Today, my team embarked upon an ambitious office project in my emergency management program: clearing out years of stored paperwork.
As a public agency, we are attentive to the state’s archiving requirements which cause us to retain about 7 years worth of records; however, it is not unusual to find documents in my office that are about 15-16 years old.
Despite promises of a paperless society, it is easy to retain paper even when you also have electronic copies of the same document. As projects conclude and are printed in booklet formats or placed into 3-ring binders, they find their home on a shelf and are rarely called into service again.
This caused me to consider something particular tonight. By nature, we are a culture of collectors. We collect paper, pictures and objects because at some point in our lives, they defined a special memory or something we desired to hold on to. Often, we use the excuse “I’ll use it later” or “I’ll reread that someday.”
One of the unintended consequences, however, of clutter is that it makes us forget what we have. When we hoard or hold onto things that are really unnecessary, we hide the significance of what is really special. Next time you find yourself sitting in your office or home, I challenge you to consider these two questions:
- How do the things you hold onto define who you are?
- Is your life cluttered with things that don’t really matter?
And because I like to chat about digital life as well, the “things” may not all be on paper. Consider the files on your computer or, in the realm of social media, your fans, friends and followers. Do you save things or follow people because they are special or because you are collecting?
Spend some time this week clearing out the unnecessary, the noise, the papers that mean nothing. And you’ll be able to better appreciate both what you have and who you share it with.