Digital hoarding: the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem

Digital hoarding clutters our computers, slows down our minds and frustrates our colleagues. Recognising the symptoms is the first step to curing them.

Pile of cardboard boxes – digital hoarding

Over the last few years, digital hoarding has gradually gained credibility as a real, and increasingly common problem. Now, with the advent of cloud computing, it has become easier than ever to enter a total state of denial over the extent of one’s hoarding issues. There are, however, symptoms and consequences that should not be ignored.

“Digital clutter doesn’t beget mice or interfere with walking around the house,” says Kit Anderson, past president of the Institute for Challenging Disorganization.

There is nothing physical to represent a music file, a digital photo or an email. They are all stored invisibly either in the shiny box that sits on our desk, or in the, wonderfully and aptly named, cloud.

Invisible clutter

This does not mean, however, that they do not constitute clutter. The more you save, the more it gradually slows down your hardware. Individual computers get clogged up. In offices, servers and networks slow down as they become bloated with information.

Even storing to the cloud has its impact: “all those little applications that synchronize data with the cloud take just a little off the top of your CPU,” says Daniel W. Rasmus.

“There is so much available storage, we don’t have to make decisions anymore,” says David D. Nowell, a neuropsychologist specializing in attention. Without that decision-making process, we cannot filter out useless information, and we cannot find what we need amongst the masses when we need it most.

This is bad enough at home when we cannot find a photo to post to Facebook, but in a professional environment, the impacts can be significantly more serious.

Compliance and cost issues

Amber Simonsen explains that from a senior management perspective there are of course issues of compliance and cost, but co-workers also suffer. Duplicated and poorly filed documents make it harder for people to do their jobs. People have to spend longer looking for what they need and ultimately this leads to increased stress and lowered job satisfaction.

“I save everything because I’m afraid if I delete it, I’ll need it someday.  I know this isn’t rational”. Barbara Vey expresses perfectly the trap that many of us fall into when it comes to digital hoarding: we know it isn’t sensible, but we do it anyway.

It’s time to buck the trend. Over my next few posts on Turbine I’ll be giving practical tips to tackle digital hoarding and keep our computers clutter free.

And remember, this blog post is available online, so now that you’ve read it, there’s no need to save it! (Just bookmark it, Tweet it, share it on Facebook and add it to Google+)

One comment on “Digital hoarding: the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem

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