Thoughts by Bruno Bernardino

Promoting my right to forget

What was I talking about?

March, 2018

Savour the moment

Photo by me @ Vilarinho de Negrões, Montalegre, Portugal.


This is a short story about how, in the last year, I’ve deleted most of my digital possessions.

It started with my privacy focus.

When I started beefing up my privacy, it was clear I had a lot of digital clutter around, and soon enough I started thinking about ways to more easily move things over.

One easy way to have less work was simply to move less stuff, so I just started deleting things I didn’t really enjoy or that didn’t matter all that much anymore (note I didn’t do this for everything. For photos, for example, I moved all of them over and then every now and then I’d dedicate 30 minutes to just deleting the photos I didn’t want).

We’re all hoarders now. And our brains are overloaded.

Cheap storage and improvements in the user-friendliness of using servers (“the cloud”) have made it so that everyone now stores everything.

Just woke up? Take 5 photos of that. Cool breakfast? 5 more photos. See something interesting before lunch? Make sure to get a few photos of that.

That email? Just archive it.

This means we’re not spending any time thinking about what we’re really doing and if we really need to keep all those things.

Another problem is it also doesn’t really allow us to forget about stuff we did, and our brains function much better when there’s less stuff to process. Physical or virtual.

Turns out that for me, I don’t need to keep most things.

I had already started taking less photos, which was (and is) what constitutes most of my used storage, apart from emails, before I deleted most of them.

Daily journaling was the thing I probably struggled with the most, as it was part of my end-of-workday routine. For a while I just kept writing on the same file and overwriting it every day. Eventually I just stopped. There are other ways to practice writing for me (like writing a short Sci-Fi story or a children’s book).

What if I forget something?!

Well… if I forget about it, I’ll probably not notice it, right?

I’ll only remember the important things.

The things I must not forget, I do keep, and those are a very small percentage of all I could keep.

Keep… deleting.

For emails, now I only have 2 labels - “Pending” and “Bookings”. I don’t need or have emails outside of those labels, and those emails will eventually be deleted once they’re “done”.

If emails have important attachments, I just store the files and delete the email.

For files, I keep them stored only in my computer if they’re “temporary”, and delete them once they’re “done”.

For IM, I delete conversations that haven’t been active in 6 months.

Unexpected benefits.

There are some benefits from doing this I didn’t initially set out to accomplish, like:

  • I can more easily search through and find things now.

  • If I want to switch over providers (I did for encrypted file storage — I’m using Tresorit now), it’s a lot easier and quicker.

  • No one can’t access stuff that doesn’t exist anymore to learn more about me.

The Stats.

I ended up deleting:

  • 300k+ emails (let’s say about 5k non-notification related)
  • 2k+ Tweets
  • 1k+ G+ posts
  • 30GB+ files
  • All of my IM
  • 5k+ photos
  • All Day One entries (over 4 years)

And that’s just the stuff I remember. ;)

Thank you for your attention and kindness.


Bruno Bernardino

Written by Bruno Bernardino.
Thoughts can change, disappear, or simply be observed.

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