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Clutter for the cloud

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In a world where a smartphone rarely leaves your side, getting rid of material possessions in your home doesn’t have to mean getting rid of memories

EXPERT: Tech writer Geoffrey A Fowler

Q I would like to aspire to the Marie Kondo method of decluttering which has inspired many of us to unstuff cupboards and discard piles of belongings banished to spare rooms. But I am sentimental and want to keep memories. Help?

A I think there’s a part of Kondo’s decluttering process that feels out of sync with 21st century tidying up. Kondo told me: “Though digital clutter is not tangible like clutter in your home, I believe it carries the same weight.” I don’t agree. Precious memories don’t need to go into dusty photo albums or the trash. They should go online.

Q So how do I do that? I literally have thousands of photos?

A With always-on internet storage services known as the cloud, I store every photo I’ve taken – about 300 000 and counting. No, that wasn’t a typo. It costs less than about R200 per month.

Q Do you only store photos in the cloud?

A The cloud is where I also keep contracts, receipts, children’s drawings, digital books, Christmas cards, things I want to buy, awesome puns, home videos and music. I can access them anywhere if there’s an internet connection through my phone, laptop, tablet or even TV.

Q Wouldn’t that make you a digital hoarder by Kondo’s standards?

A I think I am a digital maximalist. Moving things to the cloud can make it easier to part with sentimental items – and even get more enjoyment out of things. Cloud providers are getting remarkably good at doing the organising for us with artificial intelligence software. The digital camera is as powerful a cleaning tool as a hefty trash bag.

Q Can you give me some ideas on how to do this?

A Souvenirs: Snap, toss. Recipes: Snap, toss. I’ve even said goodbye to old clothes this way. The problem the cloud can most help solve is piles of photos and papers. You can buy a scanner, or Google has a free and simple Photo Scan app for phones. Side benefit: Turning old photos to digital keeps them safe from fire, floods and further yellowing.

Q Pros and cons of some of the options out there?

A Apple’s iCloud charges $1 (about R13) per month for 50 gigabytes, or about 16 000 photos. It will back up a copy of everything you snap on an iPhone and keep it in designated folders on a Mac.

Even better, your devices will no longer complain about running out of storage – Apple automatically removes stuff stored locally when you’re getting full. 

The downside: Accessing iCloud files on non-Apple devices isn’t as seamless. Google’s Photos and Drive services work best on Android phones, but also iPhones.

It charges $2 per month for 100 gigabytes, and storing photos and video in a lower-quality format is free. Google Photos is generally smarter than Apple Photos.

Although it is less bulletproof on privacy because Google is sorting through your shots on its own servers. (It says it doesn’t use our photos to target ads at us.)

You’ve got options. Microsoft includes 1 terabyte for subscribers to its Office 365 subscription, and Amazon offers unlimited photo storage for Prime members.

A final recommendation for shutterbugs: Adobe’s Creative Cloud feeds directly into its Photoshop Lightroom app that’s fantastic for sophisticated editing. Prices start at $10 per month for a terabyte. Whichever cloud you pick, just promise you’ll keep your stuff secure by using a really good password and turning on the two-factor authentication option.

The Washington Post


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