The Downsizing Dozen: Case of the Missing Mac

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Well, this has been an interesting October. While one would hardly call me a Luddite, I was reduced to a smart phone, some stolen moments with my husband’s computer, and the throwback of pen upon paper, while my ancient five-year-old laptop was away for updates.

I admit that I was one of the lingering Mac users who still clung to the old Snow Leopard pride in operating systems while the rest of the world marched on to bigger cats, and eventually became mavericks reaching new heights in Yosemite. When links failed to open, secured sites became insecure, and social media lambasted me to change my browser with such frequency that I could’t ignore the situation any longer, I reluctantly scheduled surgery that would require wiping my laptop and restoring its information.

What caused such fear of change? Not so long ago, I eagerly embraced the latest operating system or newfangled gadget that would supposedly enhance my life. In a word, it is “digital,” a battle cry for minimalism, and the blessing and bane of my life. During my Great Downsizing Purge of 2014, and even before, I extolled its virtues while digitizing music, photos and documents, and backing them up in various formats.

The problem with updates and interconnecting devices, however, is that sometimes you are locked out of older program versions after updating, or your phone, computer and tablet can gang up on you in the Cloud these days, deciding to delete everything in your best interests. This, along with the realization that I’ve digitized nearly all my meaningful music, writing and photos since 2003, is enough to give me pause.

So, in October I spent an inordinate amount of time googling worst-case scenarios and possible options while waiting for my beloved word processor to return from Apple’s latest mountaintop, wondering if it could even survive the thin air of progress much less work properly. I’m happy to report that it’s running well with a fresh outlook under the lid, although my old friend came home to find a new grandchild added to the family, a tiny tablet with better retinal vision and response time than its elder.

For now, we’re progressing cautiously, with a bigger backup arsenal, a variety of devices to do the job, and a little more confidence.

Once a month for the next twelve, I’ll feature another step in the downsizing journey that didn’t just begin when we sold our suburban house and moved to a small walk-up apartment in June of 2014. This shift to a simpler life has been years in the making, and I hope you’ll join me in my family’s quest to get down to basics. My inaugural post entitled Giving It All Away was featured in July, Make It Stick in August, and Following Your Feet in September.

A Minimalist Moment: The Sound of Digital

I’ve been whiling away quite a few long hours of this endless winter with some ripping. And it’s not my abs, sad to say. No, I’ve been going through stacks of my household’s rather healthy collection of music CDs and transferring them to my laptop and various MP3 players.

Importing all of these audio treasures has allowed me to time travel while I wait for the iTunes completion “burp.” Musical tastes around here are rather eclectic, anything from Chopin and Billie Holiday to CSNY and BeauSoleil to Enya and Modest Mouse.

Funny how the specific combination of a few notes can send you back to the awkward moves of junior prom, slam dancing in a downtown loft, your toddler’s first little jig, or the jams of rock concerts you could remember (and hear). I’m sure there will be raucous melodies I associate with assisted living when the time comes.

It’s also caused me to contemplate all the vehicles that have carried melodic ditties over the half century of my life, including 45s, LPs, eight-tracks, cassette tapes, CDs and now MP3 files. And these would be nothing without the radios, phonographs, reel-to-reels, stereos, cassette decks, boom boxes, and tape recorders needed to make them sing. I wonder what will take us down the pike next, forging ahead to some new George Jetson fantasy world.

Around 50 CDs left to go, and I’m at the end of the R’s, heading into the many S’s. (Yes, I alphabetize my music, okay. I’m gunning for the anally retentive retirement home.) Although I know that numerous outdated gems should be culled out, the money spent over the years makes me wince, and I’m reluctant to part with my partners in crime without giving them a second chance.

After all, there can be new life in digital mode. Long forgotten stuff pops up on shuffle like deja vu, and I find myself listening to golden oldies like they’re brand-new. Amazing what playing out of the expected order can do. Now, if I can only read the tiny print on my iPod that gives the song titles.

Here are the steps I took to dance to the “digital” beat:

  • Get rid of that handy CD rack. This is an excellent way to pull all the cases out and lay them on the floor in front of you. That way you’re forced to spring into action so you don’t keep tripping over them.
  • Round up all the strays. It’s easy to stay in denial if you’ve got scads of the little buggers stashed away in the attic, car and closet. Corral all of them together so that you can see the folly of your music-loving ways.
  • Set aside some downtime to rip the discs. My best opportunities come during the countless hours of sports viewing that occur at my house. I’ll be lost down memory lane while blocking out the fumbles and fouls, all the crying and floor pounding.
  • Take on only what you can handle. I’ll grab about five to ten albums to transfer. Otherwise it can seem like a formidable task. You may be asking yourself why on earth you needed to acquire EVERYTHING by your favorite 80’s hair band. Take little steps, as they say.
  • Organize, and organize some more. Whichever media player you use, I find that categories and playlists really help handle thousands of songs. Even the best alphabetizing can only go so far. And don’t even start me on compilations, oy vey!
  • Back it up, baby. I have one external hard drive and an older desk computer that I use for back up. It probably wouldn’t hurt to have a third copy, just in case. I’ve also read about saving your files to the digital Cloud but I’m too cheap at this point to buy the extra storage (music files take up a lot of room, as you know).
  • Time to say goodbye. Quite a few industrious minimalists make money selling their old CDs and records on eBay and Craigslist. I’m too lazy and besides, I’m not sure how many fans would line up to purchase my pristine copy of Al Hirt’s Greatest Hits, and various other one-hit wonders. There’s always Goodwill, but I prefer to donate my musical hoard to the local public library, where the CDs can either be sold or maybe added to their collection.

I’ll come clean at this point, and tell you that I’m not getting rid of ALL our CDs. There are favorite albums from special times in our lives, that I just can’t part with as of yet. We’re keeping about 40 of them, only what will fit into a basket under a mini-stereo in the family room. They are the old friends we pull out and take along on car trips since tuning in the iPods on the car radio is a royal pain. So until we get a “modern” car, the CD player is how we roll.

In fact, writing this is getting me in the mood. Road trip, anyone?

Do you have other ideas on how to minimalize CDs, records and tapes, and the various options out there? I’d love to read about them here.