Yep, clutter extends to stuff that takes up no real space

So I was reading this roundup article that tells about how people are having problems being DIGITAL hoarders. I suppose this should come as no surprise. I’ve long been overwhelmed by the sheer number of emails, documents, photos and other things I have to keep track of and organize in the virtual world, so it stands to reason that there are people who simply keep all their virtual things.

What’s sad is that it’s tough enough to keep entropy at bay in the concrete world. It takes daily effort to go through my house and constantly sort and throw items that creep into all my hiding places and on top of counters, desks, and shelves. I seem to have almost no help in this battle, though, since my children tend to be squirrels, and my husband would much rather keep pretty much everything, just in case. I’ve mostly broken him of the habit of picking things up at garage sales and (when we lived in the South and people just put old things on the side of the road to get rid of) bringing junk home that other people were THROWING AWAY. But he doesn’t on his own take the initiative to regularly go through things and organize and toss. I’m practically the lone ranger as I fight the onslaught of clutter.

The great news as computers have taken root in our lives is that we’ve “gone green” in many ways, replacing paper documents with e-versions. Sure, we don’t have file cabinets quite as full anymore, but our Yahoo or Gmail inboxes are overflowing. Junk mail that arrives in my mailbox gets thrown right into my recycling can, and then when I go online, I have to do the same thing with its electronic siblings. And as wonderful as it has been to visually document our families’ lives and travels, photos now proliferate in the pictures folder, a cascading wave of so-so shots of wacky faces and blinked eyes washing over the desktop. In this regard, it also doesn’t help that I have a 16-year-old with her own camera who takes it EVERYWHERE she goes and is constantly snapping shots.

So not only do I spend lots of time and energy daily sorting through the pile of paperwork that seems to multiply like rabbits on my literal desktop, I also sit down at that same cluttered desk and face a screen that shows me inboxes and folders full of unnecessary items that ARE SIMPLY 1’s AND 0’s. Even though they are not “real,” not taking up any real estate in my real life, they still manage to plague me as they multiply in my virtual world. There is something fairly satisfying about cleaning out my house, room by room, or one counter or drawer at a time, but the satisfaction isn’t quite as concrete and lovely when I am simply reducing the number on my inbox from 300 down to 230. Nope. But I have to regularly go through everything I own that only takes up space by megabytes and put it in a tiny little icon that says “recycle bin.”

What has this world come to when I have to clean something that, in a way, doesn’t really exist?

Author: Cathy Carmode Lim

I'm a copy editor, writer, and book reviewer with three decades of experience. My book review website is I'm a mom of four and grandma of three.

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