Are you a clean sweeper or a hapless hoarder? Paper, folders, ledgers and reems of analogue sheets used to be the order of the day with another cupboard or rack of shelves being purchased to house these wieldy archives. I remember moving house and keeping boxes of old music magazines thinking that they’d come in useful, be valuable, interesting to read at a future date. Ripple dissolve twenty-five years later, they were still in the boxes, curling at the edges and unpleasantly damp. We hadn’t quite got the message of digital storage at the time, being a little apprehensive that a careless mouse glitch could send it all into the abys never to be seen again.
When we did finally move, it took a couple of years and several skips to perform the clean sweep made slightly worse by our children removing what we’d thrown out and putting it back in the house.
The music scores were similar with pages of manuscript being kept just in case I ever wanted to re-record or do it again live. String arrangements, chord charts, jingles and orchestrations long forgotten beyond the original commission lovingly preserved in random piles, fear, coffee stains and uncertainty embedded on every page.
Manuals and instructions from keyboard modules carefully archived in case they were essential when selling the original respective bit of gear.
How long should you keep your accounts? Three years, six years, Vat documents sometimes over seven years? The moment the shredder appeared was that moment of true release.
Now, it’s as easy to buy a new hard drive as it is a loaf of bread; And almost as cheap. Storage is the mainstay of anyone working in the digital domain and to have triple backups as well as time capsules saving daily, weekly, monthly endeavours should be automatic practice.
But still, there are times when we go through the folders and files, finding programmes about which we have no clue, freebies and promotions that looked good but become buried under more offers, friends on Facebook we’ve never met and will never meet, messages that stretch back years with attachments that now won’t open but we still feel the need to keep, just in case. Just in case of what?
It’s at this time you definitely need to do a clean sweep. It used to be cathartic to find an old folder containing loads of documents and be ruthless, throwing away everything you hadn’t looked at for six months or whatever your default time was. Only problem for me anyway was that I couldn’t throw away the empty file binders thinking that they would be useful. Now, with hard drives it’s just as good to give each one a clean-up. Old firewire connections or sluggish bootable bricks can be of use and spinning them up every few months does often prolong their shelf life.
But beware. It’s always that one photo, file or song you’ve been looking for that for a weird reason is the one you can never find especially when you think you know where you initially stored it.
I started to archive ‘off site’ some time ago and decided to send all my music, the library, rare versions of this and that to some mysterious cloud and then hope it could, when needed, be retrieved. To date I’ve never needed to, having kept local copies on various real drives close to home. But it makes me feel better. I know as soon as I stop the subscriptions, I’ll need that stuff that will have mysteriously disappeared.
I know you can’t take it with you but perhaps I’ll get a USB fitted to the coffin just in case of emergencies. You just never know.
Meanwhile, back up the back-ups and chuck things out! Good title for a song that.