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Tidying Up Digitally

Originally published as Tidying Up Digitally at www.jeffmcneill.com.

Marie Kondo is an expert on tidying a house. Her Netflix series Tidying Up with Marie Kondo and two books (both of which are worth reading, best in chronological order) are best-sellers: - The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing (The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up) - Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up (The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up) She suggests that her principles can apply to organizations and work life as well. However in both respects the digital aspect is not tackled at all. Even the humble inbox is not discussed, though of course Inbox Zero is an obvious fit to her approach toward paper-based information (which is essentially, to have none of it, or only the bare minimum of contracts and warranties). While other industries have looked to a bit of click-bait around Marie Kondo, such as the Financial Times woefully inadequate How to Marie Kondo your investment portfolio, the idea of using intuitive judgment is certainly something that can apply to other aspects of our lives. Because financial investing is something only experts in financial investing have intuitive expertise in, this application does not work out very well. Gary Klein's Sources of Power is still the best account of how intuition works for experts in time-limited, high-risk situations. For Klein, the subject of research was experts with 15 or more years of experience in high risk decision-making. For everyone who has lived through adolesence, intuition regarding ones household possessions have crossed into that line where there is functioning intuition which can be drawn upon.

Digital Tidying

Applying tidying principles of the Kon-Marie method makes perfect sense in terms of the digital landscape: - Applications and Apps - Email, Documents, and Media (Ebooks, Audio, Video)

Two-Stage Tidying

The two stages of tidying are: - Discarding - Organizing

Digital Discarding

Discarding fairly straightforward: does this application, data, or media provide any spark of joy. One can't hold it in one's hand, but one can nevertheless reach a conclusion. In the case of mobile apps and desktop applications it is fairly straightforward. In some cases, necessity may posit the need to keep something around that is less-than-joyful but also might as well inspire a search for a more joyful replacement.

Digital Organizing

The basics of organizing are putting related things (category, size) in one location. Since digital things are not generally put away, it is the original location that is key (and finding things later). Since files are sometimes best kept by file time (that is, so that programs editing those files can go to a single location, for a certain class of file). Example: Which of the following is preferred: - /brands/brand-x/images/... - /brands/images/brand-x/... In some cases where a given file may deal with more than one brand, then clearly the second is more effective, but in the case of a larger set of files for a specific brand, then the first is definitely a better organization. Obviously both are possible, but it is important not to get too imprecise and flexible, as that generally yields only confusion and file disorganization.

Digital Space

Even given very large storage space, data and applications can clutter a device. Marie Kondo suggests that not the place of use but the place of return is most important (that is, give things a home that it is easy to return it to, rather than trying to optimize for where it is easy to pick up). As mentioned above, storing things in easy-to-remember locations will be key, as putting things back into those locations (a digital file structure) will be very important. Visual clutter is still present when viewing directory trees, and is a significant failing in terms of Linux distributions and their file structures in terms of where applications and related data lives in logical drives.