Boy! This was news to me. A woman asked me what to do with 11,000 photos that were on her computer. A man asked me what to do with 20,000 emails. Who knew? Then, I got a call from a newspaper asking me about digital hoarding. So, I did some research.
Digital hoarding is a real thing. It’s so easy just to press ‘save’ or buy more space in the cloud or grab a few more flash drives or gigabytes. The thing with digital hoarding is that you can be a hoarder and no one knows it (as opposed to physical hoarders). Just remember that more storage space doesn’t solve the problem. It just masks it.
Whether it’s photos or emails, your main job is to prioritize and delete. Save what’s most important and what’s most meaningful. Ask yourself how hard it would be to replace something if you deleted it. Does this add any value to my life? What do you really need? What are you afraid of losing?
Okay. I know that it’s near impossible for some folks to get rid of something. Here’s what you do. Prioritize and keep on your computer (or phone, or whatever) the high priority stuff. Everything else (that you just can’t force yourself to eliminate) store on a flash drive. Take a white, silver or gold Sharpie and write the date (of the earliest photo or email) on the flash drive. Now you have the security of knowing that you haven’t lost anything. Should you ever need it, it’s retrievable. However, it won’t be getting in your way every day. All the stuff we save not only slows down our systems, it slows down our brains as well.
Using the Google trash folder also helps. Put things into the folder and in 30 days, it’s gone. This is a good holding place for things you’re unsure of. Now, you have 30 days to make up your mind.
For photos, use Flickr or Picasa and eliminate the need to store digital photos. Carbonite and Drop Box store things for you in virtual storage lockers.If you’re and inveterate note taker, you might enjoy using Evernote.
Go through email every day and answer, delete or file everything in your inbox. If it’s really bad, notify 10 of your most important contacts and tell them that if they’ve sent anything important in the last few days they should re-send it because you’re deleting everything. This is a last ditch effort that will bring immediate relief. Just be sure that you don’t let the emails pile up again. Remember – answer, delete or file.
Set your spam folder to accept low priority transmissions. Unscribe from everything that you don’t want or need.
Just like physical stuff, digital stuff piles up and clutters our spaces and our lives. Both kinds of clutter get in the way of relationships and responsibilities.
Oh, by the way, the definition of hoarding is: accumulating things beyond the point of usefulness. Yikes!