Hoarding in the digital age

In the early 90s, I signed up for one of those NRI distance education courses that included a personal computer. I remember being impressed because it came with a 20 MB hard drive. Twenty whole megs! What on earth would you fill that with?

Back in those days, before hard drive sizes were measured in gigabytes or terabytes, when storage space meant floppy disks or (if you were lucky enough to have a very expensive burner) CDs and hard drive space was at a premium, people routinely deleted old e-mail messages (perhaps after printing off the ones they truly wanted to keep on their ridiculously expensive printers using ink that cost more than the printer).

The result is that most people don’t have copies of most of their old e-mails. (I still mourn the loss of hundreds of megabytes worth of Hotmail emails I’ve lost over the years.) Not me. My e-mails go back to 2001 (with a couple dozen from back as far as 1999), since shortly after I lost the first batch of Hotmail e-mails to their 30-day activity requirement. That’s 107,815 as of right now in my Yahoo account. One of these days I’ll go through and weed out some of the e-mails I no longer need, but looking occasionally at the oldies is kind of fun. Like pulling out photo albums and reminiscing about the good old days. Snapshots of your life as it was.

Still, saving all those old e-mails is yet another symptom of a general hoarding mental illness. Takes up less space than traditional clutter, but it’s just as pathetic. It’s the bulimia to hoarding’s anorexia: less visible but still an illness.