Digital hoarding is the excessive acquisition and unwillingness to delete electronic material. Common examples of digital hoarding include:

  • An ever-increasing camera roll.
  • Never deleting emails.
  • Not deleting old contacts from your phone. 

Digital hoarding feels like a non-issue because it doesn't occupy our physical space. Old emails won't pile up in your sink, and you can't trip over a thousand-image-long camera roll. It is effortless to excuse the behavior because "out of sight, out of mind."

The motivations for engaging in digital hoarding vary from person to person. Some people have a carefree "just-in-case" attitude, others like to curate and collect data, and many are anxious hoarders who experience fear and anxiety about deleting digital material.

I'm an anxious hoarder- I fear deleting browser tabs, bookmarks, and photos. I fear deleting things because they represent memories and aspirations, and I fear forgetting or losing them. 

Digital hoarding presents some severe risks worth considering. Firstly, it presents a security issue. If a person can access my iCloud account, they can access every photo, text, or email I've sent over the past decade. Curating your digital portfolio and eliminating unneeded digital material could mitigate that risk.

Digital hoarding also creates a financial burden- I was paying for cloud storage through Apple and Dropbox to hold onto the documents I was hoarding. I can't help but think about how this cost will compound throughout my life if I don't get the behavior under control. I have an iCloud photo roll of over 7,000 images taking up over 30 gigs of storage space. I can't help but wonder how many photos and how much space I'll need to accommodate another 10 years' worth of digital hoarding.

So today, I present myself with a challenge: Clean up the digital hoard

Screenshots: Delete all old screenshots unrelated to a current need or project.

Selfies and throw-away photos: Delete all selfies that are not emotionally significant. Consider whether you would exert the effort to print and save a physical copy of the picture.