Everyone recognizes the tell-tale signs of a hoarder's home when they see it, but it's not always as easy to spot the digital hoarder. Digital hoarding can be just as frustrating and organizationally challenging as traditional obsessive collecting (and probably more common), but it's also a lot easier to remedy...
Here are five habits of digital hoarders and how to break them:
1. They keep duplicate files on the same hard drive or computer. Duplication and backups are important for a number of critical reasons when it comes to digital media, but there's no need to keep duplicate files on the same drive. Make sure those files are stored onto another hard drive, a cloud storage destination, or another computer in case one or the other crashes or dies a horrible death by spilled liquid.
2. Their phone is full of incomplete names and numbers of people they can't remember. This habit is especially worth checking for when it comes to common names. With three Ashley's and four Tom's in my phone book, I'd hate to call that guy from the pizza shop instead of my cousin when planning for the holidays. Set aside some time regularly to correct, clear out and organize your contacts list, especially incomplete entries.
3. They never empty their desktop trash. See that full "recycle bin" or OS X trash can icon? The problem with a digital recycling bin is it never overflows. Making it a habit to empty it is key. Consider setting up at least a weekly reminder to empty your computer's trash to free up valuable hard drive space (you'd be surprised to find out how much storage capacity you might regain after accumulating just a few weeks' worth of trashed files).
4. They never get rid of old computers or devices. Sure, it still turns on, but it's also taking up space. Get the files off of those old devices cluttering up your home office, closets, and other storage areas once you've upgraded. Don't know where to take it? Here's a handy guide for donating and recycling outdated tech devices.
5. They can never find the files they actually need when they need them. For years, my photos were a mess. It was only after spending two hours trying to find a picture from a friend's wedding that I finally just cleaned up my filing system. Proper filing saves time and stress, and the solution may be as simple as using categorical collections on your phone or on the computer.