electronic waste

One of my favorite shows to watch is A&E’s Hoarders. For starters, I always come away from the show feeling better about the state of my own house. Mine may be cluttered and the garage stacked to the ceiling, but at least there aren’t any animal carcasses buried under piles of 20-year-old mail. In some ways, the show also serves as a reminder of what I’m overcoming. You see, I believe there is a hoarder inside me. As my husband sometimes says, we are one tragedy away from being on that show. Yes, he is harboring an inner hoarder as well. It’s one of the few things we have in common!

However, while I may be winning the battle against the pointless collection of furniture, craft supplies, and anything with a cute kitty on it, I feel as though I’m losing a different one: The overwhelming amount of digital clutter in my life; the thousands of photos, documents, e-mails, texts, home videos, and music files scattered across a handful of laptops, phones, and desktop computers, some of which are in parts and piled in the aforementioned garage.

I fear I may be a digital hoarder.

According to the experts, there isn’t a set number of saved files or photos that defines a digital hoarder. Rather, the accumulation crosses into the hoarding realm when it is disorganized and gets in the way of relationships and responsibilities. It is the “responsibilities” part of this description that hit home for me this week when my 5-year-old asked to see baby pictures of herself and little sister and I was left stuttering about computers, phones, and hard drives buried in the garage.

My kids have the memory of a gold fish most days; it is my responsibility as their parent to document and safe-keep their early childhood growth and development milestones and accomplishments. I’m in my late 30s and still enjoy looking through my baby book, a collection of photos and memorabilia my mother so diligently collected for me. My children deserve the same from me.

Disorganized and irresponsible? Yes, I am.

However, I am making a vow to myself and my children to change my digital hoarding ways and doing so publicly as a way to stay accountable. Change works best when it’s done in baby steps, so here is my somewhat vague, phone-oriented, short-term strategy for giving my girls a tangible account of their early lives:

  • At the end of each month, I will pick only the best photos from my phone. No more than 30. Unless it’s been a really photogenic month. 
  • I will upload these photos to some online photo printing service.
  • I will order one of each and then…gulp…delete them from my phone. Or maybe I should order 2 of each, just in case. You never know, you know?
  • Once delivered, I will store them in some sort of container. Maybe one with a cute kitty on it. My girls love kitties. I’ll need one for each month…times 18 years…
  • I will label the containers and stack them in an organized way on some piece of furniture. I should probably hit the auctions, flea markets, and yard sales to look for one of those cubby shelves. Or maybe I could build something. I would need more pallets, though…

Can you relate? Do you have any tips on how to overcome this affliction, especially when it comes to photos and videos of our precious children??? If so, I would embrace your comments with open arms!

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