Once upon a time, I predominantly used the email address I was assigned through my college for all of my emails—both school related and personal. Then came a day when I graduated and that email account was going to be completely closed…forever. It dawned on me that I had so many emails that I had a special attachment to and I wanted to save. Good god, what an enormous task!
Going back much further into time, when I was a kid who wrote notes and letters (pre-cell phone days, pre-computer days), I would save those notes in a box that I could much later sift through and make a pile of letters to burn (so liberating!!), and those that I would then sort out into different categories to place in their own special places. Even if I never looked at them again, they were kept in an honoring, and in a beautifully hand-decorated box. This is a task that my brain can grasp on such a physical level, because it is a physical action of holding things in my hands and making visual piles in front of me, and placing them in a ‘home’. I can see how large or how small the piles are at a glance. I can visualize the little book of special letters from my parents. My computer doesn’t quite allow for this same experience, and I find it frustrating, so I am frequently trying to re-create this type of feel ‘inside’ my computer. I make lots of folders nested inside other folders; I have icons with pictures; I color code things in my own made-up categorical system. It sort-sort of works, but it’s just not the same.
Then today while going through my emails and trying to determine which ones are actually important to save and which ones can be “burned,” I remembered the experience of having to “move-out” of my old email address. This was a crazy process that took at least a week of really diligent work. It was a full-time job, and it made me emotionally and physically exhausted. My eyes burned. So what did this process actually look like? I sorted out the most important emails, and I actually printed them out (sorry trees!) and then I put them into a notebook. It created this immense feeling of relief for me. Its like I knew where they were (And I still do—They are currently in a bin in a tree house). They are no longer sitting in ether somewhere, where I was trusting that the internet will live as long as I do. Now they have the freedom to burn in a forest fire, rather than have a tech-problem wipe them out. So much more romantic of a death!
So now, I am looking at all of my many folders in gmail and feeling that I have WAY too many emails. I feel like it clutters my brain to have them all saved. And my god, to attempt to go through and sort through 5GB of emails. What does 5GB of paper letters even look like? I don’t even have a clue. Would it fill my closet? My bedroom? A small church? Whatever it looks like, it feels like too much. Do I want to spend the time to sort them out, to save and to burn? Should I just delete everything?
The predominant feeling is to do the same thing I did years ago, and to re-discover the very few that are actually worth keeping, to print them out (maybe on hemp fiber this time) and delete the rest. Moving forward, I vow (yikes!) to do this process more diligently as I go so that I don’t have all this mental clutter in the form of zeroes and ones occupying gigabytes that I will so likely never glance at again.