If forced to group my clients into just two categories, they would look like this:
A. People who struggle with documents (old and/or new) and to-dos.
B. People who struggle with letting go of articles, tear-outs, magazines, and newspapers.
Both groups come up against a myriad of reasons as to why things are they way they are. Their paper load may ebb and flow, but the needle doesn’t move enough, if at all. They may have spent many hours toiling away at the piles, only to find reasons to keep each paper or magazine that passes through their hands.
Recently though, one client who falls firmly into category “B” nailed why letting go of articles (some from the early 1990s) is such a challenge: “But it’s good information!” Such a succinct reason elicited a succinct reply from a sometimes loquacious organizer.
My reply: “Just because it’s good information doesn’t mean you have to keep it forever.”
In her case, a fair amount of her articles are on interior design. She’s starting to realize that, especially with a major renovation recently behind her, many of the images won’t be useful. She’s had some for so long that they’re dated or the design resources no longer exist. These realizations have caused a lot to go, but many stacks of folders containing magazine tear-outs remain.
Ever since I uttered “Just because it’s good information doesn’t mean you have to keep it forever” a few sessions ago, I’ve asked her to make this her mantra. She’s simmering on it and I just know those recycling bags are going to fill faster and faster - they already did in that session alone. When I’m there, I’m not shy about repeating it out loud. Given that interior design is of such interest to her, she’s realizing that the stacks of old design articles (and articles on other topics such as wellness and retirement) do not fit into her aesthetic that has been so finely honed by this decades-long passion. The articles on beauty are, well…not beautiful.
For years now I’ve told some clients that they can keep something if they have a good reason to - not just any reason - but a good reason. Note that I reserve this for the folks who I know want a strong force in the face of their clutter. (Some just want a gentle nudge.) This has evolved this year into addressing the double-edged sword of “good information.” We live in a time where we are drowning in good information. We buy it. It comes in the mail. We find it online. It lands in our inboxes. I find myself repeating this mantra to myself when I delete good information from my inbox. When great newsletters and invites to juicy webinars pile up in my email, I sometimes just delete delete delete. It’s a fleeting pain.
How good is the information if you’re buried in it? How good is it if you are so overwhelmed by it that you never make time to absorb it, let alone sit in a clutter-free room to enjoy it? How good is it if piles of it are unsightly in your closet, on your floor, or on your desk? How good does it have to be to keep it amidst the barrage of newer, better information that will sure come at you later today? How good is it if you never make time to process it into something that positively affects your life?
I can think of at least three other clients who have been assigned this same mantra since. Will you adopt it next time you hold some “good information” in your hands?