Sunday, April 12, 2015

Hoarding in a New Age

Drowning in Email, Photos, Files? Hoarding Goes Digital
by Melinda Beckfrom Wall Street Journal 

Digital hoarding is a huge problem. There is so much available storage, we don't have to make decisions anymore. The problem isn't that it slows down your computer—it slows down your brain,"
since each of those photos, links and folders demands some mental energy.
Of course, plenty of people manage to keep vast collections of emails, files and digital media organized and accessible, cutting down on physical clutter in their lives. Kathy Riemer, a communications consultant in Chicago, says her "digital retentiveness"—including 2,400 Word documents and 39,575 business emails, divided into 69 file groups—enhances her productivity and gives her peace of mind. "Saving it all helps me avoid recreating an already-built wheel and enables me to provide historic context for long-term projects," she says.

There isn't a set number of emails in an inbox or photos saved that defines a hoarder. Accumulating crosses the line into hoarding, experts say, when it is disorganized and dysfunctional and gets in the way of other relationships and responsibilities.

People who spend so much time and money amassing collections of music or games or gadgets that they withdraw from the real world. They can't pay their rent or buy food because they have to have this latest piece of equipment to support their habit. Hoarding often starts out as a way to feel good or fill an emptiness in life, but it leaves sufferers even more isolated.

A cluttered computer desktop is an indication of digital hoarding
Hoarding is officially considered a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder, but some hoarders also suffer from attention-deficit-hyperactive disorder. Some digital hoarders are driven perfectionists who don't know when to stop researching or collecting.

Professional organizers warn that simply adding more storage removes any incentive to delete or prioritize. Sometimes, what needs organizing most is the hoarder's mind-set.

Some tell-tale signs of 'digital hoarding'

     • You've exceeded your 7 gigabytes of free space in Gmail and have to buy more.
     • Deleting anything makes you anxious—even things you can't remember why you saved.
     • You spend more time searching for a file than it would take to download it again.
To enlarge, click on chart, then "right click" to
"View Image." "Right click" again, then
click on enlargement
     • You have dozens of icons on your desktop and don't know what they're for.
     • You can't remember all your email or social-media accounts or how to access them.
     • You have flash drives scattered in drawers, pockets and purses and no idea what's on them.
     • Of your thousands of digital photos, the vast majority are duds.
     • You have entire seasons of bad TV shows you have no intention of watching.

Digging Out
     • Practice 'zero email.' Discipline yourself to clean out your inbox completely every day, answering, filing or deleting each item.
     • Declare 'email bankruptcy.' Delete every unread email in your inbox and alert your 10 best friends and colleagues that if they have sent something crucial, they should send it again.
     • Unsubscribe to every newsletter and mailing list you don't need or want immediately.
     • Set your spam filter to block any regular emails you don't want to receive.
     • Don't check your inbox continuously. Set specified times to read and answer email each day.
     • Don't copy and save documents; save Internet addresses where you can find them later, if necessary.