Growing concern over gadget hoarding

By Jodi Mohrmann - Managing Editor of special projects
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Nicole Wakelin loves the latest and greatest in gadgets.  But looking at her 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," she said.

Wakelin says her gadgets have grown on her.

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

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," explained Villarreal.

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," said Villarreal. "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," explained Villarreal.

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?'" she said.

However, Wakelin 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," explained Villarreal. "Maybe they had cellphones from college, uh pagers that they used in particular work settings."

Whether the motivation is sensible or sentimental, if you have gadgets galore, one consumer guru has some advice.

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

Woroch says 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," she admitted. "I try not to hoard anything else."

Another reason experts say some people hang on to old devices is they're concerned about the personal information on them, and don't want it falling into the wrong hands.

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