If you have watched an episode of Hoarders, you may not believe that someone is capable of accumulating that much stuff, let alone live with it. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is often associated with this behavior, and so hoarding disorders are considered a mental health condition.

While we are quick to judge the people in the show who seem irrational in their quest to accumulate junk, we fail to realize that we are the same. But instead of things piling up in our homes, we have piles of digital junk everywhere. Perhaps you are one of these digital hoarders?

What are some of these digital data that we usually hoard?

  • Photos
  • Videos
  • Bookmarks and links
  • Digital books (audio and e-books)
  • Backups of non-critical files
  • E-mail
  • Chat history

We tell ourselves that these might be useful in the future. These are important, precious memories of our past that built who we are today. And so in the name of nostalgia or “just in case” we need them, we hang on to them.

Not much different from the people they showcase in Hoarders.


It seems logical to save all of that stuff in our digital devices. Those photos and videos are quite fun to look at many years from now. And those memories of people who have either grown up or passed on are like precious treasures that make us cherish them even more. But sometimes we go overboard. We take multiple pictures of a single scene, or of the same group, trying to land that perfect shot. We now take photos and record videos of everything. In reality, a vast majority of these images and videos will not ever be looked at again.

The same goes with other digital products such as games, books, and programs. We get enticed with Black Friday discounts and software bundles and get all the games that we will never play. We take interest in this hot new personal development thing and buy all the resources we need, only to lose interest weeks later.

The result is all those files accumulate in our computers and mobile devices. Just like in real-life Hoarders, they litter the floor, take up all the space, and gather dirt. They make our digital life cluttered, leaving us confused and disorganized.

In the physical realm, Marie Kondo is famous for designing a method on how to effectively tidy up your house, which involves letting go of stuff. The power of her method is that it also provides a way to let go of sentimental things — some of the stickiest things we have that we can’t get rid of.

Keep only those things that speak to the heart, and discard items that no longer spark joy. Thank them for their service – then let them go.


Despite the vast amounts of resources we can use to combat unnecessary hoarding of things, most people (including me) still have problems letting go of their stuff.

What we think are important…

Based on my experience, our continued accumulation of things is because of mental and emotional hang-ups, and not the reality. I have proven this for myself not because I am capable of curbing my hoarding tendencies, but because I accidentally let go of my data.

CDs that were no longer readable

Decades ago, CDs were the only cost-effective way to back up your files. At 700MB capacity per disc, it seems laughable today but at that time, you can already put in lots of files in them. I accumulated dozens of these CDs which I kept for many years. Eventually the technology moved on and computers don’t even include a CD drive anymore, so these backups eventually became obsolete.

Hard disk drives that got corrupted

The next generation of these backup solutions were external magnetic hard drives. These can be plugged in via USB and can store gigabytes of data. Unfortunately, these are still mechanical devices which are subject to wear and tear as time goes on. Peripherals needed to power up the device also become outdated such as the USB connector and the power supply. As time goes on, these peripherals break down and can no longer be replaced, and your data gets lost as well.

Even the next generation of storage, Solid State Drives, still have this problem. I would even argue that SSD drives are even worse in this regard as these are fully electronic devices. If one component of its complex electronic circuit breaks down, then accessing or recovering data may be difficult or impossible.

Closed mobile Chrome tabs

I also have this habit of keeping tabs open in my mobile browser in order to read it later. I know there is a Bookmark function in Chrome that I can use, but this just seems to put those links in a black hole, never to be opened again. Having them visible as tab groups allow me to check and review them again whenever I open the browser.

In an episode of me having fat fingers, I accidentally entered a combination of options that closed all of my open tabs and I wasn’t able to restore them again.

…loses their importance when they are gone

Initially it was frustrating and annoying that I lost data on my devices. It is not a pleasant feeling to know that you do not have a backup or a way to recover these lost data. However, as time goes on and as I moved on with my life, I found that I actually had no use of those data.

When I think about it, I can live without these data that I accumulated through the years. I was hoarding without even realizing it. The importance that I placed on them eventually disappeared now that I have no means of getting them back.

In a way, these digital data become somewhat of a burden than treasure. And by letting go of them (whether intentional or not), it resulted in a feeling of lightness in my mind.

These events also highlighted the importance of backing up data that is actually important, such as:

  • Assets (land titles, proof of ownership, etc.)
  • Financial records (insurance policies, certificate of deposits)
  • Personal records (government certificates and records)
  • Data that you need to function at your work or business

And by focusing only on these important information, we free our time, money, and mental space from the rest that we tend to hoard.

As described in Boxes, we will not be able to do all the things that we want to do. Those bookmarks will not be visited again. The books in your bookshelf will likely stare at you in the years to come.

And that is perfectly fine! Life isn’t a contest of whoever accumulates the most number of trinkets; the most valuable part of your life is the one you are living in at the moment.

Photo by Pixabay

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