Organizing continues to make headlines. Did you see today’s Wall Street Journal article on digital hoarding? Melinda Beck’s story opens with an Illinois man who has 4,000 digital books, 2,000 CDs and at least 1,300 emails.
Whoa. I feel overwhelmed just contemplating what his in-box must look like. and 4,000 books? This digital hoarder, Mark Carter, says he stockpiles data because “I worry they may vanish from the Net or that I’ll want them sometime when I’m away from from my Internet connection.”
His rationale sounds a lot like what hoarders of material goods say to explain their behavior. Therapists quoted in the article note that digital hoarding can have the same roots as any other type of hoarding: perfectionism, obsessive-compulsive disorder and anxiety.
Of course the sheer volume of digital data we all must handle can overwhelm even the most scrupulously organized. Instead of 24 photos on a roll of film shot at a party, we have unlimited pictures. Email floods our in-boxes at a rate far greater than letters ever filled our mailboxes. And the cloud is pretty much an infinite storage unit: We can keep packing digital data into the ever-expanding cloud and never have to make any decisions about what to keep and what to delete.
How to manage this barrage of digital data? The article suggests unsubscribing to newsletters you don’t read and trying to clear out your in-box daily. I can attest that’s easier said than done. But I realize the items lingering in my in-box are tasks or ideas I haven’t (yet?) followed up on. I could probably empty it if I forced myself to make some decisions or scheduled a few appointments with myself to review those emails and act on them. Not a bad idea, come to think of it.