Monday, January 24, 2011

The DeClutter Project Report - Week 4

My project for this past weekend was to declutter the bookcase in my office.  I was using it to keep travel books, dictionaries, language instruction books, some self-help volumes and various binders full of what turned out to be emails for the years 2004 to 2007 (I'd forgotten I had kept those) and various binders full of paperwork from a job I held for several years in the early 1990's.  Everything was slightly jumbled and disorganized.
Bookcase - before
One thing I've learned over the years about decluttering is that you have to be ruthless.  The author of this very helpful website Small Notebook suggests we should purge as if we were moving overseas and could only take a few things with us on the journey. I think that is an excellent suggestion.  If I was moving to, say, Australia, how much of what I currently surround myself with in my home would I take with me? Would I miss any of what I left behind?  I find it is harder to discard books though.  I love to read and often read the same books more than once, so if they're really good, I am more likely to hang onto them.

The other thing I've noticed is that sometimes we're not quite ready to let go of the past, which probably goes a long way to explaining why we hold onto some of this stuff for so long.  For example, the paperwork from this job I had 20 years ago.  I am still working in the same field so it wasn't completely unrealistic to suggest that I should save this material in case I should ever need it again.  However, I can now admit, in all honesty and with some embarrassment, that I literally have not looked at any of these several binders worth of forms and memos and samples in all of the time that I have been storing all of it.  The good news is that finally, I was ready to let them go.  For one thing, they are probably outdated.  Not all of it (amazingly, some of it is still completely relevant today) but definitely some of it.  But mostly because I figured if I needed any of it, it should be readily accessible, either via the Internet or from resources available through my current job.

It felt so good to shred several binders worth of paper and take them downstairs to be recycled.  I kept a few bits and pieces that I thought would make a cool collage background but that was only a few sheets of paper compared to the three huge binders full of paper I chucked out.  My shredder was in serious danger of overheating but I persevered.

Going through old papers is like opening a time capsule.  It's almost comical now to look back at how some of those old work forms were set up in the days before computers and then just as we were beginning to use them - remembering how we used to search for the little "hat" symbol (^) that indicated where a blank needed to be filled in.  I was surprised to see how familiar the handwriting of various former colleagues seemed, I wouldn't have guessed my brain had stored that information.  Surprising to see the names of various companies that are no longer in business, poignant to see memos addressed to or written by individuals who have since passed away.

As for the rest of the bookcase, some of the books are now in a box for Goodwill. Others are sorted so as to remind myself of which volumes I haven't yet read and I plan to start actually reading them once I finish the books I am currently reading.  The binders of emails are now labelled by year and I'll sort through them (and discard what I can) at a later date.
Bookcase - After (top 3 shelves)

Bookcase - After (bottom 3 shelves)
 Again, maybe not too much difference in the before vs. the after photos, to the untrained eye.  To me, it looks much more organized and tidy. I even made enough room to add another shelf, creating the perfect spot to store my manual typewriter in an easily accessible spot.  There is even a little bit of empty space left to fill at a future date.

I also found two large sized (11 x 14 inch) sketchbooks that I had used as photo albums.  One was full of pictures from a trip to Vail, Colorado I took with my parents some time in the early '90's, which was followed by a drive through the bottom corner of Utah into Arizona, ending at the Grand Canyon.  The photos I took of the Grand Canyon back then still astound me, it is such an amazingly beautiful place.  Especially when you consider that no photo does justice to the beauty and magnitude of the actual canyon itself.  You have to see it in person, you just do.  You'll understand what I'm saying when you get there.

In the other album, which only had a few pages filled, I was delighted to find some photos of Carly when she was a kitten, from the first weekend I brought her home in May of 1992.  No question about it, she was the cutest little thing!

1 comment:

Roberta Warshaw said...

Ah bookshelves. The bane of my existence. Never enough room on the shelves no matter what I do!