Confessions of a Digital Hoarder

I secretly enjoy watching TV shows about hoarders. Partly because it’s like watching a train wreck—horrible, but you just can’t look away--and partly because it makes me feel pretty good about my own housekeeping skills. I mean, I don’t want anyone looking in my closets, but no one is about to make a TV show about me. I do throw out garbage and I don’t hold onto things past their expiration dates, well, not long past their expiration dates. I don’t even come close to hoarding level—that is if you don’t count what is on my computer.

                I have a picture of my grandmother when she was a child. It shows her with her older sister and baby brother. She is a cute, pudgy little girl with ringlets and a pout. The pout is because she did not get to wear bows in her hair for the picture like her sister did. The picture is precious, partly because it is so cute but mostly because it is so rare. It is the only picture I have of her as a child.
                Now let’s talk about pictures of my grandchildren. I have seventeen pictures of one granddaughter eating her cake on her first birthday—seventeen. And that’s after I deleted the really bad ones. And that doesn’t include the pictures of her opening presents. Seventeen!
                On a boating trip last summer, I took nearly a thousand pictures. After sorting through them and deleting the out of focus and poorly framed ones, I still have over 600. I have 216 pictures of a Christmas party we attended a couple of years ago and close to 100 pictures of my son showing his pig at the 4-H fair. I cannot even begin to guess how many thousand pictures I have on my computer.
                And it’s not just pictures. My documents file contains a paper one of my sons wrote for his Senior English class. That son graduated four years ago. I have handouts I created for a lesson I taught nearly ten years ago and a letter I wrote requesting to be excused from jury duty three years ago. (I didn’t get excused.) I’m thinking maybe these things count as “past their expiration date.”
                I remember when digital cameras replaced film cameras. We rejoiced saying we could now take as many pictures as we wanted of an event and then edit them down to the handful that were the very best. The “take as many pictures as we want” part we stuck to. The “edit them down” part got lost along the way. I think that’s partly because of the time it takes to sort through a thousand pictures, but it’s also because deciding which ones are the “very best” is tough. When you have 24 pictures of the same moment, how do you decide which is best? If I’m in the pictures, the one I look best in is obviously going to qualify, but beyond that it gets tricky. Do I choose the one where the most people are looking at the camera or the one where my husband for once has a natural looking smile? Do I keep the one where my grandson is smiling broadly with his eyes squinting nearly shut or the one where his smile is less radiant, but his eyes are opened wide? How do I choose?
                And choose I must, because that is the challenge I’ve given myself. I’m going to clean out and organize my computer the same way I periodically attack my pantry. I’m going to be ruthless. I’m going to hit the delete button with a vengeance. Then maybe eighty years from now when my granddaughter’s granddaughter opens a single picture of her eating cake on her first birthday, that picture will be precious.



  1. no don't delete pictures. They are all precious and they all tell a piece of a story. If that grandson was to die today you would wish that you had kept every picture. There is always room on a thumb drive or in a computer file. If you want to separate the best ones from the not so good ones, then make a file labeled "my favorite photos" and they will be precious to your granddaughter. Then if you loose some of those children before you pass, you will have all the pictures that you have taken to enjoy them for a moment longer. If you loose a child put all your pictures of that child in a file and have your computer play everyone of them while in rest mode, even the ones where they blinked because that was part of what they did when they were alive. I hope you never loose any children or grandchildren, but believe me, if you do, you will wish you had kept ALL of their pictures.

    1. Thank you, Reneta, for your wisdom, which I know comes from your own heart break. Maybe I won't be so ruthless with the delete button after all.


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