Organization

A Very Useless Task

For the last six weeks, I’ve been working on several tasks haunting me for decades. We all have folders of photos, thousands of documents, and a million little “one day” projects. These unfinished projects speak to me like the classic Victorian dead child in every horror movie. “Kristen, come out and play.” Whenever I’m looking for something else and stumble onto the “Oh yeah, I was going to upload all my old podcasts” folder, I cringe and feel bad about myself. It only adds to my already stressful life. I am, without a doubt, ruled by my to-do list. It was only during my three-year stint with Lyme Disease I found out what happens when you totally ignore it. You guessed it: It’s a hydra. It just keeps growing more heads until it’s Cthulhu. I wish I could disconnect.

Recently, I came to a startling conclusion that baby steps are better than no steps. I know, real original. I devised a plan to tackle all these oldies but goodies sitting on my computer and accept that doing a few minutes every week was better than nothing at all. Progress is better than mold. For six weeks, I’ve worked on all of my outdated projects for a few minutes each. It’s a long list that grows the more I work on it. I’m not sure how that’s possible and last week I was feeling pretty discouraged. How is the list growing? I speculate it’s like a cat in a box. If it fits, it sits. You cat owners know what I’m talking about. Put a box on the table, and the next time you look, your cat has squeezed its chubby adorable ass into it, making for a hilarious photo op. Lists, like cats in boxes, are merely opportunities. Once you check off an item on your list, turn your back, and like magic, another item fills the empty slot. Maybe a better analogy is weeds or house dust. They keep coming.

So, like I was saying, I was feeling pretty discouraged last week. It felt like I wasn’t making any progress. I did a little math and calculated that at my present speed, I would be done importing my old blog posts into my digital journal in four years. I will be fifty-three in 2028 and then what should I do? Eat a cookie? Order a singing telegram? I’ll be fifty-three, I should order a stripper telegram. How does one celebrate finishing a useless task? I could have cried. And importing the old blog is only one of three dozen items on my “unfinished projects” list. It’s one thing to begin positive forward momentum but another to hear the end date. Like figuring out how much you spend on digital streaming every year. Don’t do it. It’s possible ignorance truly is bliss.

Ok, so let me explain a bit how I’m doing this.

I have a master list of things I’ve been putting off and want to do. The list includes items like organizing thirty-thousand photos and all the folders on my Mac (of which there are thousands), keeping email to a minimum, various weekly Five South tasks, cleaning out voice mail, deleting hundreds of junk texts, deleting and organizing old notes from my Notes app, updating WordPress databases, and more. Each item gets five minutes per week. That doesn’t sound like much, but you can actually get a lot done in five minutes. I set a timer and get to work. I figure hitting all of them simultaneously for a few minutes a week would move the needle more than totally ignoring them. Except, I wasn’t making a difference. It felt exactly like treading through mud.

Until today. Let it be known that today, February 10th, 2024, I finished organizing my Chrome bookmarks. We’re talking twenty years of bookmarks, which started in the 500+ range, many of which were exported from when I was a PC user and have traveled from Internet Explorer to Netscape to Firefox to Safari to Chrome. I didn’t even know what was in there and began questioning why I cared for a folder of links I never even looked at. But then I thought, “What if I did look at them?” The problem with bookmarks is the old “outta sight, outta mind.” You’re reading the internet and thinking, “I should save this pupper,” and you intend to go back someday and never do. Not ever. Not later, not twenty years from now. I have a folder dedicated to all my wedding links from fifteen years ago. Dude. Do I need those? Kind of. 

During this exercise, I learned something important about bookmarks. All those recipes, shopping websites, and interesting articles represent the person I want to be. Not just who I want to be now but who I wanted to be twenty years ago. The old browser bookmarks folder is like a time machine taking me back to who I was in 2002 when all I cared about was making it work with the guy who had rage issues. I was in my twenties, footloose and fancy-free, working shitty jobs and dreaming about a better future – the life I have now. Girl, appreciate how far I’ve come. It’s marvelous to see myself through the eyes of wishful thinking. The photography how-to articles or the health concerns I had back then and don’t now. And because of this exercise, I’m actually reading things I said I would read, like this article, “10 Ultra-Weird Science Fiction Novels that Became Required Reading,” I bookmarked who knows when or why. What was I into at the time? I can stop and think about that for a minute, and slowly, I’m learning about myself again. Is that neat or what? I’m a sucker for nostalgia and maybe the real reason I’m organizing my bookmarks folder is because I need to look back.

Granted, despite what they told us in 1992, the internet is not forever. Domain registrations lapse and about 300 bookmarks were dead links. The people who ran those websites I loved have moved on. I used a Chrome extension called “Bookmarks Clean Up” to clear out the corpses. What’s left is a better-categorized system I can use. Or maybe they’ll just sit for another twenty years. The point is, it’s done. A job I’ve been dreading and ignoring for two decades is off my plate. I know now that tackling these jobs in small bites is the way to go. It’s certainly delayed gratification, but the gratification awaits me. Perhaps this is what they mean when they say, “Enjoy the ride.” Life is a journey, of course, and occasionally, we get off and see the sights; in this case, “the sights” being organizing my bookmarks.

Clearing out my bookmarks isn’t going to solve world hunger or cure cancer, but I have a feeling it’s made me a better person, even at a microscopic level. The end result is positive because digital clutter weighs on you, speaks to you, and rents space in your head. And now that it’s done, I can move on to something else. So, how does one celebrate completing a useless task? By starting another one.

 


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