Mario Villalobos

What Would You Save if There Was a Fire in Your Home?

It’s easier to live with very few things in the information age and still possess a lot than in any other time in human history. I could literally grab a backpack, pack it with clothes, toiletries, a laptop, and a few other things and walk across the country and still possess more than someone doing the same thing a century ago. In my laptop—hell, replace my laptop with just an iPad—in my iPad, I could have photos of my family and more, everything I’ve ever written, and thousands of books to read, and that’s just scratching the surface. I could watch movies, listen to music, browse a freely accessible encyclopedia with all the world’s knowledge, and play chess against an intelligence artificially created to be better than me at the game. Along with my backpack, I could have an iPhone in my pocket and do everything my iPad can do, except that I can call people on this device in most places in the country, as well as take pictures, track my steps, and provide a network connection to my iPad if I’m nowhere near wi-fi. And these are all mostly just consumption activities; I can create practically anything my heart and my imagination desires. There has been no other time in history where this has been possible.

If there was a fire at my house, and I had just a few seconds to grab something to save, I’ll probably just grab my messenger bag, which is always stocked with all my important stuff, and a small box with all my journals. I will lose my furniture, my clothes, my books, and my other electronic devices if they’re not in the bag, but I don’t think I have anything else I can’t replace. Everything important has been digitized. This was a huge project I wanted to complete years ago, this transition from the analog to the digital. All my important and a lot of non-important documents are saved as PDFs in Dropbox; all my photos are saved and organized in Dropbox, although I can’t wait to try photos for Mac to organize them better; every piece of fiction I’ve written is also saved in Dropbox, and everything else I care to keep that isn’t in Dropbox is saved somewhere else in the cloud. Stuff like my Day One journal entries, my Vesper notes, my OmniFocus database, and any other thing important to me. Hell, I’ve even thought of scanning all my analog journals into PDFs and save them in Dropbox just to have a backup copy just in case the worst happens.

The goal for a very long time was to not lose anything when all my stuff burned up in a fire, if that ever happened. That’s why minimalism attracted me so much. It forced me to focus on just the essentials, and I really delved deep inside of myself to see what I really needed and what I could live without. It turned out I could live with very few things and still live a very happy and fulfilling life.1 The downside of all this has been my insistence of thinking ten years ahead and feeling paralyzed when I didn’t know if this service or that app would be around in that time. That’s why I turned to simple text files for most of my notes and writings and PDFs for everything else. This prevented me from using apps like Vesper and Day One for so long because their data wasn’t portable. But like I wrote about yesterday, by focusing on the now and using those tools that help me with that, I can produce some of my best work, and thats what really matters.

  1. This was also a reason why I really took to wild land firefighting as quickly as I did. Packing a bag with the knowledge that I’d be living on a mountain for up to two weeks really forced me to bring just the essentials. It was awesome, and I love it, and I can’t wait to start Year 4 this year. ↩︎