Hoarding typically conjures up images of houses so full of objects it’s difficult to find a clear path between rooms. But the Internet has created a new way to compulsively collect stuff. Welcome to the age of digital hoarding.
As with classic hoarding, two main factors contribute to the excessive amassing of materials online, says Jen Cohen Crompton, editor in chief of the Philadelphia-based Neat Company, a cloud-based mobile digital-filing system.
“There’s the logical approach where you think, ‘I may need this,’" she says, "and there’s the emotional attachment to digital document like pictures and music.”
You may be thinking -- so what if I like to save every email, file and video clip? But digital hoarding, like regular hoarding, can lead to decreased productivity, disorganization and wasted time and money (like when you forgo a reimbursement because you can’t find the necessary on your cluttered desktop).
Bottom line: it may be time to take a long, hard look at your own digital habits. “A huge wake up call is when your phone runs out of storage,” Compton says. Another sign is a pile up of unread and uncategorized emails in your inbox. “You’ll see that things are taking up space and not really functioning.”
Although there’s no data on how many people are afflicted by this modern-day malady, keeping a handle on how much digital space you take up is important. Crompton says to start keeping possible hoarding habits under control, treat your digital space as you would your physical space. This means not letting email pile up, but rather deleting, archiving or responding to messages in a timely manner. “Take care of things as they come in,” she advises.
Developing an organization system is key. Make sure your physical and virtual desktops are clear of clutter and that documents go in the right as they arrive, which likely means creating folders and subfolders. It’s equally vital to dispose of what’s no longer useful. “If you haven’t used a program in six months to a year, uninstall it,” Crompton says.
With 2016 off to a fresh start, it’s the perfect time to create a clean digital slate -- and keep it that way.