Are You a Digital Hoarder?

picture of hoarders

Here’s a 3 second quiz…

If you were to print out all your digital photos, would they take up:

A. a drawer (1 GB of photos)
B. a closet…(20 GB of photos)
C. or an ENTIRE living room up to waist high (1 TB of photos)

If you print each photo on a standard sheet of office paper, every 10 GB of photos (~5,000 photos) is a stack about 5 feet tall.


Your Digital Photos Visualized: 5 GB  is 5 feet tall when printed out

Digital Storage is Too Easy

I would never have a closet full of photos. That’s looney toons. But 20 GB on a hard drive somewhere? Who cares.

And new services like Amazon Prime, Google Photos, and Flickr make it free!

Google Photos puts you on the path for an Official Hoarder Status Badge. Google Photos gives you 1 Terabyte of free storage for free. If printed out, that’s 100 stacks 5 feet tall — an entire living room 11 feet by 8 feet swamped full of photos.


The Hidden Cost of Digital Hoarding

I’ve got 20 GB of photos, and easily several TB of other crap piled up. And 28,652 emails in Gmail. “I never delete anything”, I boast.

Is digital hoarding really free? Is it simply that it sits on a hard drive somewhere, and puts no burden on our brains, or our lifestyle. Sure, we don’t trip over our digital photos in the middle of the night. Physically they don’t take up any space, so is there anything wrong with it?

I definitely spend time thinking about whether my files are safe or not. I just bought a new hard drive to copy everything to, to store at a friend’s house in case mine was ever stolen or damaged. OK, so yes, a little worry and stress. Is there more to it than that?

What to Do

I asked an expert, Marie Kondo. Last month I read her book on cleaning up, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying-Up”, and it helped me clean out my apartment.

So I wrote Marie today:

Hello from San Francisco!
I read your book last month and I really like the effect that clearing everything out has had on my life!

Now, I have another question for you. How do you apply your tidying principles to digital items?

My hard drive has thousands of photos, notes, journals. My friends suggest that it’s ok because the hard drive only takes up a small amount of physical space. But for me mentally, it is so large. If the photos were printed out they would fill my entire closet!

Thank you for your time and thank you for your wonderful book!

Tito Jankowski
San Francisco

I’ll let you know what she suggests!

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Tito Jankowski lives in San Francisco. He's a public speaker, biotech hacker, and post-hydrocarbon expert. He is the co-founder of Impossible Labs, expediting the post-hydrocarbon economy through partnerships between startups and Fortune 500 corporations. Find him on LinkedIn. Email Tito at blog@titojankowski.comPublic PGP key. PGP Fingerprint: 5A4F 4C5C E8B7 20C3 2867 9100 C56C 881F 13AE 02D7 EFF Guide to PGP Security

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2 thoughts on “Are You a Digital Hoarder?

  1. If you have taken the time to clean up and delete any obviously bad and/or duplicate pictures, and clearly labeled the rest using captions or key works, plus making sure your pictures are backed up, I don’t see it as a problem and you or someone in the next generation may treasure all of the memories you have kept. If you don’t do those things then as your collection grows it will simply become a huge mess of worthless pictures that don’t tell a story and don’t serve much value.

  2. Hmmmmmm when I saw “Digital hoarder” I thought about the Hitachi Peach, the TRS80, the microbee, the 4 ataris, the multiple monitors, the multiple 286, 386, 486, 586, 686 PCs, the macs, the huge harddrives, and much more, that are sitting in my shed. I stupidly gave away the 2 kitset Challengers I had.

    Never gave a thought to photos! Found I have 120GB, not that much when you say it fast. 😉

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