January 11, 2023

Help! I'm a digital hoarder

Reading Time: 4 mins

I’ve been obsessively watching the TV show Hoarders over the last few weeks and it’s been pretty eye-opening to see the commonalities between the different episodes.

One of the traits many hoarders share is the notion of keeping things in case they might need them.

This is something that got me thinking about my digital life and the idea of digital hoarding.

My first Procreate picture - following a tutorial

Being A Digital Hoarder

I’m completely guilty of keeping certain notes or files in case I need them in the future. Chances are I have no use for them and they should be trashed.

The amount of screenshots and photos on my camera roll alone is quickly filling up my online storage.

Sure, it’s different in a digital space as there’s no physical room taken up in your house by papers, books, articles, podcasts, and videos. (Side note: what would a podcast look like in the physical world? 🤔)

However, having too much digital clutter can take up space on your computer and your mind. For instance, not being able to find that digital copy of a receipt or a particularly important work document can be frustrating.

Why I Love Collecting

The act of collecting is a great feeling. Our brain is rewarded with a shot of dopamine each time we add something to our collection, whether it’s needed or not.

I can’t tell you how much time I spend organizing and re-organizing my video game collection. Not physically but digitally. There’s nothing I enjoy more than finding new ways to organize and display digital representations of my video games.

Seeing my collection on a screen gives me a warm and fuzzy feeling inside that I try to replicate with everything else I can possibly collect.

The Downside Of Digital Hoarding

We enjoy the feeling of collecting lots of information that we think may be useful at some point in the future. Quotes, information, statistics.

The problem is the information is useless to us unless we actively process this information into our own knowledge management systems. To know about something isn’t the same as understanding something.

Also, over time we can pile up so much “information” that it becomes too intimidating to look through and process. So we just ignore it.

Is What I Already Have Really Useful?

The argument could be made that as long as your digital space is organized and searchable then there’s no issue with hoarding.

I’m not sure if this is true for me.

I have started to look through my vault of over 1000 notes to see what actually holds value for me. Do my notes “spark joy”, as Marie Kondo would say? (Yes that’s a corny reference at this point but it’s still suitable here!)

One of my Evergreen notes is [[PEEL technique for persuasive writing]]. I captured this note when reading the article [[{a} Persuasive Writing Techniques - A Step-By-Step Approach]]. Honestly, I haven’t looked at it since nor do I find the information in any way useful for what I’m currently working on.

If the goal of a notes system is learning, idea generation, and content creation, this note isn’t accomplishing any of those things for me. That’s not to say this information isn’t useful to someone, just not for me and my current interests.

So why not just delete it?

When I frame it like that, I feel better about deleting the note because it’s not providing me with any value.

1 down, 1000 more to go…

How I’m Planning To Move Forward

1 Ask myself: is this really of value to me?

When I consider saving something in my digital notes collection, I will ask myself “is this something that’s actually of value to me?”. If not, then I’ll delete it, if so I’ll categorize/tag it, link it to some relevant note and file it away.

2 Continue to use a read-it-later app

This separates the collecting + reading processes. I can save articles into Omnivore to my heart’s content but I’ll only end up reading and making notes on the articles I’m interested in. Then when it comes time to move these notes into Obsidian I can further delete information that isn’t useful for me.

3 Set aside weekly blocks to review my inbox

During my weekly review, I’ll look through some of the items in my inbox and file them or delete them as necessary. I’ll also go through my camera roll and delete irrelevant photos. This will give me another opportunity to filter out non-important info.

4 Do a monthly purge of my unprocessed notes

Once a month, I’ll review anything in my unprocessed queue and delete what’s not necessary. This will allow me to start the next month with a clean slate.