In the last year, there has been a push for simplicity in our household. While it has mainly been driven by yours truly, I have to give most of the credit to none other than our realtor for getting me in the mindset of reducing everything we use down to the bare necessities. It started with one question: “Do you really need all these computers running?” She was giving the house a once over before putting it on the market and trying to maximize space for the photo shoot. She didn’t realize that she had created a monster.
I realized over the coming months that most of the “stuff” in our house was not needed. A Linux tower and two Windows machines were scaled back to one Windows machine. (When was the last time I did anything with Linux at home?) Our huge bookshelf full of books and magazines was emptied, disassembled, and removed from the house. (When was the last time we read anything on actual paper?) Our TV sitting on a table and surrounded by crates of the kids’ DVDs and the stereo shelf unit was hung on the wall and hooked to a Roku box. (When was the last time we used DVDs?)
Let’s fast forward and summarize for a second. We now have one full blown computer in the entire house (a Mac Mini hooked up to the big HDTV, with the option to move it over to a work station at the computer desk if needed). We have an Apple TV to access and stream all our media over the network (we found that the aforementioned Roku box was just not as versatile). Books and magazines have been replaced with iPads (back in 2010 I laughed at the notion that someday everyone in your house would have their own iPad. How wrong I was.) We’re down to one gaming console (my trusty PS3, which will be upgraded to a PS4 later this year), we simplified our Comcast service down to just a high speed internet connection, we have no phone land lines, and every bit of our digital “stuff” is backed up both onsite and offsite.
ln the 80s and 90s, the term “paperless office’ was thrown around quite a bit and was dismissed as an obnoxious corporate buzzword. Rightfully so–it was really a pipe dream back then. These days, that is not the case. While some businesses don’t WANT to go paperless, or maybe don’t have the financial means to make the switch, it’s entirely possible for just about any business to make the switch whenever they’re willing and able. But “paperless office” now goes way beyond both paper and offices.
If you replace the word “paper” with “physical media” and “office” with “everyday life”, you get…….um…….”physical media-less everyday life”. For simplicity’s sake, let’s just call that “the cloud”. Another term that really is just a fashionable buzzword to replace “the internet”. The hardware we use is simply a conduit now. Remember what a pain it was to upgrade cell phones back in the day? Your contacts never transferred over correctly to whatever format the new phone had, your purchased games and apps certainly didn’t either if they were even compatible with the new phone, and you had to learn a whole new operating system all over again. (Remember that OS skin Verizon used to put on every phone they sold? UGH!) These days, I get a new iPhone, I hit restore from backup, I go watch TV for a half hour, and by the time my show is over I have my old “stuff” back on my brand new phone. It’s so painless that it doesn’t even seem like it should work. Hell, it’s the same concept for the computer. If my Mac Mini crashes and needs to be replaced, I can restore the entire thing. If my house burns down, I can contact Backblaze and get all of our data back.
I’m not writing this post to worship at the altar of “The Cloud”. I’m simply saying that it’s beginning to act the way we always wanted it to. That is what makes our shift to simplicity so easy. The internet and mobile telephony were our first giant steps, but what we’re doing today with the cloud is boundless. It absolutely still needs work and is in its infancy–there still aren’t that many companies that I actually TRUST with my cloud data, syncing still hasn’t gotten to a state where I would say it’s flawless (regardless of what ecosystem you use), and failures and outages still happen too often for my tastes. But we’re going to get there. And in the meantime, I’m certainly enjoying the ride. It has not just changed my outlook on how to deal with technology, but also my outlook on life in general. Making things simpler after years of bad habits and accumulation of “stuff” is so refreshing. I realized a few months ago that I’m sick of trying to hide my balding by wearing my hair long, so I simply shaved it all off. I’ve traded my big backpack that I lug to and from work to a slim messenger bag that weighs next to nothing. I’ve gotten rid of everything in my house that was broken or not serving my needs any longer. This entire lifestyle change I’ve been going through was sparked by using cloud technology that was not available even 3 years ago. THAT is what I think is amazing.