The Dilemma of Data Hoarding: To Keep or Not to Keep Old Files?

2 min readSep 19


Data hoarding isn’t a new phenomenon, but with the advent of digital technology, the capacity to store an ever-increasing amount of information has reached new heights. From family photographs to old work files and documents from your children’s schooling, the question becomes: What should you keep, and what should you get rid of? This dilemma becomes particularly relevant when you discover files that date back years, like a directory from your son’s preschool days, even though he’s now a high school sophomore.

Emotional Attachment and Data Hoarding

It’s easy to attach emotional significance to certain files, especially those involving family and milestones. Keeping such files isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It can help you reminisce and reflect on life events. However, emotional attachment can sometimes lead to unnecessary data hoarding. According to Dr. Randy O. Frost, a psychology professor who specializes in obsessive-compulsive disorder and hoarding, the sentimental value of an item (or a file) often makes it hard to part with ([source](

Practical Considerations

1. **Relevance**: How relevant is this directory to your life or your son’s life now? Will it be useful or meaningful in the future?
2. **Space**: Are you running out of storage space, either digitally or physically?
3. **Accessibility**: Is this document easily retrievable and readable, or is it stored in an outdated format?
4. **Privacy and Security**: Does it contain sensitive information that should be securely stored or shredded?

Strategies to Make the Decision Easier

The 20/20 Rule

You might consider applying the 20/20 Rule: If you can replace an item within 20 minutes for less than 20 dollars, then you should consider letting it go. This rule, popularized by The Minimalists, Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus, can help you make swift decisions ([source](


For old, physical files, consider scanning them into a digital format. This way, you can store them more securely and take up less space.


Categorize files into “Essential,” “Maybe,” and “Discard” to streamline the decision-making process.

Consult with Stakeholders

In this case, your son may be a stakeholder. His opinion might provide a fresh perspective on whether to keep the directory or not.


Data hoarding is a practice many of us engage in, often subconsciously. While the attachment to old files is understandable, it’s essential to weigh the emotional and practical aspects. By doing so, you not only free up storage space but also make your data more organized and accessible.


Mom of three boys. Computer programmer living in the country with my husband focusing on my hobbies and youngest son.