Opinion

Could the KonMari method help us with our digital mess too?

By Camay Abraham

Updated Oct 12, 2021 at 11:38 AM

Reading time: 3 minutes

Does this dick pic spark joy for you? You may not ask that exact question to yourself, but those scrolls of texts from an ex-love, the hundreds of selfies you’re not planning to use, or the idle apps and files filling up your phone and computer can be overwhelming to clear out—leading to letting our digital clutter to take over our digital space. This digital clutter not only affects our screens but also affects our mental space, so why not curate only the best digital items that will spark joy by employing the cult-cleaning power of the KonMari Method?

It’s safe to say that everyone has seen or at least heard of the KonMari method. Created by Japan’s tiny tidy queen, Marie Kondo, it’s a philosophy and lifestyle that ignited a bestselling book, hit Netflix series, and a cult following of immaculately folded wardrobes. If you’re not familiar, it’s an organising and decluttering system based on how an item makes you feel, instead of focusing on practicality (popularly known as spark joy). And just like cleaning your flat can positively affect your mental health, so does cleaning your digital space. 

Do we need to care if we’re cluttering our devices? It’s easy to think of our devices and even our cloud storage as boundless. So what’s the harm right? On an environmental level, files that are uploaded into our computer and uploaded to the internet use up storage space. As data is sustained through data server centres, it uses high amounts of electricity, emitting volumes of heat, using large amounts of land and billions of dollars to shelter. On a psychological level, warehousing thousands of files on our devices can bring mental strain. Ironically, Kondo suggests putting photos on a hard drive or cloud storage system, which might be more practical, but does not solve the mental and digital clutter.

The oceans of memes, photos, apps, and texts to sift through may be overwhelming, so it’s easier to let it live in our devices. The volume of what we accumulate may intimidate us but there’s also a psychological reason behind our apprehension. According to Russell Belk’s 2013 study, we’re more reluctant to delete items if we invest time and energy. Whether it be time investing in text messages with our lover, hours taking the perfect selfie, and even time downloading an app and going through the signing up process. These digital possessions create a collection of ourselves and use it as a reminder of an experience. 

That’s not to say these memories are accurate—who’s really truthful digitally anyway? But as enhancing emotion and nostalgia of the experience. These memories are artefacts that represent old relationships, old memories, an old you. We keep them to reflect on our mistakes, our achievements, and our growth as human beings. According to Kondo who spoke with CNN, “The biggest mistake with digital tidying is focusing too much on what to discard.” Like everything else in the KonMari method, you should only keep things that are valuable to you, makes sense in your lifestyle, and “spark joy”.

On the flip side, too many digital memories can disable you to remember that experience. Based on reports from Business Insider, people took 1.2 trillion photos in 2017 alone. Those numbers have risen exponentially since then. According to Linda Henkel, a professor of psychology at Fairfield University in Connecticut, when you use your camera to save the experience instead of your brain, it stops you from creating an emotional attachment to the memory. This phenomenon aptly named the ‘Photo Taking Impairment’ affects not only your mental space but your digital space as well—like junk in your closet.

This unemotional disconnect to our digital memories also stems into how we interact with our apps. According to Statista, the number of app downloads in 2017 reached 178 billion, with this figure predicted to rise to 258 billion by 2022. According to a 2018 report by Business of Apps, users spend 80 percent of their time with their top ten favourite apps—an average of 10 apps a day, or 30 per month. As our attention spans are lowered we are more likely to delete apps more frequently—29.1 percent of Android phone users and 25 percent of iPhone users let apps sit in their phones for at least a day before they are unceremoniously deleted.

Some may argue that due to our nonchalance towards our digital possessions and how easily they can be duplicated, they hold less of an emotional attachment. On the contrary, these digital possessions could hold even more credence. But in many regards, existing in the digital sphere already makes them more precious—photos, texts, and apps can be accidentally deleted, your device could be stolen, or the dreaded phone in the toilet. Today so many of our memories rely on the existence of online platforms, of hardware and software, and it is when these technologies crash that we are reminded of their ephemerality.

The attachment to our digital possessions and the fear of losing them garners us to obsessively back up files, thus creating even more digital clutter. We need to pivot our thinking and see our digital space as a personal space. If we’re more mindful—the KonMari way—it would ease our mental strain and bring more meaning to what we allow to live in our screens. So I’ll ask again—does that dick pic spark joy for you?

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