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  • Writer's pictureMelissa Jean

Tidying Your Digital Music Collection

I can honestly say that my iTunes library needed tidied over 6 years ago. Just like many of you who are on the KonMari journey, it can be a challenge to get yourself to do what you know needs to be done. Why did I put this task off for so long? It was overwhelming. The same reason that many people never start the tidying process with their physical items is the same reason why I couldn't bring myself to clean up my digital mess.

I always wanted to take one day to delete unloved albums, update playlists and erase double-copied songs so it would be easier for me to enjoy my music collection. But my desire for a tidy iTunes account did not outweigh the multitude of excuses. My digital music collection was enormous and every time I attempted it, I gave up partway because it didn't feel like I was making a noticeable difference.

Albums with double songs never get played. The fix is simple, but making time for it can be a challenge.

I'm not exaggerating when I say that I had every song I ever loved in my iTunes account. My extensive CD collection from the '90s was in there, all the songs I downloaded during college, carefully crafted work out playlists and my husband's vast music collection that had joined mine when his laptop died. Then there was the massive assortment of yoga and meditation music that was mixed in from my time as a yoga instructor. I quit listening to my music because it was too frustrating to sift through all the songs of my past.

But of course I didn't have the time to tidy it...I had more important things to deal with. Cleaning up digital files is at the very bottom of everyone's to-do list. Besides, having Spotify and Pandora make it all too easy to avoid this problem.

It's not like it's a hard task to sit in front of a computer and click delete repeatedly. But just opening my iTunes account and facing the sheer volume of music made my head spin. I know many of you feel the same way about tidying your clothing category. Just looking at the amount of clothes you own causes you to slam the closet door shut to deal with another day (hopefully). And just like many of us have attached monetary value to our clothes, I had trouble coming to terms with all the money I had spent on music. But there comes a time when the universe doesn't allow us to avoid our stuff any longer.

Thank you for the trip down memory lane.

In my scenario, my desktop is really old and fading fast. We all know what that means...get the important data backed up, quick! Yes, I have my vital documents stored on the cloud, so I'm covered. But I still must decide what digital files will be transferred to my replacement computer. And post-KonMari, I'm a changed woman, so only joyful digital files will be relocated. Period. And no, my digital files will not live in perpetuity on an external hard drive. I see how those flash/thumb drives, memory cards and other electronic storage gadgets collect over time and I refuse to delay the inevitable.

So, here I am, using the KonMari Method™ to tidy my iTunes collection once and for all. I tell myself, if I do it properly, I will only have to do it once. I also remind myself that I was the one who created this digital mess and that I can easily solve this extremely minor first world "problem."

"When tidying up digital data, the same principle applies: choose what you wish to keep, not what you are going to discard."

Spark Joy, Marie Kondo

Step 1: Commit to tidying your digital music collection. I made it a priority and blocked off a 4-hour appointment on my calendar to complete it in one fell swoop. Look ahead and find a date that works best for you and stick to it!

Step 2: Imagine your ideal digital music collection. I took 15 minutes to determine how my iTunes account would best support me going forward. I decided I would only keep my absolute favorite artists in order to maintain a manageable collection. I concluded that I would mostly listen to music on my phone while traveling or via my computer/Sonos while making dinner. I also kept the best work out mixes to play while streaming Tracy Anderson at home. Decide how your music will add benefit to your life, where/when it will be played and how you will listen to it.

Step 3: Ensure that all of your digital music is in one place. If you have music in multiple locations such as on various computers, external hard drives, CDs, mp3 players or multiple accounts, merge them together in one collection first.

Step 4: Tidy in the right order. I tided my music alphabetically by artist. I know I covered every file in my collection by going in order. It was also nice to see the progress I made..."Wow, I'm already on 'M' artists!" You can also tidy by album, genre or song. It will depend on your preference, but the key is to choose one method and commit to it. Don't skip around or you risk missing large sections of your collection.

Step 5: Finish discarding first. For increased efficiency, discard unwanted artists and songs from your library first and they will automatically be removed from your playlists. Wait until the very end to finalize your playlists and decide which ones are still relevant.

Step 6: Ask yourself if it sparks joy. If you already tidied your home, you know what brings you joy. You will be surprised how quickly and easily you will determine what artists, albums and songs spark joy for you. When tidying my collection, I took into account how I wanted the music to influence my mood and environment. Only songs that evoked relaxation for dinner, uplifting vibes for travel or invigorating energy for working out got to stay. See how this ties into Step 1 of determining my ideal music collection? Anything that didn't match those strict criteria was deleted, with appreciation of course!

Complete opposite of sparking joy. Thank you and goodbye sad/angry songs!

In the end, it took me about 3.5 hours to organize my music collection. The feelings that came up during my iTunes tidying session were strangely similar to what I experienced when I KonMari'd my physical belongings. When I came across a favorite band from high school, I felt nostalgic. Hidden memories surfaced throughout the whole process, some of them were happy moments with friends and some sad recollections of loss and heartache. Realizing I spent a lot of hard earned money to buy music from Sam Goody was also a bit painful to acknowledge. But all of these feelings were the same, a holding onto the past.

When I was honest with myself, just seeing some album covers brought back teenage angst, not joy. And when I actually played a few sentimental songs, I was shocked to recognize that instead of bringing back the joy of my youth, I couldn't bear to listen to it the whole way through. Like nails on a chalkboard. It was obvious that none of this had a place in my current reality or future.

Thanks for the reminder Avril. Also, neither I nor my husband are sure how you got into our collection. #deleted

In this process, I also uncovered some buried gems that I had long been forgotten. Much like discovering a lost item in your home when you KonMari komono, I am now happy to have this music back in my listening rotation. I also realized how lovely it is to have a small, curated music collection. All of my favorite songs are easy to access, so now I listen to music more often. Once again my digital music collection has a role in my life by helping to elevate my mood and adding joy to my daily routine. It was well worth the time and effort.

But the best part of my tidying session was when I came across my husband's stash of depressing EMO music, because it was so easy to discard it all! I happily hit delete without pausing. We discussed his music preferences prior to my computer clean out and he stated that he no longer wanted to keep this genre. He was fine with me purging his old digital files as long as his favorite artists were preserved, which was simple because we share the same style. As Marie Kondo recommends, you always want to receive permission first before you discard someone else's items, including digital files. It is always easier to get rid of something that isn't yours, so please be considerate if you share a music collection.

In a lot of ways, tidying digital music was harder for me than going through my tactile belongings. It definitely took a long time to get around to it. Like you, I had my reasoning for putting it off until later. But, it is also incredibly rewarding to finally put your digital affairs in order. It also felt great to press delete with gratitude. I would laugh out loud to myself as I said in my mind, "Thank you Rage Against the Machine for helping me get through some tough times," and then joyfully send the file to the trash.

I realized that I really don't need too much more than DMB studio and Live Trax albums. Oh, and Coldplay of course.

This task had been bothering me for over 6 years and it took less than 4 hours to take care of it. It's comical to say the least. Many people who have KonMari'd their home say the same thing, the work seems insurmountable. But with the right tools, it doesn't take you nearly as much effort as you thought it would. Using the KonMari Method™ made it way easier than all of the other attempts I tried in the past. And I actually completed it this time!

Have you KonMari'd your music collection yet? If not, what's stopping you from taking this project on? I encourage you to set an appointment with yourself to take care of it once and for all. Or you can just wait until your computer starts acting up, whichever comes first!

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