Desperately in Need of a Digital Makeover

by Risa Green

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I will admit that I’m not the most organized person.

My desk is a mess of papers - scrawled notes for my book, printouts of Amazon purchase confirmations, stray phone numbers that I have yet to put into my contacts folder, old to-do lists with outstanding items on them. And my kitchen is a mess of piles - bills I need to pay, kids’ artwork I need to photograph, Target receipts for things I need to return.

I wouldn’t go so far as to call it an organized mess; semi-organized is perhaps a better description. In all of my papers and piles, I know where stuff is most of the time.

It turns out, however, that I’m not only a mess in my analog life. My digital life is a disaster, as well. The calendars on my PC and my iPhone aren’t synced, so I have to enter every event twice. Which I always remember to do, except for when I don’t. And I’m a digital hoarder. Like people who can’t throw away 1980s acid washed jeans in case they come back in style, I have over a thousand items in my inbox - dating back to 2003 - just in case I might need to reference them someday.

And I use email on my phone as a reminder to do things. For example, if someone sends me an email saying that I need to bring snack for a soccer game in three weeks, it stays on my phone’s inbox - where I see it every time I check my phone - until I go out and buy the snack. I would put it in my calendar, but that would mean entering it twice. And anyway, sometimes I forget to check it.

My husband, however, could not be more opposite. In our office, we recently bought matching desks so that each of us would have our own workspace. One of them is beautiful with nothing on it but a computer and some neatly stacked magazines. The other one is mine. His inbox is empty at the end of every day. His receipts are neatly filed. He doesn’t keep texts and voicemails on his phone for six months because he’s too lazy to put the numbers in his contacts folder.

I would like to be like him. I really would. But I can’t. And it’s not just because I’m not capable of being that organized, although I suspect that that’s true as well. It’s because, in addition to being a total mess, I’m also stuck in the 1990s. I still (gasp!) use Earthlink. Let me tell you what happens when you live in 2012 and you’re a digital hoarder and you use Earthlink as your email provider. You get emails every few weeks saying that your Earthlink storage space is almost full, and that if you don’t make some space, any future emails will be returned to the sender. So every few weeks I delete all of the emails from Bloomingdales and Toys 'R' Us and Amazon and Target and Bed Bath & Beyond and Pottery Barn and all of the other websites that I keep forgetting to unsubscribe to, in order to make room for the really important emails that I will need to keep for the next fifteen years.

My husband has been begging me to get rid of Earthlink and join the rest of the world on Gmail. But I can’t. I can’t, because I don’t have time to go through my inbox and figure out what I really need to keep and what I can trash. I can’t, because I don’t have time to print out all of the pictures that people have sent me over the last ten years and that are sitting in an email folder called Pictures. I can’t, because I’m stuck in a digital rut.

But then my computer broke last week, and I got a new one. As my husband set it up and began sorting through my mess, he finally put his foot down. He was, he told me, tired of seeing me this way. And he wasn’t going to stand for it any longer. If I wanted his help in setting up my new computer (which I did, because I certainly don’t know how to do it), I would have to get of the rut l’ve been living in for the last decade. I would have to let go of my Earthlink crutch. The language sounded familiar to me. And then I realized; I was getting a digital makeover. I glanced at my reflection in my computer screen. If Oprah was going to come running into the room with a team of experts and a camera crew, I at least wanted my hair to look okay.

With my husband’s help, I spent the whole weekend cleaning out my inboxes, syncing my calendar and updating my contacts list. I got a bunch of hip, new, to-do list and organizational apps that make me feel younger and more like the cool, trendy woman I am. And best of all, I got a new email address that has brought me into the twenty-first century. 

I feel lighter, and there’s a new bounce in my digital step. Even my kids aren’t embarrassed anymore when they have to give out my email address. But will I be able to maintain it? I hope so. Because I’m still waiting for Oprah to show up.

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