Ahhhh. I can breathe. I’ve been doing a lot of that lately–because it feels like a giant weight has been lifted off my shoulders. My house feels bigger. I love looking in the closets & cabinets. It is organized & downsized. Essentials have stayed & after a harsh edit, non-essentials, including excess furniture, are gone.
It. Feels. Great.
I first decided that this process needed to happen a few weeks ago when there were several major Texas fires–one just several miles from my home. What would I grab? What do I need? Where is it all? Turns out, I wouldn’t need a lot, because we are mostly paperless. But recently, we took it to a whole new level. & I thought I’d help you see how we did it–because it freed up a lot of floor space & mental clutter. Both worth their weight in gold.
Here is all the paper that is left in my house:
& Here is how I did it:
So you can read through my algorithm & get a pretty good idea how it all went. I made four piles: KEEP, RECYCLE, SHRED, DONATE. The major decisions all came down to “what to keep.” I am a purger–so for me this is a pretty easy question to answer. But in talking to my friends, I have learned that I am the minority. It is a big problem for a lot of you to let go. So here is how I made my decisions, in a little more detail. If it had any information I wanted to keep, asked myself:
IS THIS AVAILABLE IN A DIGITAL FORMAT?
IF NOT, CAN I SCAN IT?
OR IS IT EVEN WORTH KEEPING IN PAPER FORM?
The above questions applied to the following categories:
Financial: Such as bank statements, pay stubs, taxes, legal documents, etc. We do almost all of our financial business through USAA & a private investment firm–both very e-friendly. I have access to ALL of those monthly statements online. They can be downloaded–and they will be–into nice tidy little folders on my hard drive. Gone are the files & files of paper statements. Financial stuff was a huge chunk of our paper.
Legal: Some legal documents I did not feel comfortable with shredding. I retained all of those, but scanned them for good measure. They are limited to the essentials like birth certificates, marriage certificates, LLC paperwork, etc.
Academic: Some of these files I couldn’t part with either. I kept college transcripts, board scores, etc.
Professional: Much of my work history is already in digital format, but some of it–letters of recommendation, sales track records, offer letters, etc. were retained for my own safekeeping. I kept a couple business cards from each position I had ever held and that it about it. Everything else was shredded. & for those of you with experience with the drug rep profession know how much is sent our way on a weekly basis. Whew. Glad to be free of all of it!
Medical: So far, all of our medical histories are still on paper. I hope to someday scan all of this information into the computer, but for now, vax records & basic medical records are filed away.
Personal: This is where the bulk of my purging took place. I had so much stuff–cards from my wedding, pamphlets from my honeymoon adventures, articles from professors in college & random articles that I found interesting & just couldn’t let go of. & that brought forth a whole different set of questions:
IS THIS ACTUALLY MEANINGFUL?
WHO AM I SAVING IT FOR?
From graduation booklets to wedding cards to ticket stubs from dates with my husband ten years ago–I let it all go. Much of it was glossy, mass produced & meaningless. But some of it had notes. Very personal notes. From grandparents who had passed on, to love letters between two seventeen year olds. Some of it I couldn’t bear the though of getting rid of–and I’d bet my kiddos would love to go through someday. But most of it–was junk. To the recycle bin it went.
Other information, like interesting articles and business cards and stuff from my wedding I went ahead and scanned into evernote. (Here’s how I use evernote to organize my life) All of the articles I was holding onto were easily googled & clipped into notebooks. I have a rolodex in my evernote where I keep all of my scanned business cards, so I can access them anytime, anywhere.
No more of these in my house…
& my future challenge lies in organizing my media. I am currently loading all of my old CDs into iTunes. We have recycled DVDs because we can access them all through Netflix. Do any of you have ideas about how to move forward without purchasing any DVDs in the future? This has to be possible. I’d love to begin a collection of Disney movies, but why bother with the DVDs if we’ll only be watching them on the iPad or TV anyway? Do any of you use Apple TV? I’d love your thoughts.
& onto pictures…oh pictures. I have whittled my picture collection down to just three little boxes, but I am thinking of investing in a quick photo scanner so I can be done with them ALL. I’d love to have them all as digital files so I don’t risk losing them & can back them up. I’m currently drooling over the NeatDesk for Mac, but it’s a little steep of a price point for me. I have a CanoScan 4400F Flatbed scanner right now. & I have no desire to use it to scan hundreds of pictures. I also have a bunch of negatives to scan. Got a great solution for mac? I am all ears.
& a quick note on BACKING UP. I cannot express how strongly I feel about doing this, not just for professionals, but for any family who uses a computer to run their household. I recently had a hard drive fail, but I had everything backed up–so no big deal. I am on the paranoid side, so I have TWO backups of everything. One is my Time Capsule (hooked to both of our computers & it automatically backs-up as we work) and I also have an additional off-site backup through Backblaze.com. Therefore, if there ever is a catastrophe & I lose my entire office–everything digital can be recovered thanks to the off-site backup. It’s only $50/yr for unlimited storage. Well worth the piece of mind!
I know this is a lot of stuff to throw at you on a Monday–but hopefully you made it to the end. If you’ve got any more questions, shoot them my way in the comments section. Got any tips? I’d love those too!
Now, time to make my closet as pretty as my office…