Least Recently Used

Finally have a weekend free and motivated/nudged enough to do some spring cleaning. Way too many people have written about Marie Kondo's book that I didn't have to read it to know her number one principle: to keep only those that spark joy.

Being a sentimental being makes following that simple rule a little difficult. My brain is filled with memories and every little thing is a key to unlock a particular period of my life. If our online, digital experience is characterized as abundant and cheap, then perhaps my offline, physical collection is too sacred to be disrupted.

But alas, they have to go. Google miraculously made deleting emails and photos a thing of the past, with essentially unlimited storage for everything for the low low price of free. In the physical world the cost of having things is much higher. So I've adopted a classical eviction algorithm: the LRU.

Obviously I am not the first person to have come up with using LRU for tangible things. And much like computers rarely implement perfect recency tracking because of performance concerns, it's not possible for me to remember exactly when I've used what. Instead of asking myself if the items spark joy, I simply ask myself if I've used them recently. If it's a no, it needs to go. Obviously I don't want to throw away my passport or my spare car key so various pinning policies need to be in place. I also came upon a few photo prints of value, which I digitized and physical copy discarded:

Of course, those prints with me shitfaced will never see the light of day again. Ever.

High school year book, gone. Letters from exes, skimmed them one more time but no time to dwell. Photo book from kindergarten, okay I was just too cute but even there not every picture is worth keeping. Have to make progress everywhere.

Obviously there's more to de-messifying then simply throwing things away. Doing two loads of laundry also helped. Also, at times the process felt more like garbage collection than eviction. Some of this is still ongoing and there are also thing that are recurring. If only evicting things from my own memory is as easy.

I haven't read Messy but its defense of actual messiness seems to be half-hearted. There's state of being and state of mind. Much like in programming, there is code that's necessarily complicated, but most of the time it's just technical debt. Sometimes it's a necessary evil due to time constraints but no one will ever call messy code a virtue. Messy code is a state of being, not state of mind.

Fixing up the mess takes time and effort and reward is often uncertain. Much like code, physical mess is often not dealt with until it's too late. Tim Harford tries to remind us to think more like an Homo Economicus and consider opportunity cost more often, but we rarely know the price we had to give up to get into this mess.

by khc on Mon May 14 21:44:02 2018 Permlink