Against Data Hoarding

How much data do I really need to keep?


Last year I was planning on building a multi-drive NAS with nearly twenty terabytes. I had recently started using my GoPro more and had the idea that I should back up all of my footage. Well, seeing as my current NAS is only two-thirds of the way to a terabyte, I’m glad I didn’t go overboard on a storage server which would still not be utilized more than the one I planned on replacing it with.

As I have finally gotten around to sorting and backing up pictures from this year, I realize how little I actually use the data I have collected. I have so many games I will never get around to playing, videos I will never re-watch, and redundant, triplicate pictures which should have been sorted before being backed up. Of the roughly 650GB of data on my server, only about half of it serves a purpose, either because I will never put the time into accessing it or because my means of accessing it are not efficient.

To speak to the former, I download and save YouTube videos which I find interesting. I like having a tangible copy in case the uploader removes it - very unlikely, but still a possibility. Although my collection is relatively small, I have almost never re-watched a video from it. What is the point of keeping this data? The same argument can be made for old games which I have backed up. I only care to own a small subset of my favorite games for nostalgia’s sake since the rest of the collection will likely never be played.

Regarding my “means of access” comment, I have certain data which becomes less convenient as I collect more of it. For example, I have tried very hard to manually organize my pictures into directories based on categories and dates, but it is nowhere near as streamlined as a photo library program. I tried switching to PhotoPrism, but I really didn’t care for its interface and how it altered filenames and metadata. Point being, if I had an easier way of organizing my collection, I could more easily remove duplicates/bad shots and only keep what I really need. Additionally, after editing a video, I find it pointless to retain the source footage; if the contents didn’t make it into the final cut, they don’t need to be saved elsewhere.

All of this is not to say that data hoarding is pointless in all cases, rather that I find it pointless and sometimes detrimental in a personal collection. Since storage is so cheap and (phsyically) small, it is much easier to horde a digital collection than a physical collection. Although I consider myself a minimalist, and I am discovering now that my digital collection does not reflect such principles. My goal is to perform a digital declutter of sorts and slim down my collection to only contain the essentials, then to be more intentional about adding to the collection going forward.


Tagged: Backup Digital Minimalism