Yes, I admit it. I am a hoarder. Though you won’t find cascading piles of newspapers through the house or insane collections of useless items. Well, OK, maybe slightly insane…
But, the hoarding I do is on the computer. After all, there is so much room. And you can just keep adding drives!
But, as in the physical realm, I find that there is an inverse relationship of quantity to usability. More stuff yields less utilization:
As you can see from the example of Recipe Utilization, there are two conflicting processes in the brain. The “supply” thought process has a positive relationship between interest in the subject and subsequent acquisitions. The “demand” or actual utilization of resources yields an inverse relationship: as quantities increase, demand decreases as there becomes too much to choose from. Clearly, the maximum utility arises from the intersection of the two processes.
Interestingly enough, at the left side of the graph, with very few recipes to choose from, one makes a lot of mac and cheese. At the right side, though having lots of cookbooks, out of frustration, one tends to make a lot of mac and cheese.
What do I hoard? Clearly recipes are in the mix. I had the brilliant notion some years ago of scanning the recipes I like from cookbooks and thus be digital and organized (note the erroneous idea that ‘digital’ has some relationship to ‘organized’). So, my thinking was that I couldn’t manage recipes with too many cookbooks, but somehow having them on my computer makes them manageable. Now I have over 1500 recipes totaling 3.8 GB. Do I use them? There are my tried and true faves I go back to. Otherwise, I’m more likely to do a search on Epicurious. Oh, and the two shelves of cookbooks? Still there.
But all in all, 1500 recipes doesn’t seem too crazy. So, let’s look at sheet music. When I started playing the accordion over 20 years ago, finding decent tunes was difficult, so I snagged everything I could find. Currently, there are lots of great sources of music, but unfortunately my music-starvation thinking remains. The upshot: my computer now has over 10,000 PDFs using 16.6 GB. Bear in mind, a lot of these pieces are actually books containing 20-50 individual songs. Here is how compelled I am to get music: I have gone to Russian music sites, put my hand over my eyes (so I won’t see how stupid I’m being) and clicked ‘Download’. Luckily, nothing bad happened. And I pay an annual membership to a French site that uploads 5-10 new pieces each day. Which I then download. Do I try playing all these pieces? How could I? It’s too much!
Of course, that doesn’t come close to the iTunes collection: over 36,000 songs and audiobooks totaling 1.1 TB. How much of that music do I listen to? Hardly any! Again, an inverse relationship exists. I used to listen to music non-stop. Now, how do I choose?
Then there are fonts. We love fonts! In fact, my font folder has over 50,000 items totaling 2.4 GB. A few years ago, I spent weeks in Suitcase, well over 100 hours in total, organizing all the fonts. I created useful categories and sets and deleted duplicates and crappy free fonts. It was fabulous and worked well. Then Suitcase was replaced with Suitcase Fusion and wouldn’t import my customization. Back to Helvetica!
So what does one do when faced with too much data? I’ve attempted organization with folder systems and started databases, but they fall away into disuse as it would truly be a full-time job to effectively create and maintain a complete system. My latest theory is to accept that the bulk of data will remain unexamined and unloved, but I can peel off the top 10% or so and organize those in a database. It doesn’t have to be perfect or complete, just usable. I find it helpful to maintain a log of the database design and where I left off as I can’t rely on my failing synapses alone. I’m using sets and smartsets in Suitcase Fusion to track my favorite fonts—forget the rest. Bill found his iTunes solution (with 54,000+ songs) is to create a monthly playlist containing all the new music purchased that month and loading it on the iPod/iPhone/iPad so he actually listens to it all and rates every song. He then creates an annual playlist containing his favorites for the year. He is great at the simple, yet elegant solutions.
Now, before you feel all self-righteous about your sleek clean system, I’d suggest you tally up your photos…Share this: