Digital Hoarder: Guilt in Deleting Files or Projects

Hey MPU,

Curious to read everyone’s stories, how many of us here are guilty of being digital hoarders?

I have lots of projects over the years that I created either for school, work, organization, etc. Once the project is over, I keep the source files and final copy. It piles up after a few years.


Call it what you will, who experiences the guilt of wanting to delete, but has that gnawing feeling….may be I can repurpose it haha

To delete or not delete that is the question!

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Digital hoarding’s a real thing, but it’s only disorderly if it actually impacts your life in a negative way. For instance, if you’re buying unreasonable numbers of harddrives, experiencing anxiety about whether you’ve saved things sufficiently, or wasting intense amounts of time (re)organizing things that you’re not using, you might actually want to seek help.

I mean that, and I say it without judgment. It can be pathological! Cognitive-behavioural therapy has been great for me (though I did not use it with a digital hoarding issue).

(I am not a doctor.)

With that disclaimer out of the way: I save everything. I use DEVONthink smart rules to sort and organize resources—papers or whatnot that I collect. I don’t actually have a good approach for archiving projects, though, so I’m curious about what others do.

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Oh I know it’s a real thing! My worry is deleting something that I may need later on (think past the Backblaze allowance) lol

My resources are currently a mix.

  1. 99.99% are folder-based on the Synology NAS
  2. DevonThink for me is a mix of bags still. It’s nice to pull up a database of ‘manuals’ for example or ‘reference material topic’ but I also have those arranged on the NAS by folder.

In terms of archiving projects, here’s a sample breakdown.

Root Folder - ‘Projects’
Parent Folder - ‘Organization Name’
Child Folder - ‘Year’

Within the ‘Year’ Folder would then be another folder with the project name and date YYYY-MM-DD Project Name and then all the files related to that project.


When I’m done with a project I will give it some time then go through and decide what is relevant to keep. Lots of info duplicated in multiple emails, versions of documents, etc. Then I zip it so I only have one file to deal with. Emails are saved as a pdf so they go into the zip file too.


In our household we have a monthly event we call Ruthless Cleaning. A room or closet or cabinet is targeted. Anything not precious (very narrowly defined) or used in the past six months is evicted.

I treat my data the same way. In that case “precious” means the file or image resulted in income. Otherwise, poof. (There are exceptions, of course … and that’s where the mischief starts.)


For me, it’s less about my data being precious and more about my time being precious. Disk space is so plentiful (and in the event I need to find something, Houdaspot is so good) that spending time deciding whether or not to delete something isn’t worth it. Just chuck everything on the server.


I go through my files/folders every half year or so. And everything I don’t use frequently is moved to my synology.

And from the synology, anything not used frequently moves to an external drive I store in a cupboard somewhere.

It’s not perfect, but keeps me sane :slight_smile:

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Can Houdaspot search on the NAS?

Not sure but look at this thread. The last post may help. SOLVED: Searching comments with HoudahSpot and Spotlight

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My big pot of storage is a Mac mini, rather than a NAS. Houdaspot works fine for searching the mini (even doing it as an SMB share from my desktop). Can’t speak to a NAS.

If you have the space, I don’t see it as hoarding to not delete something. Some projects just take up a few MB, which is less than a penny’s worth of storage on a 2TB SSD, or on Amazon S3 for five years. When a project takes up a lot of space, sometimes I’ll delete it rather than sort through it to remove large dependencies and media files.

I’m in @anon41602260’s camp. I only have 1TB on my iMac and that has to hold all of our photos, music, and computing projects (obviously I could buy more space but I’d rather not), so I’m pretty ruthless when it comes to useless cruft.

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Hi Ryan :slight_smile:
What are some of your favorite smart rules? I have been using the heck out of DEVONsave v3 and HTML to PDF is the only smart rule I have. I love it and I bet you have a lot more that are great.

I see no problem in saving as much as you can easily save without stress. I’ve had FAR too many instances where digital tings become incredibly useful 10-20-30 years after they were first created. I see no reason to delete something unless it’s a partial or incomplete version. And sometimes the history of changes is valuable.

Shudder, I could NEVER deal with data like that! Hundreds of things I keep have no income generating vaue but are nevertheless usefull decades later and save me time and haslse in the re-creation of them. That alone is worth a lot of disk space!

Yes, exactly. Plus a good 70% of the time things I considered worthless at the end of a project touse become valuable years later. I am not good at figuring out the 30% I can realy delete so I save it all.


I actually don’t use that many. The only other rule of note drives my semesterly organizing system. Every resource I add gets placed in an inbox until I add some tags to them (generally these refer to the type of content the resource contains). Then the smart rule moves the items to a year/semester folder via a script.

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I must confess that I’m also a hoarder. With hard drives and capacity increasing, I throw everything into a main folder with context like projects or organization that are similar to yours.