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Are you an Enthusiast or Gadget Hoarder? Careful, the Line is Thin

Written by: Jasmine Chiam
Gadget Hoarding Disorder

Do you remember the mid-2000s, when we were promised fewer gadgets but more features and powerful capabilities?

Although Symbian led the way, Apple’s iPhone cemented it, and soon enough, one device replaced a plethora of different gadgets.

And all of a sudden, your radio, Walkman, iPod, camcorder, and car GPS were nothing but outdated pieces of hardware, collecting dust in a forgotten drawer or dedicated cable box.

One would expect to be happier with fewer devices that could do more. But if you look at the statistics, we actually own more devices than we used to before, even when compared to the early 2000s.

And it doesn’t help that countless industries are vying for a place in the market, pushing their own programs, software, services, and devices—so much so that consumers are driven to buy and buy.

So unsurprisingly, you and I may have a collection of gadgets and gizmos at home, some of which we’ve barely touched in the past year or so.

But when are we gadget enthusiasts, and when are we borderline gadget hoarders? Where’s the line, and how will we know if we’ve crossed it? We’ll explore the answer to those questions in this article.

Why We Need More Gadgets Now Than Ever Before

Let us say that you’re a music enthusiast, esports gamer, and a daily commuter with an open office layout in your office. You love to jog early in the morning, and you entertain yourself with online shooters after work. Can you own one pair of headphones that will cater to each situation?

You certainly could; something like the Bose QC45 or the Sony WH-1000XM4 could fill in the gap. But the further you go, the more you realize that noise-canceling headphones are best for your daily commute to work, Apple’s AirPods are a convenient solution for running, while Razer’s latest headphones offer the best gaming experience.

And that’s just guessing that you only have one phone and one gaming system. Let me not start with platform exclusives like Super Mario, Gran Turismo, or Gears of War. For each blockbuster, you need a different console, and many of us have just that.

The Gadget Galore Doesn’t End Here

Turning your regular “everyday” objects into a piece of tech has become a huge thing in the industry, with smartwatches being just one out of many examples. Fitness monitors like the FitBit and Oura Ring—yes, a smart ring that can track your sleep and activity levels—are garnering more attention for their claimed health benefits.

Don’t forget the Airtag if you tend to lose your keys (or your cat), and throw in a tablet or two if you’re into art.

Since it isn’t a shock for someone to own multiple devices and gadgets at once, what separates an enthusiast from a hoarder?

What is Gadget or Tech Hoarding?

According to the American Psychiatric Association, people with a hoarding disorder find it persistently challenging to part with their possessions as they believe there’s a need to save and keep them [1].

Taking this definition into consideration, gadget hoarding may be described as the persistent need to store and keep gadgets, cables, chargers, and similar things. The person may have a hard time letting those things go, even if they no longer have any use or monetary value.

Signs of Gadget Hoarding to Look Out For

Gadget hoarding isn’t a medically-recognized condition in itself, but some signs of gadget hoarding may overlap with that of a hoarding disorder.

Here are some signs of gadget or tech hoarding to look out for [23]:-

  • Keeping and holding onto numerous gadgets that have little to no use and no monetary value
  • Having a strong emotional attachment to your gadgets that you find it highly challenging to discard them even when they’re no longer of use
  • Feeling distressed when discarding your possessions
  • Having intense urges to save items
  • Having difficulty organizing and storing your gadgets
  • Not letting anyone touch, move, or borrow your devices
  • Accumulating and collecting devices until they congest or clutter your living areas
  • Constantly misplacing and losing your devices and having trouble keeping track of where they are and how many you have
  • Having beliefs like “Buying this will make me happy” or “I might need to use this someday.”

The Line Between Gadget Hoarder and Gadget Enthusiast: When is It a Problem?

Having a gadget stash isn’t necessarily considered hoarding or a problem. After all, it’s pretty common for someone to have a mobile phone they use, a phone they previously used, a laptop, and maybe a tablet or smartwatch. Having multiple devices that cater to your hobbies and make your daily living easier is perfectly fine and normal.

So, when does it become a problem? 

Well, gadget hoarding may actually be a problem if [1, 2]:-

  • Your friends and family have raised concerns about the number of gadgets and devices you have.
  • You constantly overspend when purchasing gadgets, causing financial problems for yourself or your family.
  • You’re constantly buying the latest devices, even when you don’t have the budget, time or need for them.
  • The amount of gadgets you have has begun cluttering your home and getting in the way of your daily tasks.
  • The clutter prevents you from properly using your room or living spaces.
  • Your relationship with your friends and family has become constrained due to your hoarding habits. 
  • You’re constantly feeling anxious or distressed (when asked to get rid of certain items or having your gadgets moved or used by someone else).

As long as your gadget collection habits are not negatively impacting your finances, work, career, mental health, or relationships, they are much less likely to be a problem. In this case, your gadgets may also be very well-organized, functional, and easy to access. If so, you more likely fall into the category of “gadget enthusiast.”

On the other hand, someone who struggles with hoarding may have trouble managing their daily life, work, finances, or relationships due to their habits.

A person with a hoarding disorder may also observe problems involving indecisiveness, disorganization, distractibility, or procrastination [1].

How To Deal With Gadget Hoarding

Tech, gadget, or computer hoarding may happen for various reasons. For example, a person may hold onto all their old devices for fear of their information being stolen or misused, which is a common and perfectly understandable concern.

You may wish to stop gadget hoarding or simply want to reduce the amount of clutter caused by your ever-increasing stash of gadgets. In any case, reflecting on the root reason behind your hoarding habits can help you devise strategies to prevent or stop yourself from gadget hoarding.

Some of these strategies may include:-

  • Safely wiping out all information on your old and used devices: There are numerous online guides on removing all information from different types of devices, such as your iPhone, Android phone, or Macbook. These instructions may differ based on the device type, so if you’re unsure, your local tech store may be able to help out. Knowing that your data can’t be misused may make it easier for you to part with an old device.
  • Finding incentives for getting rid of old devices: Many brands and companies now offer trade-in programs. Through these programs, you can trade in your old devices for credit, which reduces the amount you have to pay for a new one. These programs will then recycle your old devices to reduce waste.
  • Finding your device a new owner: If your device is still functioning well, you may sell it as a secondhand product to someone else. This is a great way to reduce gadget clutter, especially if you need some extra cash! Alternatively, you may donate your device or give it to a family member or friend.
  • Looking out for recycling programs: You can search online for e-waste recycling programs or centers available in your area. Some programs may have a local drop-off site, while others allow you to mail your old devices to them. Some people may feel a little better letting go of their devices, knowing they’re playing their part for the environment.
  • Minimizing the temptation to BUY, BUY and BUY: Try your best to avoid or change conversation topics that involve the newest and hottest gadgets. Spring clean your inbox by unsubscribing to emails that only showcase deals, discounts, or news about the latest tech. And the next time the temptation hits, give yourself a 20-minute timeout window to reconsider your decision.

Most importantly, seek professional help if you’re concerned about your well-being. Sometimes, a person’s hoarding habits may be severe enough to affect their mental health, finances, daily living, and relationships.

At this stage, it’s always best to seek help from a trained professional or healthcare provider who can guide you in building effective strategies to improve your symptoms.

For instance, a therapist or counselor may provide a type of mental health treatment called cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), which can empower you to foster healthier thinking patterns and better manage any symptoms related to a hoarding disorder [4].

Final Takeaway: When Gadget Hoarding is a Real Problem

Having multiple gadgets doesn’t automatically mean it’s a problem. It’s completely understandable to have different gadgets that make life more convenient for you and allow you to enjoy your favorite pastimes.

However, if your gadget stash has begun to wreak havoc in your finances, relationships, mental health, work, or performance, it may be time to take a step back and reflect on your habits. In that situation, seeking professional advice and help would be the best way to preserve your financial and mental well-being.