Hit enter to search

Digital Hoarding Impairs Your Productivity - These Apps Can Help


Joanna Yuen

Marketing & Content Specialist - 06 Jun, 2024


Humans have always had a hard time with the concept of moderation.

We all know people (maybe even ourselves) who have rooms full of stuff that should be disposed of. In today’s digital age, when so much of our life occurs online, many people have the same challenges. Though most of us understand that the urge to collect digital items is excessive, we can’t always stop it.

Often, digital saving crosses over into digital hoarding, and this is when things become problematic. Research tells us that up to 4% of the population suffers from hoarding disorders, and that with the expansion of social media and free storage options, digital clutter has gotten much worse.

The problem is that digital clutter causes anxiety as well as other issues. In an era of seemingly endless data storage, why does digital hoarding have this effect, and where should you begin when restoring order to your digital life?

What is Digital Hoarding?

Hoarding, in general, is a disorder characterized by difficulty in parting with possessions. While once considered a symptom of obsessive-compulsive disorder, we now know that many people have hoarding tendencies without any other mental health concerns. Digital hoarding is just what it sounds like: a tendency to keep an excessive amount of digital files, and angst at the thought of disposing of (or deleting) anything. That’s why experts say that digital hoarding is just a new form of one of the world’s oldest challenges. While many people used to struggle to get rid of possessions like books, papers and receipts, or collectibles, now its easier than ever to keep far too many documents in your digital space.

There are a few reasons for this. For one, the sheer amount of activity that happens online means that many of our important documents are sent virtually. Just like you wouldn’t want to throw away your tax files, many people do not want to get rid of documents that they deem important. Additionally, there are a vast amount of storage options, which makes it easy to hang onto everything you receive - for free. The capacity of a computer to store a lot of data at a low cost has improved significantly in recent years.

People tend to collect things like  emails, photos, articles, podcasts - really any type of computer files they assume they may want to revisit in the future. It’s easy to keep all of these items for as long as you want, but the fact is: most people don’t end up using these materials ever again. The photo you planned to frame for a friend, or that podcast you were saving for a rainy day? It’s unlikely you’ll actually even remember to return to them, let alone do what you had hoped to.

Having a high volume of digital content doesn’t necessarily make you a hoarder. But if your laptop storage is in the red, you’re constantly running out of space on Google Drive, and your inbox is overflowing, then you might be slipping into hoarding habits.

How can you tell if you’re guilty of digital hoarding? Ask yourself these questions to find out….

  1. Do you find it very difficult to delete old and/or obsolete files that you no longer use?
  2. Do you tend to collect digital files even if they’re not directly relevant for your job?
  3. Do you feel like deleting some files would be like deleting part of a loved one?
  4. Do you feel anxious or experience regret when you delete files?
  5. Are there certain files that you need to delete, but struggle to do so?
  6. Do you feel that unused files may be useful one day?
  7. Do you know how many digital files do you have? Or do you lose track?
  8. Do you feel like deleting certain files would be removing something precious to you?
  9. Do you tend to feel emotional about deleting certain files?
  10. Is it difficult to find some files because you have so many?

Why We Hoard

When content storage became easy and cheap, it felt like liberation. We are now able to take thousands of photos, create endless documents, and then back them all up inexpensively and easily. It’s natural to delay decision-making about the fate of our files because there seems to be no limit to the amount we can store.

The result? A person’s average data storage is a whopping 3.7TB, including duplicate content, outdated and unneeded information, as well as sensitive data. For some context, according to estimates from the World Economic Forum, there will soon be 40 times more bytes than there are stars in the observable universe.…all of it acquired in an unstructured, haphazard way with duplicate content galore.

Psychologically, we don’t know exactly what causes hoarding, but there are  few theories. There can sometimes be a link between hoarding and impulse control, and many people also use hoarding as a mechanism to cover up anxiety. A lot of people hoard due to perfectionism - there tends to be an increased worry around making decisions. For example, you may not want to delete files from work in the event that you need them for a future project.

Additionally, we can’t discount childhood experiences or different types of loss or trauma. For example, people who have lived through really difficult financial stress may be less likely to throw things away and have a particular aversion to wasting things. Of course, family habits can come into play, too. If you grew up with parents who refused to minimize their belongings, then it's more likely you’ll face the same struggle.

Related Post: Too Many Tabs Open? Try These Browser Management Tips


Why Hoarding is a Problem

What difference does it make if you have too much digital clutter? Who is it hurting?

Unfortunately, there are very real repercussions that come from collecting too many digital files.

For yourself, there are practical downsides. These include the time you lose when navigation unruly folders, and the dollar cost of unneeded storage. It’s also easy to incur other costs, like subscription costs for online services you’re not using. Perhaps more important is the impact on your emotional regulation. Studies link digital hoarding to anxiety, guilt, and stress. All of these impact your productivity and focus, and we know what a big problem anxiety can be. Countless studies show that mental health and productivity are closely linked, with anxiousness or depression decreasing motivation and even increasing sick days.

In terms of your workplace, there are other problems. It’s important that workplaces have good file hygiene to protect intellectual property as well as sensitive data. For example, if you have content from previous employers backed up on Drive, or your laptop has some private client data on it, you risk compromising important information and causing real problems for your employer - as well as yourself.

Step by Step: Tackling Your Hoarding Habit

Let’s say you’ve recognized that you are, in fact, a digital hoarder. What can you do about it? Are you destined to live a life bogged down in online clutter? Start by following this process to de-clutter and de-stress.

  1. Start with your laptop - Go through a thorough cleaning, and commit to doing a “spring cleaning” (or whatever season works for you). Put it in your calendar with plenty of reminders. Go through all of your file folders, clearing out docs that you no longer use. A good rule of thumb is, if you haven’t looked at something in six months, you’re not likely to - get rid of it. Review all of the apps on your desktop, bookmarks in your browser, etc. From there, organize important files into a folder system. This article offers some great tips on managing this process.
  2. Next, think about cloud storage - Which platforms do you use to store documents, photos, and videos? Dig into each of these tools and see what can go. Whether you use Google Drive, DropBox, or another storage tool - just because the storage space is available, doesn’t mean you need to use it all. This is also a good time to review the various platforms and apps you use aside from storage. Do you really need all of it? What is redundant and what can you delete?
  3. Spend some extra time on your email inbox - Most people have a full email inbox, and this can quickly become a source of stress and overwhelm. Thousands of emails pile up, and then you can become distracted from the messages that are actually important. Email is a particulary troublesome aspect of digital hoarding, and it’s a good idea to enlist some support. With SaneBox, you can leverage the power of AI to get rid of inbox clutter and focus on what really matters to you. It doesn’t require downloading or manual set up, so it’s not adding to your digital clutter. It works wherever you check your email, and it’s simple to save your inbox from newsletters, promo emails, and irrelevant threads, so you can get to inbox zero if you want to.
  4. Create new habits going forward - Let’s be honest: a thorough one-time clean is a great step in the right direction, but without changing the way you manage digital files, you’ll soon be overwhelmed once again. Some of the best tips for improving digital organization over the long-term are:
    1. Allow yourself to ignore some information - It’s unrealistic to consume all of the information that comes to you, even if it’s relevant. It’s ok to delete things as soon as you receive them, and it’s ok to delete things that you’ve viewed once but don’t care about.
    2. Set a time limit for making decisions - One reason for digital clutter is that people tend to want a lot of information at their fingertips when making a choice. However, constantly revisiting different files can be overwhelming and often take up too much time. When it comes time to research new options, set a timer for a reasonable amount of time and then plan to move forward in some direction.
    3. Get used to skimming - Not everything needs to be read in-depth. For different articles or email conversations that aren’t dependent on you, don’t be afraid to simply give the material a quick once-over and then set it aside.
    4. Choose a single location for critical materials - Obviously, there are some things worth keeping, even for a long time. Try to narrow down your storage options to one or two go-to places, where you can place items and retrieve them later. This becomes a lot easier than reviewing multiple storage options to find things.
    5. Keep your email clean - A healthy inbox is one that is cleaned out regularly. Some people have a goal of getting to “inbox zero”, but if that sounds too extreme, you might be better suited by simply cleaning up some old emails and creating folders for organization. Use SaneBox to focus on your most important emails, automatically filter out junk email, and even use the BlackHole feature to remove annoying emails without endlessly unsubscribing.

Related Post: Inbox Overload? How ChatGPT Can Help Manage Your Email Account


8 Essential Apps to Declutter Your Digital Life


Shift is a browser that ensures all of the apps, accounts, and tabs you rely on are intuitively within reach in one window. Merging your web apps into Shift eliminates searching, switching, and logging into accounts, making your browsing more convenient and organized. It's one window for everything you do on the internet


Are you addicted to your smartphone? Break the habit with this innovative app that rewards focus by granting points for every 20 minutes you’re not using your phone. Then, you can trade in points for exclusive, real-world rewards like gift cards and music downloads. You can even compete with friends for a little extra motivation.


SaneBox is an email management app that uses artificial intelligence to prioritize your emails and automatically filter out spam and unimportant messages, helping declutter your inbox. You can permanently banish annoying senders while snoozing emails that can wait, and you can take advantage of the Daily Digest feature, which is a summary of emails that haven’t been opened yet.


This application helps users secure every sign-in to every application from every device, including unmanaged applications and devices that today’s security tools cannot see. It is a password manager for the whole family, and you can use it to keep track of passwords, passkeys, and other sensitive information. It is great for business or personal uses.


Since so much of digital hoarding is due to saving items to read later, this tool is hugely helpful. It’s a read-it-later app that lets you save articles, videos, and web pages for later viewing. It helps reduce digital clutter by allowing you to curate content and consume it at your convenience. You can even use it to see curated guides to the best of the web so you can stay in the loop and not miss key cultural moments.


This application is ideal for tracking and managing your app usage, setting screen time limits, and analyzing your digital habits. If you know you are bogged down in apps but not sure where to start in removing some, this tool will prove valuable. Use real data to understand what is useful to you and what can go, and set limits to hold yourself accountable for app usage. Find the app in common app stores.

Rescue Time

Speaking of using real data to make the most of your app usage, this tool is a time-tracking app that helps you understand how you spend your time on digital devices. It provides insights into your productivity habits and helps identify areas for improvement.  Simply install the software and then start using the automated process to find out where your time really goes (and work on recapturing it).


If a bulk of your digital clutter comes from marketing or content-related activities, there are specific tools that offer support. This ​​social media management app helps you schedule posts, manage multiple social media accounts, and analyze engagement metrics. You can schedule the copy or media files that you need to post so that you can delete them without anxiety. It also streamlines the use of multiple accounts, making it easier to deal with managing social media for several clients, for example.

Related Post: The Best Browsers for Multiple Tabs


If you’re ready to reduce your digital clutter and say goodbye to the endless time-sink that comes with being overloaded and overwhelmed, start using these tips today. Take your commitment to a stress-free digital life even further by downloading Shift and using it to manage your apps, websites, and bookmarks, all from one convenient browser.