Tackling our piles of paper has been an organizing project that I have been putting off for years. My Paper Trail #1 post came out over a year ago, so the project has continued to be put off over this past year.
To be honest, the paper work is somewhat organized already. The issue is the volume of paper. I have a large binder of notes for almost every course that I have taken over two university degrees. I have made the odd attempt to get rid of these notes, but usually loose my courage when I remember how much work I did to get those degrees. It is as though the paperwork is the proof that I completed the courses and that no one will believe me (or I won’t believe me) if the paper trail is gone.
Near the end of 2015, I finally tackled the huge piles of paper left over from university study. I pulled two huge boxes out of the office closet and started what I anticipated to be a long, painstaking process. However, time is a funny thing. I have mentioned that I have made multiple attempts to get rid of my school paper in the past – without success. But I also live by the de-cluttering rule that I can always go back later. Well apparently I left enough time between tries to go back later with success. The process started slowly, but in no time at all I was throwing entire binders of paper in the recycling pile. I went from this:
Here are a few lessons that I learned:
1) Hold on to something you’re proud of, but not everything you’re proud of. This may have been what was holding me back in the first place. I would find a paper or test that I received a good grade on and I would remember how valued that made me feel. I had to remember that old school work is not where my value lies. In the end, I kept one test and one paper (and I am hoping to toss them eventually).
2) If I haven’t looked at it in the last five years, I am not likely to use in the future. I had been holding on to items such as a Calculus text book incase I ever wanted to re-learn Calculus. a) I will not be doing that and b) the public library does a great job of holding on to calculus text books for me.
3) No one else will need your old notes. Some of my old school work could be relevant to the work that my husband does. Ask me how many times in the last decade it has occurred to me to pull something out for him – exactly, zero times.
4) It is ok to let go when your interests change. For me, allowing old school work to take up so much physical space made it difficult for me to open up mental space for new interests. The boxes were a reminder of where I came from. Generally, that was a good thing. However, boxes full of never read paper was not helping me with where I was going.
5) I still have the education, even without the paper and books to prove it. No one will ever ask me to pull out an old assignment to prove I have knowledge. I also don’t need to have the physical copies to prove it to myself.
What’s holding you back from looking forward? What physical clutter is taking up precious mental space in your life? Let me know in the comments below.