Can I be a digital minimalist?

Why do I want to be a digital minimalist? 

I was walking up to the library yesterday to pick up some holds, and I thought about checking out the DVDs to see if there is anything I would like to watch. I quickly reminded myself that watching DVDs is a bit difficult because I have to set up an older laptop that has a DVD player. Maybe I will just see what is new on Netflix.

Wait a minute!

Does the 10th Doctor think I should be a digital minimalist? He is shocked

What is new on Netflix? I have an overwhelmingly large queue on Netflix and what do I do? Search for the new. Why do I need to search for anything new!? Why did I feel a small thrill at the prospect of mining Netflix for new material when I have 100 of things already chosen from their collection. I have been minimizing my physical stuff, but it might be time to confront my digital clutter! This is not the portrait of a digital minimalist.

A list of my lists

There are many places where I keep lists. I have a Pocket account with lots of articles, bookmarks on different browsers, Google Docs full of links, Trello boards with many links, the aforementioned library lists…. But I will give you a list of things I see regularly in my internet browsing. This is what I consider my psychic baggage.

  • Netflix:
    • Movies and TV-272
    • And so many of these are TV series, which means hours and hours of viewing.
  • Hulu:
    • Movies and TV-55
    • Hey, not bad!
  • Amazon:
    • Movies -162
    • TV- 133
  • Kanopy:
    • Movies, Great Courses, and documentaries-165
    • This is our library’s video platform.
  • Youtube:
    • 734 watch later
    • 79 subscriptions
    • 96 playlists
  • Gmail:
    • Primary- 8,090   (2,111 unread)
    • Social- 6151
    • Promotions-54,747
      • 3548 of them are Old Navy/Gap/Banana Republic
    • Update-28,696
    • Forums-2361
  • Pinterest:
    • 5,353 pins

So many things!

With all the things on my lists, you might think it is a breeze to find something to watch, right?

The old adage “500 channels and nothing to watch” is alive and well, but now instead of cable doing it to us, we do it to ourselves in queue after queue!

I don’t see the things in my queues, or they all seem old or not interesting when I am actively seeking something to watch. So instead I just go to the new stuff.

A million years ago, I worked at Dress Barn and we had layaway back in the day. It was the same thing there. I would have two types of clothes I would put on layaway: brand new stuff as soon as it came in and super cheap stuff on clearance. And then I would have this never-ending layaway stash. I would pay on it and take it out every few weeks and maybe decide to buy one or two things from the pile, but also would put a lot of stuff back because I had worked around these pieces of clothing for months and I was tired of seeing them. The pile didn’t get down to zero until I went on maternity and then quit. I would get to the point where I couldn’t *see* the clothes because there were so many.

The same thing happens with my video lists. I get very excited and actually have times when I sit at my computer and just add interesting things to my lists. And then they sit. When I want to watch something, everything on my list feels stale. And most of the sites have poor list viewing pages. If I click to see what something is about, I will be taken back to the top. So it is easier to just look at what is new and recommended. Which is more exciting anyway because it is new.

The other bad habit I have is not removing things from my watch list after I have watched it. I have a lot of things that still show up, even if I am done with them.

The reality is, I either watch something that I scrolled by, something I was talking or thinking about recently, or a repeat of one of the following shows:

  • The Office (American version)
  • The West Wing
  • Mad Men
  • Bob’s Burgers
  • Doctor Who

What to do?

I know that in a lot of ways, it doesn’t matter, but it feels overwhelming and like I said, like psychic baggage. It is the paradox of choice. I would like to change it. Time to consider becoming a digital minimalist. 

My steps to change

As I was writing this post, I deleted my entire promotions tab in Gmail. I am very easily influenced. I enrolled in a PhD program on the recommendation of one professor, I tried to live pillow-free because I watched a Youtube video, and now I have cleaned out my Promotions folder because I read the draft of this post (meta-inspiration!)

My big step is this. I am going to try not to add anything at random to my watch lists. *deep breath*. And I think I will make a one in-one out rule if I see something I just can’t pass up.

The Dude and I went through and found 7 movies from my list that looked interesting. We wrote each down and gave it a number. We are using a Random Number Generator to watch things from the list. After we watch one, we cross it off the paper list AND remove it from my watch list. Once we have watched all 7, we will start over. I suppose it is too much to ask the sites to stop adding new things for a while!

The other thing I am going to start doing is really looking at the lists and deciding what I will actually watch and remove anything that there is even a question about. If I am unsure when looking at it directly, I need to realize that means that I will also simply scroll past when I am looking for things to watch.

It is a very 21st century problem, and kind of a dumb one-but I want to get some sense of control over it.

I would say more, but I gotta watch something from my queue.