Are You an Online Hoarder?

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Clean Up System-Clogging Clutter

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The TLC show “Hoarding: Buried Alive” delves into the lives of compulsive hoarders who are literally buried in squalor. Boxes of “stuff” -- ranging from paper to clothing items to pieces of garbage -- clutter the hoarders’ homes, making it physically impossible to even set foot in rooms covered from one end to the other with years of accumulated (and frequently unused) goods.

The hoarding phenomenon, interestingly enough, has now transferred to the digital world, where hoarders clutter their computers with an endless stream of downloads, old documents and folders. Referring to them as “digital packrats,” Wired magazine explains that “Infohoarding may be the first psychiatric dysfunction born of digital age.” The trend is so common that it has even garnered a definition in Wikipedia, which explains that “Digital hoarders find it just as difficult to press ‘delete’ as traditional hoarders find throwing items in the trash.”

Consequences of online hoarding
Remember that the ‘delete’ button is your friend. If you continuously save scores of files and photos, your hard drive would be ready to burst at the seams. This process can slow your system to a crawl and take up large amounts of space. To get back up to speed and de-clutter your hard drive, there are certain measures you can take.

What to keep, what to toss
Email: Clearing out your inbox is a good place to start. Delete all those emails that have been sitting in your inbox for months on end, to which you have already responded. If you are holding on to important email that you need to save, simply archive it and toss out the rest.

Documents and folders: Be sure to back up and save important documents and delete the remaining folders or documents you don’t need. You can store these on disks, or a good solution is to subscribe to a web storage service, which will allow you to keep your documents online without worrying about losing them. If there are several versions of the same document in your “documents” folder, save one version and erase the rest.

Web cache: Your cache saves your web browsing information (file downloads, sites you access, etc.). As we previously reported, clearing your cache every so often frees up a lot of space on your computer. If you're not sure how to do it, software like System Mechanic can clear your cache and help give your computer an overall tune-up at the same time.

Temporary files: These files (with the extension “.tmp”) are a waste of space and should be deleted. As explains, “Many programs, such as those included with Microsoft office, will save a temporary version of a file every few minutes while the file is open.” This serves as a good backup plan, but once you’re done with the document, you can delete the temporary backups.

Downloads, Games, etc.: The moral of the story here is you can’t download and save everything. Wired reported the case of a 37-year-old Brooklyn man -- a typical “digital packrat” -- whose incessant hoarding habit revolves around downloading and saving infinite numbers of movies, music files, comics, and so on. This is only one case of many "Infohoarders" who engage in this type of behavior.

But be honest: How often do we use the programs and games we install or download? If it's rarely or never, these programs are taking up space on our computers and slowing them down.

For games, for example, simply uninstall those you rarely use. And if you insist on saving large numbers of music and photo files, you can best refer to a web storage service like, which lets you access your music or movies from any Internet connection while helping clear space on your hard drive.

-- Tara Taghizadeh --

Downloads From AOL


PerfectSpeed® gets the clutter and waste off your computer by quickly removing unnecessary and temporary files, helping you recover valuable disk space in seconds. By optimizing your computer's hard drive, repairing errors and clearing free space, your PC will run more efficiently.


SugarSync is an easy-to-use and secure file sync and backup program, which will let you access all of your data anywhere and anytime as long as you have a Web connection.

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If you have that sinking feeling you deleted a file that you meant to keep -- or worse, suffered a crash and lost a LOT of files -- here are tips for recovering your work and maybe reclaiming some of the data.

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