Gadget hoarding: A growing problem in the Digital Age

In serious cases, holding onto aging electronics after you upgrade can classify as a clinical disorder
January 11, 2014 9:12:13 PM PST
If you've got a growing collection of old smartphones, laptops and other devices you don't use, you might be a gadget hoarder.

That's right! In serious cases, holding onto aging electronics after you upgrade can classify as a clinical disorder.

So, how do you know if you've got a problem?

Nicole Wakelin loves the latest and greatest in gadgets. But looking at this bin of phones and other gizmos, it appears she's not ready to let go of the old stuff, either.

"I have everything from phones that I haven't used in five years that are still sitting in a pile, various versions of the iPads that also sit in a pile that don't get used," Wakelin said.

Wakelin says her gadgets have grown on her.

"It's hard to part with it," she said. "You know, it means so much when you buy it."

Dr. Christina Villarreal is a behavior therapist who specializes in hoarding. She says gadget hoarding is becoming more prevalent.

"Gadget hoarding is a form of hoarding disorder, which is a person having persistent difficulty with parting with their possessions, regardless of their value," Villarreal said.

For serious hoarders, staying current can be a financial drain.

"I've definitely seen patients who struggled with feeling the need to accrue electronic devices, in spite of their ability to afford them," Villarreal said. "It's definitely becoming an increased area of concern for many people."

But, is keeping a collection of dated devices a sign you need help?

"Holding onto old cellphones or old laptops isn't necessarily hoarding or a problem, as long as it's not affecting a person's work life, home life, relationships and ability to function," Villarreal explained.

Wakelin says she's not that far gone and points out a practical reason for hanging on to old electronics.

"We haven't gotten rid of them because there's that sense, 'What if something happened that I needed this as a backup?'" Wakelin said.

However, she does admit some emotional attachment to her collection, something Villarreal says is not uncommon.

"Some people hold onto electronic devices because they used them during a special time in their life," Villarreal said. "Maybe they had cell phones from college or pagers that they used in particular work settings."

Whether the motivation is sensible or sentimental, if you've got gadgets galore, consumer guru Andrea Woroch has some advice.

"Consider selling them so you can help pay for some monthly expenses, like your cable or electricity bill," Woroch said.

Woroch said letting go of the gadgets could lead to some serious cash back in your pocket.

Wakelin knows her stash could go for big bucks, but she's holding onto it -- at least for now.

"Gadgets are probably my big weakness," Wakelin said. "I try not to hoard anything else."

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