking forward to it. I've already came up with two more for the rest of the week! I think you'll be excited about them.

Talk with you soon!

Rhonda said...

While I don't think I have 20 gigs of email, I do have a lot. I have 285 messages in my inbox, and that's after clearing the whole thing out when I got a new email address a couple of months ago. I have a hard time deleting things as well.

I get overwhelmed by my email just like I get overwhelmed by my housework.

Josh said...

Wow. 20 gigs of email. That's a lot of email! :)

I use Gmail and archive just about everything. I don't label it, I don't put it in folders. I just read it, and if I want to keep it, I click Archive.

I have faith in Google's Search to find any mail I MIGHT need in the distant future.

It makes things much easier. Like you, I have pack-rat syndrome. If I was using a folder system, I'd be doing what you did: I'd have dozens of folders, with emails all over the place.

Obviously, I prefer my Archive button. :)

Anonymous said...

Hey Heather, I totally understand. I have tons of emails from our homeschool groups, bible study, zillions of scrapbook borders and layout ideas, etc. in my inbox folders I have lost my email three times in the last four years so I understand. It is kind of nice to not be under so much clutter.

As for the digital vs 35 mm, I have to say that the digital is nice and easy to share but I have 1,000 photos to print since April! If they were all on 35 mm I would have rushed to the store to have them processed but since I see them right away, I don't order them right away. I wait for a sale with an online processor provider instead. So now I have way too many photos to print for our scrapbooks! It is just easy to not be in a hurry since there isn't the urgency and excitement to SEE the photos since we are now digital. I have them uploaded to an online site so I can share them with friends and family so I am not in the danger of losing them from my pc and also the online company, that doesn't worry me. I guess I just need to take the time to order them so I can get them scrapbooked! Have a great day, Sue in Orlando

Sprittibee said...

Rhonda... I didn't say I don't get overwhelmed. ;)

Josh... I am beginning to rethink my email situation... but after using MSOutlook for so long, it is really hard to give up. Had I started out with internet mail, I might be tempted to convert... but alas, we are creatures of habit.

I would love for a good sale to come up like 1 or 2 cents a print and I would order EVERY photo I have on digital and then transfer all the files to an online service in the process. Problem is, those sales rarely happen and for the most part, I just CAN't afford to get them printed at regular rates.



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