How to avoid becoming a digital 'e-hoarder'

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by Collette Wieland, KGW Staff

kvue.com

Posted on February 23, 2013 at 8:25 PM

PORTLAND -- Are you drowning in e-mails? Are digital photos and mp3s eating up all of your hard drive space?

If the answer is yes, you just might be an “e-hoarder.” Abigael Tripp, 23, says when she’s not at work or school, she’s on her computer. She spends lots of time downloading music, uploading pictures or checking her e-mails.

“I have 5,607 e-mails,” Tripp said.

Some would say that with all that digital data, Tripp is an “e-hoarder,” and overwhelmed with it all.

“At this point, it’s just become, it’s like there’s no way I can go back and delete all of them,” she said.

Experts say that’s how a lot of people feel. A person’s digital word can easily go past the point of just being clutter.

“I think digital hoarding is on the rise and there's probably a lot more people doing it than physical hoarding," said Larry Betcher, an adult behavioral specialist with Providence Portland Medical Center. “There’s often some kind of underlying mental health issues that underline physical hoarding, but with digital hoarding, you don't necessarily see that in the same way."

We often think of physical hoarding as piles and piles of books, magazines and other “stuff.” But digital hoarding, and the people who do it, are usually much different. However, experts say that both can be harmful to your health.

"It can be physically unhealthy just to be sitting in front of a computer for that long of time," Betcher said.

Betcher adds that holding on to that many files can cause anxiety.

Tripp said that having to delete some of her songs and pictures would be heartbreaking.

Betcher’s advice is to take it day by day. He said you can clean out your hard drive the same way you would go about cleaning a closet in your bedroom. Make a list of things you can get rid of and a list of things you can’t live without. Then set aside a few hours every month to make the purge.

“Often people feel a sense of freedom or relief when they are able to clean up their digital world,” Betcher said.

Organizing experts also advise that if you’re spending money on extra storage space every month, you might want to take a look at what it is you’re actually storing.

Most people typically use only about 20 percent of what they save. So cleaning out your digital storage space could save money, too.

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