Digital House Burning – A Lesson in Letting Go

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Have you ever lost a hard drive?

It’s the digital equivalent of your house burning down. Suddenly, you lose your past work, files, documents, and most painfully, your photos. Gone. Forever.

This happened to me one year ago today. Granted, I still had some of the most important things saved elsewhere, but for the most part, I lost the better part of six years or so of documents.

At the time, losing so much data felt like losing a part of my life. Things that I created during that time, the hours that I put in to writing, editing, saving everything so that I could look back on it again one day, gone.

A year later, how do I feel?

In a word, content.

That’s right. I feel fine. The minimalist part of me should have known I would be. I don’t miss anything and my life hasn’t collapsed because of it.

The things that I thought were so important a year ago don’t matter to me as much now. And I imagine a year from now, they’ll matter to me even less.

I’m a strong believer that things happen for a reason (or at least, one should try to find lessons in the things that happen to them) and losing my stuff was no different.

To me, this was a lesson in letting go.

We live in an age now where we can save everything in our lives. We can snap moments that were supposed to last a second, and keep them forever. Although this is good in some ways, it can also be negative in others. We can recall feeling angry, irritated, or sad at someone or something, and this time actually remember why.

My digital house burning was a cleansing, of sorts. It allowed me to start afresh. Knowing that the things we capture are only a snapshot of each moment, I was able to enjoy each moment better.

Instead of worrying about taking photos wherever I travelled, I stopped to talk to people, and appreciate the sights, sounds, and smells of the places I went.

Cleansed from the baggage of my past, I was able to  focus better on creating new work. I had grown and improved in so many ways in the last six years, and holding onto old things wasn’t going to help me progress forward.

Yes, it’s difficult to go through a digital house burning. I’m not saying that people should start setting their hard drives on fire (I now keep a second hard drive and also back up into in the cloud) or stop taking photographs. In fact, I am a big advocate of keeping diaries for reflection. But what I am saying is this. Even if certain stuff feels important to us now, ultimately it’s just a thing. If we lose it, we all have the strength inside us to get over it.

One day, the things that feel so precious to us now will be gone. Until then, let us cultivate a mindset that focusses more on things that we do have, rather than on the things that we’ve lost.

Learn to let go, and in the end, you’ll be okay.

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  • John

    Hi Jessica, as always, a beautiful story! The most important thing in life is you (everyone), neither your stuff nor your work, just you. At the beginning it was very hard to understand, but with the time, it’s easier to let things go. Best regards John

    • Hi John, thanks for your comment. I totally agree that the most important thing in life is yourself, and the people you care about. Other things are just material possessions, and with time you can get over anything.

  • Kaitlin Kavanagh

    This is a great way of thinking about things. This has happened to me a couple of times before and honestly I have always felt more relieved at the fresh start than sad about the things I’ve lost. Lovely blog 🙂

    • Thank you for your comment Kaitlin. I totally agree with you, it might be hard at the time, but actually the feeling of relief is much more uplifting than the feeling of loss.

  • Josh

    Hey Jessica,
    I saw the title of this post and I felt shock! We pair down with less, but we end up accumulating more digitally. I know it could happen, but sometimes a slap on the face is a good thing, ha!

  • kim

    disovered your blog today (via your minimalist interiors tumblr) and you are very inspiring! thank you for creating this blog. i shall be going through every entry. very energising x