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Letting Go: The Difference Between Clutter and Memories

At the age of eighty my mother figured she no longer needed her calculus notes from the class of 1938. .. Catch my drift?

At some point in time things that we hold on to become just that: things we hold on to. The sweet memory that they may or not represent has been replaced by other events.

As you sift through the papers focusing on the difference between clutter and memories, here are the steps to organize these items:

Make 3 piles: Toss, Maybe, Keep. And, here are some thoughts to consider as you begin. (TIP: Start with one drawer, one corner or one closet at a time and don’t move on to the next space until you’ve finished!)

1.Did you even remember that you had this particular item, and what was your gut reaction? Did you say: “I can’t believe I even kept this!? “WHAT?!...What was I thinking?” “Who was this person?” “Who even wrote this?” I don’t even know what this is about… Toss it!

2. If it represents a legal, tax or medical related document or something related to what is going on in your life now, or you simply can’t part with it…Put it in the “keep” file. (Important: Any financial records beyond 7 years should be immediately shredded!)

3. If your response was warm and fuzzy as in “Ohhhhhh…. Look what I’ve found?... Put it in a “maybe” file.

So now you have your 3 piles completed … What next?!

  1. One last review of the “Toss” pile… just to be sure… Then get rid of it!

  2. Your “Keep” pile…Time to start sorting. Organize your “Keep” pile into categories. Get a portable file box or carton, buy or make dividers, and file each paper appropriately. (Tip: Remember, you will most likely add to this box from other piles!)

  3. The “Maybe” pile is the hardest one and therefore deserves it’s own section…

  1. The gut-wrenching “Maybe”…The hardest thing to realize is that we can’t keep everything but we are blessed to be living in the age of technology so that you can keep it, store it and not take up your valuable space.

  1. The scanner is now your new best friend! All those book reports, report cards, job reviews, thank you notes, birthday and anniversary cards, etc, can be scanned in it’s own folder and saved, easily accessible on your computer or tablet desktop. At a later date you’d be able to view, print, or email the items!

  2. If it’s an item that you want to have nearby, take a photo with your smartphone, create an album and label it memorabilia and you’re done.


Some personal thoughts:

I have saved every recipe hand-written by my mother or her sisters as I just won’t part with them. It just gives me that warm fuzzy memory. Will my children want them? Perhaps not! But, at some point I’ll photograph them and create an online or hard copy album or book with notes and stores for them.

We all have some memorabilia that is hard to part with. And, we might need it readily at hand. Scan as much as you have and keep a controlled volume of what you must physically have and keep those often accessed items in a place that you can get to easily.

Tune in to another blog post coming soon on dealing with photgraphs!

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