by Jennifer Forker
Some of us have a difficult time knowing how to organize all of this digital information, from emails and documents to uploaded photos and downloaded songs. We hoard because we can: Today's computer memory can handle it, and our email providers offer seemingly infinite storage space.
Take Peggy Stempson, associate pastor at Pierre First United Methodist Church in Pierre, South Dakota, who hangs onto at least 4,000 emails, many of them part of long conversations with friends going back five years or more. "They spark memories, and connect me with people and help me contact them," says Stempson, 30. "It's kind of like a diary."
All of this digital detritus is not a problem unless it interferes with your life, work or happiness, according to Tim Kasser, a psychology professor at Knox College, in Galesburg, Illinois. "If this acquisition of 'e' stuff ends up leading to a lifestyle that forces you to have less time for your family, or less time to draw or play music or run around in a park, or less time to be involved in your community, then I would say that to me is a problem," says Kasser. "I can see how that happens with electronic stuff."
Thank goodness there are experts to help extend spring cleaning to the digital realm. Start the de-cluttering process slowly, advises Danielle Claro, editor-at-large at "Real Simple" magazine. "If you're intimidated by it, you need someone to hold your hand—either a friend or a teenager," she says, noting that she'd probably enlist her own teen. Allison Carter of Atlanta gets paid to help people find their way through the digital morass. She helps clients streamline emails, organize finances, manage documents and photos, and back it all up. "The digital world, it's about finding things, making your life more efficient, enjoying things, rather than having them only live in the darkness of your hard drive," says Carter, whose business is called Digital Life Organizing.
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