Bits not atoms: how I am dematerialising my possessions



Hi, I’m Matthew and I’m a thingaholic. I have too many things in my life and I’m addicted to them. My thing of choice is gadgets but I have lots of other stuff.

This article describes some of the ways I’m trying to get rid of the things in my life using the three D’s: digitising, deleting and donating. It’s all about dematerialisation.

  • CDs. Four years ago I digitised all my CDs into iTunes and earlier this year, I took a subscription to iTunes Match and upgraded them all to DRM-free, high fidelity MP3s. Then I took all my old CDs, which were in a box under the stairs, and gave them to Oxfam. Goodbye useless bits of plastic. Hello music everywhere.
  • DVDs. First I started digitising DVDs onto my server (sort of like ripping a CD to iTunes) using DVDfab. It’s labour-intensive but it works well. But now, I’m just buying films and TV shows on iTunes and, thanks to a massive broadband speed upgrade earlier this year, I can just stream my movies and TV to my computer or Apple TV.
  • Books. I love Kindle. I don’t buy paper books any more, only digital ones. I read them on my phone, my tablet, my PC and Kindle synchronises them seamlessly. Also, because I know I can go buy a book on Kindle and get it instantly, I’m slowly boxing up old books that I kept ‘just in case’ and taking them to a charity shop. If I get the urge, I can just download them rather than keeping a hundred because I might read one.
  • Magazines. Everyone got very excited about the iPad as the saviour of magazines. But the reality is not quite there yet. For example, The Economist virtually forces you to take a print subscription because the digital version is the same price as the print and digital version. On the other hand, I’m switching to digital-only for the The New Yorker when my current subscription is up and Aviation Week is available on Zinio for a fraction of the price of a print subscription. Another few years and I’ll be able to get all my magazines online and any magazines that don’t offer a digital version at a fair price, well, I’ll just cancel them.
  • Software. I’m pretty much switched over to web apps for everything except core writing (Word), Spreadsheets (Excel) and Email (Outlook), although I’m experimenting with Google Apps for some writing and collaboration tasks. Read my article 40 essential online apps for freelancers for more on this. Recently, I added Office 365, Freshbooks, Capsule CRM and Turbine (of course – it’s my business) to the line up of online apps that I use regularly. No boxes, no manuals, no hassle.

So, yes, I bought a new laptop, an iPad and an Apple TV. But I got rid of boxes and boxes of stuff, most of which went to charity shops. I’m slowly conquering my addiction to things and learning to love bits.

What else can I dematerialise?

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