[This story was originally posted on my personal blog]
I've always had this itch of organizing the stuff that I come across every day, sometimes to an extent that it's over-organized for me to access later. It's partly because my mind keeps on shifting its perspective of how I see (and want to see) things around me and otherwise it's something that comes straight out of me being an over-thinker for things that do not need that much of thinking. I might arrange objects in a particular way, only to completely remodel the entire space, arguably making my previous attempt to make things 'right' look like a complete waste of my productive time.
The following are a few items that I enjoy cleaning up and believe to be reducing my stress.
My To-Do list keeps growing like crazy. It does help me track ideas and the things that I might need to be doing, but as it grows it tends to scare me with what's upcoming (especially the looking at the count of items in the list), often leaving my mind in a state where I find it very difficult to focus on the tasks that I currently have at hand.
To me, cleaning a To-Do list could either mean scheduling items that are still in the unscheduled state, better organize them by re-assign tags that make more sense to me (at that particular instant), or even deleting the items that I might have added a while back and do not seem to be worth doing or even making any sense at the time of the clean-up. And yes, it also helps me look past the mess I have in front of me.
I can discover tasks that were planned way back but got lost among other 'less important' ones. Finally, it also helps me discover the 'filler' tasks that I could potentially pick up when there's relatively nothing else to do, which I know is rarely the case, but who knows?
My digital list collection is another place to look for those buried lists and plans that never got converted into tasks and eventually scheduled and picked up to be worked upon. On the other hand, there's so much that does not need to be worried about or carried around anymore.
It mostly does not cost anything to keep this kind of useless data around, especially if you're on a free plan on the platform or service (Dynalist in my case) that you're using to maintain these lists, but when taken out, it does help me to find what I might be looking for faster and easier.
No matter how much time I spend on my collection of web bookmarks in Google Chrome, it doesn't take long for the tree to grow out of control and very overwhelming to look at.
Bookmarks can get accumulated quickly, especially with my pattern of web-browsing. It goes like: anything interesting that I come across and/or I feel needs more time and dedicated attention gets thrown into a subtree that I usually revisit regularly. As the second step, these deferred bookmarks get further categorized and sorted according to priority and subject. When the time finally comes to visit the web-resource it points to, it either gets deleted after sharing it with people who might find it interesting or stashed into the rest of the well-organized tree for almost forever.
My tree has been growing since I first started using Google Chrome, which is almost a decade now. Funny enough, I used to maintain an excel worksheet of internet URLs that I wanted to store as a future reference instead of saving them as 'favorites' on my Internet Explorer as they would otherwise be lost. As the bookmarks on my Google Chrome are associated with my account and the task of maintaining the collection for me is now taken care of by Google, it is the right place to maintain that kind of data. I recently conducted a moderately deep clean-up in my bookmarks collection and what I got from the result of the time-consuming (and arguably boring) activity is what I believe to be one of the cleanest bookmark collections I've seen to date, not that I have a habit of peeking into people's bookmarks.
On all my computers, I have a projects graveyard where I perform coding experiments and most of the code residing there never makes its way out. Although some developers share their collection on GitHub or other similar places, I keep mine private and call it 'kitchen' on every single workstation of mine. Most of the ideas developed and polished there get life in the form of some other public project but the mess in the kitchen tends to keep growing quickly.
Visiting these directories every once in a while and getting rid of waste helps me come across any unfinished experiments or at least helps me free some space on the tiny SSD on my MacBook Pro. Regardless, cleaning the kitchen feels great.
My digital data on the cloud tends to get out of hand as well. During my early years of using computers to store data, this kind of data used to be stored in smaller hard-drives and USB flash drives that were far easier to run out of storage capacity on. With my not-so-recent move to virtually infinite cloud-storage, space is not an issue anymore, and I expect it to be that way for at least another decade before I start running out of space again. However, re-arranging files and deleting unrequired data gives me a sense of satisfaction greater than what I achieve after refactoring a piece of code that I wrote a decade back.
It could be unused software on my computers, apps on my phone(s) that I might have never used and forgotten about, plugins on my text-editor or even extensions on my web-browser, the list can go on. Apart from the most obvious advantage of speeding up my work environment by removing the redundant bloat that not only do I not need anymore but also do not remember the reason to exist, it makes space for new stuff to come in: think new apps, extensions or productivity tools, etc.
There's much more:
- Email subscriptions so that I do not need to delete multiple emails from the same sender every day as if it was a daily ritual
- Games library so that I don't feel bad for myself every time I come across it on discovering the huge list of games that I own but do not have time to play anymore
- Browser autofill info so that I have a shorter list of credentials, addresses, payment methods, etc. to choose from while filling a web form
- Physical desk so that I have to move lesser stuff around for being able to access other stuff
- My car not because it helps me in any way, but I just like doing it down to the smallest detail possible
As you might have guessed, the list does not end there.
More than the amount of stress relief I tag these activities with, I also believe that they grant me some sort of a short-term productivity boost. I feel a little more focused and motivated towards doing what I'm currently doing, and that too with a fresh perspective until there's need for another round of clean-up.