back to article The hoarder's dilemma, or 'Why can't I throw anything away?'

I like my house zen. Unfortunately, I am a hoarder, so it’s not. My half-life wife has been trying to educate me by making me watch TV programmes with titles like Extreme Hoarders, I Can’t Stop Hoarding and Smelly Old Fat Bastards Who Don’t Wash And Won’t Throw Anything Away. To some extent, this does the trick. After each …


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  1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    The solution is...

    1) Coffee

    2) Beer

    3) Being mental and not fully in control of your senses, SUCCESSFULLY GIT RID OF OLD KIT (i.e. pack it into boxes then drive down to the recycling center - remove any harddisks first though because the personnel has developed a gluttony for old disks for some reason)

    1. miknik

      I'm totally guily of this too

      I have untold amount of tech like this, not to mention a cable monster which is expansive enough to need mapping. I keep it "just in case" I need a 10m DVI cable or similar one day. The problem is you never need any of it *until* a week after you throw something away, right? I can't be the only person this happens to...

      Sent from my Nokia 9000i communicator.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Stacking boxes

    Last year I invested in lots of transparent plastic boxes that stack eight high against the garage walls. Each box has a detailed contents label - with each one containing related items. This has several benefits:

    1) things can be found quite quickly.

    2) the contents of a box can be classified as truly obsolete at some point.

    3) unstacking and restacking the boxes to get to a desired one is good upper body exercise.

    No box is yet marked as "Pieces of string too short to use"

    1. bitmap animal
      Thumb Up

      Re: Stacking boxes

      I did that last year. It was terrifying how many tubs I needed for the variety of parts. I do have a small business so look after workstations, servers, networking, phones etc so there is a lot but thee boxes full of bits grew to about 25 tubs.

      It was worth doing though, at least I can see what I've got now.

    2. MondoMan

      Re: Stacking boxes

      I learned it as "string too short to save" - makes the acronym more fun!

    3. Jim 59

      Re: Stacking boxes

      Same boxes, same gear, all in the loft. There it remains until better electronic recycling facilities are available. Much of the kit is broken, but is it better in my loft or in landfill ? Much council "recycling" == landfill IMO.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Stacking boxes

        "but is it better in my loft or in landfill ?"

        Come off it, this is just some self justification for hoarding!

        For complex products using materials we don't make much use of in the UK, the energy used in recovering the materials, and the lack of a proper local use will undoubtedly tip the balance in favour of landfill.

      2. N13L5

        What Landfill??

        What are you all talking about Landfill..

        eBay is your landfill... just have to hire some kid to list it all and in the end, you can split the proceeds 50/50 and buy new cables for your attic with the money...

      3. A J Stiles

        Much council "recycling" == landfill -- WRONG

        Councils get paid good money by private firms for the recyclables they collect. Along with parking, this is an important revenue stream.

        Please explain how any private firm manages to turn a profit by paying for stuff and then burying it in landfill.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Much council "recycling" == landfill -- WRONG

          Doesn't it depend what the rubbish is? Here at my local tip workers, and the handful 'volunteers' without hi-viz bibs that seem to perpetually hang about the place, are very careful about making sure nothing with significant metal content goes into the black (landfill) bin by mistake and that mains cables are excised as close as possible from any electrical equipment as soon as it touches the ground. TVs and CRT monitors go direct into an ISO container and PCs go into the metal skip. I always assumed this was because 1) the TVs are destined for fiery death on an African beach, 2) the PCs being metal cased follow all the other metal scrap to get weighed in by whichever hanger-on's turn it is today and the proceeds get shared out amongst the council workers.

          I was told there once that none of the plastic gets reused as sorting it costs more than it's worth as a raw material and the paper is not even good enough to make toilet roll as there's too much plastic tape in it. That only really leaves the clothes (which can more validly be donated to a charity) and garden waste. I believe the council runs their own anaerobic digester and uses all the compost it generates in the public spaces.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Much council "recycling" == landfill -- WRONG

            I know (am related to) a council worker who makes a good little profit on old sinks, taps and various bits of metal that get stripped from houses during repairs. It seems my local authority have no problem in not demanding back old boilers etc.

  3. Craig 12

    Call that a cable box?!

    If el reg wants to start a competition to find the most hordiest, I'm definitely in with a shot.

    BTW Anyone need a scart cable? ISA TV card? Iomega zip drive? Two pin kettle lead*?

    (*even I struggle to understand why I keep these)

    1. MJG

      Sadly I have all you've just listed...

      Throwing it away though, it's such a waste.... Is it?! I dunno... :(

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      +1 for a readers' photo competition.

      1. melt

        I have a roomfull of VAXen; I will beat you all.

        1. Charles Manning


          My box with 12 slide rules?

    3. Silverburn

      Indeed. Cable and connector hoarding is absolutely natural. You never know when you might need that 20m CAT5 ethernet cable. Or that 3m SCART. Or that USB cable with that propriatory terminal (usually Sony). Usually for that 2mp camera...that's in the other box. As a backup, you understand.

      1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        Don't diss the 20m CAT5 cable. They make for very good telephone extensions to go between the master socket and your ADSL router, normal phone extension cable not being shielded and all. Five minutes with a crimping tool, a hammer and some cable pins and you could double your broadband speed...

        1. Thomas 4

          Yup, my cupboard is a vertiable IT graveyard of various bits and pieces. Off the top of my head....

          1 x Palm Tungsten T5 - fully boxed

          1 x Palm Infrared Fold Out Keyboard

          1 x Compact Flash I USB reader - I have no earthly idea how this got there

          1 x Nokia 6230

          1 x Blackberry Pearl

          1 x Motorola Droid (now reincarnated as an alarm clock)

          1 x Experia Play with a busted touchscreen that I really should send away for repair

          1 x Amstrad GX4000 (old school baby!)

          1 x Asus Eee PC 701 (Mint in box, used twice)

          1 x unholy rats nest of VGA cables, coaxial network cables, fibre optic cables, audio plugs, microphones, antennas and something that scratches around in the bottom of the box and keeps me awake at night

          I really should dump some of this crap on eBay. Except maybe for the last one. I'm not touching that. oO

          1. Dave 126 Silver badge

            >something that scratches around in the bottom of the box and keeps me awake at night

            That would be a mouse.

            [Insert one of the oldest home computing jokes here]

          2. Jim 48

            Nokia 6310i x ?

            Nokia 9000 Communicator

            Toshiba e570 Windows CE PDA (including leather case & cradle)

            Handpsring 56k modem but NO Handspring Visor!

            Sony Ericsson M600i

            Linksys NSLU2 (slugged up but retired)


          3. Thomas 4
            Thumb Up

            I forgot something!

            I forgot to add the shining jewel of my obscure tech hoarding:

            1 x fully boxed and working Sharp Zaurus Linux PDA.

            1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

              Re: I forgot something!

              I moved house a while back, and the computer cables got 'rationalised'. Such that when my Mum asked me for a SCART lead for her new DVD player last week, I didn't have one. The shame! I didn't think I'd dumped those. My old parallel and serial cables finally went, and my figure-of-eight power leads. Also my old, still working, Amstrad Notepad NC100. My laptop for £200. I think I finally ended with the PS2 keyboards and mice as well, even though I just saw one of those on the back of a mate's PC that I was fixing. One PS2 for the mousey, USB for the keyboard, and it's only a couple of years old.

              The cables nest only fills one large box now, as opposed to two. Also, my Windows 3.1 disks, all my old games from my IBM/Ambra 386 (except I kept Elite). I think Windows 3.1 was only 10 floppies, Windows 95 came on about 30 (if you foolishly took that option). I've never hoarded mobile phones, I've always given mine away soon after upgrading, but my computers are usually so obsolete when I stop using them, there aren't any takers.

          4. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Here's my garage hoard:

            Numerous bits from a Digital PDP11 (including a honking great hard drive)

            Atari STE with monochrome monitor

            SGI Indy with monitor, camera, keyboard, mouse and external CD-ROM drive

            RDI SPARC based laptop

            Digital VaxStation VLC with terminal and keyboard

            NeXTstation with monitor, keyboard, mouse, sound box, external CD-ROM drive and humungous printer

            Two Digital Sharks (prototype ARM based computers)

            Apple G5 Xserve

            15" LCD screen, multiple PS2 keyboards and mice

            Two hubs with BNC connectors

            Four large boxes of cables (including various kinds of ethernet cables and just about every SCSI cable known to man)

            That's just the computing related stuff. I dread to think what lurks in the dozen or so other decaying boxes.

            1. Stoneshop Silver badge


              I moved house a year ago. This was not unlike bzipping my hobby/storeroom (36m^2, 1.7327 nanoWales) and an adjacent 8m^2 room into crates and boxes, sokobanning them into a shipping container, having the containers moved to the new domicile, then unpacking the container's contents onto pallets and moving those inside. No attempt was made during packing to separate worthwhile stuff from rubbish (would have taken too much time); only the most egregious crap was dumped.

              I can state that I have

              - 1 36HE 19" rack full of Suns, VAXes, Alphastations, an UPS and a big honking IBM x86 server

              - 1 Europallet stacked chest-high with crates containing cables (Ethernet, SCSI and miscellaneous), network gear, harddrives, tapedrives, controllers *), mice/trackballs, keyboards, power supplies and less-readily-categoriseable tat.

              - 1 Europallet stacked even higher with boxes containing Beebs, Atoms, early Thinkpads (among which 3 701CSes), Ataris, Amigas, an Apple ][ clone and similar.

              - 1 Europallet stacked about as high as the previous one, with audio gear, only a minor part of which being my intended living-room hifi. Somewhere in that stack are an Uher Reporter, HighCom noise reduction units, DAT and MiniDisc players and a Telefunken video disc player.

              - one more Europallet has already been de-stacked and moved to the loft, most of which were crates of electronic parts, modules, projects, databooks and such.

              - One full storage rack with, among others, a purple iMac, a Motorola Powerstack and some more 80's home computers.

              - One full storage rack with electronics measuring equipment and boxes of parts.

              - a Schaub Lorenz Music Centre.

              - a mover's bin (1m40 long, 50cm wide, 50cm high) nearly full with CAT5 cable with lengths of up to 50m

              - There's a SGI Personal Iris *somewhere*.

              Stored/displayed elsewhere are a NeXTCube, a SGI O2, a Compaq Portable II, a Compaq Portable 486, some non-Thinkpad IBM Portables and a few more VAXes and Alpha's.

              Oh, and there's the workshop, plus the (between me and my gf) ten motorcycles, a moped and a motorised cargo bike. With their complement of spare parts (including gearboxes, crankcases, front forks and rear suspension units).

              *) wooden storage crates, lest static electricity reduce them to dead, or even worse, not-quite-healthy controllers. Separated into SCSI, video, network and miscellaneous. I'm still quite pissed at IKEA for stopping carrying them.

              1. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

                Re: Hoard


                - a Schaub Lorenz Music Centre.


                Only one? Amongst my other music hardware I have 3 Sony HMK-80 Music centres. What will you do if one of the parts dies and your spare has a similar failure?

              2. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Hoard

                Remember hoarders: Best prognosis is you're within two degrees of saving your poo in jam jars.

                (Or so I am frequently reminded.)

                Must remember to start tidying the garage tomorrow.

      2. ridley

        "You never know when you might need that 20m CAT5 ethernet cable. Or that 3m SCART."

        Of course you do it will be within a week of throwing them away.


    4. Dave 126 Silver badge

      A competition, hey? Rosettes awarded in a number of categories, including most obselete kit, most obscure item, best snake's nest (sorry, cable box)...

      - Gravis Ultrasound card, Analogue Joystick (transparent version, though I lost the little screwdriver), and Gamepad. The controllers are still useable (with an adaptor) but I can't imagine the Ultrasound being of much use, unless you must resurrect some ancient .MOD files.

      -Some weird mid-nineties Phillips PDA with stylus

      -Canon's first consumer digital camera, the PowerShot 600 (though I lose points on this, since I bought it from the 'junk bin' from outside a local PC repair shop about ten years ago. With its dock, I thought it would make a good paperweight).

      I'm not in with a chance of winning this game!

    5. Vince Lewis 1

      I need a scart lead.... two weeks after dumping my tangle of cables, the wife asked me to get out the old vcr...

      1. unitron

        So two weeks... the universal constant for these things?

    6. Steven Roper


      This thread enticed me to go out to my garage and take stock. Let's see...

      2 x Amiga 500s, one with a half-meg expansion board still in it.

      1 x 52 MB GVP side-mount hard drive for said Amiga 500.

      1 x Amiga 1200, with 68060 racer board and 32 MB of RAM on it.

      1 x tower case with 3 320 MB SCSI HDDs in it, to hook up as external storage device to said A1200. Yes, I was the first in my group of friends to have ONE WHOLE GIG of storage space!

      4 x plastic disk boxes with dozens of 3 1/2" Amiga floppies in them... Oooh, The Settlers! I loved that game! And Elite Frontier... Damocles... Shadow of the Beast (1 and 2)... Menace... Sidewinder... Blood Money...

      2 x boxes of assorted cables and power bricks, none more recent than 1993ish. Centronics leads, RS-232 cables and connectors, SCSI adapters and those super-wide ribbon cables they used; the 5-pin DIN-type leads the C-64 used, Amiga and C64 power bricks...

      1 x Commodore 64 C w/ Datel Action Replay 6 and DolphinDOS.

      1 x 1541 5 1/4" floppy drive (the ORIGINAL kind with the push-in door) and DolphinDOS.

      1 x MPS-803 dot-matrix printer for same, with cartridges

      1 x 14400 baud unbranded modem w/ cable

      1 x 56k baud Motorola modem w/ cable

      Assorted cartridges for said C64 including Hesmon, Epyx Fastload, Cockroach Graphics Pirate and Freeze Machine.

      8 x plastic floppy disk boxes with all my old C64 games and crackscene demos on them. Oooh, some old favourites: Bugaboo The Flea, Henry's House, Zaxxon, Wizardry, Elite, Mercenary, subLogic Flight Simulator II...

      4 x boxes of old Commodore User, Your Commodore, Ahoy! and Australian Commodore and Amiga Review magazines. And there's that old cover tape with the R1D1 game on it!

      Awwwww look... My dear old Sinclair ZX81, my first computer, complete with 16KB Expansion Cartridge of Don't Fucking Sneeze Near It Or It Will Crash. And my beloved old VIC-20, complete with Maths Invaders, Typing Tutor and that tape of crappy BASIC games that came with it... And is that my old Casio PB-100? My god, an old desktop office cassette recorder... wow, this is becoming an archaeological dig here...

      Ethernet cables and old wireless mice indeed! Bah! MY garage is a veritable computing museum!

      1. Alistair Dabbs Silver badge

        Re: Right!

        That's not a hoard, that's a museum. Consider putting information cards next to each item for members of the public to read.

      2. casinowilhelm

        Re: Right!

        Some of that amiga stuff is still worth a surprisingly decent amount, you should stick it on ebay or to amiga groups. I got 100 quid recently for a dusty old amiga 1200 accelerator board.

      3. TheOtherHobbes

        Re: Right!

        Real obsessives keep PDP-11s in their garage - although you're not really hardcore until you try to restore a PDP-10.

        (I've done neither, although I did get run TOPS-10 running on Ubuntu in Virtual Box on a Mac controlled from a Windows PC once.)

    7. johnB

      Two-pin kettle lead

      I know a chap who was asking for one of those a couple of weeks ago - he's inherited an old coffee maker that uses such a lead & there wasn't one with it.

      Put it on eBay please!

    8. Shaha Alam

      I needed an Iomega zip drive about a year ago when i discovered some old zip disks. I had no idea what was on them, the obsessive compulsive in me told me whatever it was, it was so crucial I simply had to know. Bought a zip drive off ebay, checked out the disks to find they were all blank and ready to be used if/when needed.

      I'm very thorough and organised like that. I just *forget* I'm organised.

      I'm also now stuck with a zip drive with zip disks i'm never going to use.

      1. Cpt Blue Bear

        "I'm also now stuck with a zip drive with zip disks i'm never going to use."

        Nonsense - bung them on eBay and some other muppet will buy them. I know this because we moved office recently and have been off-loading all manner of crap old kit to benefit the End of Year Pissup Fund. It's in the black to the tune of over $1,000 already...

        Zip drives are still in demand it seems based on how our stash have gone. I'm still looking for the power supply for a USB Zip250 and the whereabouts of the old SCSI Zip100 (I reckon an ex has it - it provided termination for the external SCSI chain on her PowerMac...)

    9. Rusty 1

      The Ascent of Man

      Surely there is a sequence to be observed:

      1. a box containing miscellaneous computer stuff;

      2. many boxes, one of which contains miscellaneous computer cables;

      3. many boxes, one of which contains ethernet cables;

      4. many boxes, one of which contains CAT6 ethernet cables;

      5. many boxes, one of which contains 1-3m CAT6 ethernet cables;

      6. many boxes, one of which contains red 1-3m CAT6 ethernet cables.

      Once there, you only have to worry about the number of O'Reilly technical reference books you have.

    10. Number6

      Only one?

      Without looking too hard, I have at least eight boxes of cables. One is full of IEC mains leads, two are labelled 'network' and mostly contain cat5 cables, although I think there's a 10BaseT to 10Base2 converter in there too, and a PCMCIA ethernet adapter for an old laptop. One has all the cables commonly found inside PCs, one is helpfully labelled 'misc' and the rest are a mystery.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I found in my dads garage.

    An Elonex 386sx laptop, with 40mb hard drive and ISA slot. Just Why? The PSU was bigger and heavier than my aspire one.

    I was even bored enough to power it up, it booted and loaded windows 3.1.

    <small>I know that if he was to chuck it out, i'd probably insist on rescuing it</small>

    1. Silverburn

      Re: I found in my dads garage.

      and if you're like me, you'll scour ebay to max out the RAM, HD, maybe find a video card...under the vain pretense you can make it relevant and useful again. Only to find Crysis does'nt run.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I found in my dads garage.

        Like my 486 laptop, Office 4.3 on it and it's a nifty little word processor.

        Clarisworks on it and it even does a bit of DTP.

    2. Simon Harris

      Re: I found in my dads garage.

      "An Elonex 386sx laptop"

      I've still got an LT386SXP/16 (that's the one with the orange plasma screen and no battery), sitting in a cupboard. I don't think I've powered it up in the last 10 years! Just found the 5 1/4" external floppy drive and a 3 button logitech mouse with an RS232 interface I used to use with it! I think I bought it in 1990.

      Also found, a Z80 CPU, a couple of 6502s, a little pile of 2114 static RAM (from about 1980) and a pile of 256Kx1 dynamic RAM in DIP packages, the latter pulled from a 286 system I got rid of in 1991 - thought the memory 'might come in useful sometime' - err, well... not in the last 21 years, it didn't!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I found in my dads garage.

        My old fella works with embedded systems in industry, and finds old laptops useful for:

        - Serial port (most machines no no longer have a serial port)

        - Parallel port (see above)

        - Floppy drive (old controller software on floppy)

        - Proper DOS

  5. Peter Simpson 1
    Thumb Up

    You have inspired me

    to fill the trashcan this weekend.

    Thank you.

    (and my wife thanks you as well)

  6. theastrodragon

    Hoarding?? Never!!

    Keeping old electronics isn't hoarding.

    Its off-site backups. For very old sites...

    1. FrankAlphaXII

      Re: Hoarding?? Never!!

      Is it an offsite backup if you can't quite remember where the site was?

      1. Gavin King

        Re: Hoarding?? Never!!

        The more important question is whether or not it's an off-site back-up if the site (and everything to do with it) has ceased to exist.

  7. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

    And another one here...

    Also occasionally nagged by my better half to have "a clear out".

    But that said her mother did ring up a few months back complaining that an electronic somethingorother (I forget what it was offhand) had stopped working. Diagnosed as a failed power brick - cue reading of power requirement label, shufty through my version of aforementioned boxen, appearance of fully working power brick kept after its associated gadget went tits-up and lo, one relatively happy mother-in-law, at least briefly.

    Not to mention the walk-on cameo role that a couple of handfuls of old memory chips made a while back as visual props when I had to give a training presentation about my job, which seemed to rate all sorts of brownie points from the PowerPoint droid giving the course.

    So here's to the boxes of cables, all coiled up and nests for mice (and keyboards).


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