I’m not as anti-paper as Alex is, but reading his “paperless as possible” post inspired me to re-evaluate what’s in my two file cabinets. I was also inspired by a friend who is doing a major uncluttering — she found a box full of papers (bank statements, utility bills, etc.) from 1999. I didn’t think I had anything that obviously worthless (beyond a few expired coupons), but I sure came close.
See all those lovely lavender-colored folders? Those were all my old client files. Some of those were from clients I haven’t seen since 2005. They were all nicely organized, but they were useless.
Most of those files contained just three things: a printout of the contact information from my digital address book, a map and driving instructions, and a signed client agreement. (I could tell how old each file was by seeing which mapping program I’d used: MapQuest, Google Maps, or Apple Maps.)
There was really no need to keep anything except the client agreements — everything else was easily reprinted if I ever needed it. So I started going through the files, pulling out the client agreements and scanning them, and then shredding everything.
See my recycling bin, with paper bags full of shredded paper? And many more bags got added after I took that photo.
I found plenty of other papers that were taking up unnecessary file cabinet space, too. Some were the kind of things so many people have: coupons for services I’ll never use, old restaurant menus, etc. As I’ve noted before, I expect to find (and discard) papers like these when I do a periodic file cabinet cleanup.
But I also found another large group of unnecessary papers. Over 10 years ago I created a bunch of “idea books” with photos showing organized kitchens, entryways, garages, closets, etc. Now everyone (who uses a computer) can find plenty of aspirational examples of organized spaces on Pinterest and elsewhere. And if I wanted to suggest a product to a client, I’d just email a link. I don’t think I ever once used those idea books, and it was way past time to let them go. Since I kept them in hanging files in a file cabinet, getting rid of them freed up a lot of space.
Now I just need to decide what to do with my newly empty Itoya Profolios. They’re very nice products, but I’m not sure I have any use for them.
I’ll also need to decide what to do with the empty file cabinet space. I can’t easily get rid of either file cabinet — there are still too many files that I do want to keep. Also, the cabinets fit nicely into their spaces, so I don’t feel any need to have them disappear. Instead, I’ll probably use the empty space to store a few things that could use better homes than the ones they have now.
This effort was a great reminder of how easy it is to become accustomed to keeping certain things — papers and more — without thinking about why we’re keeping them and if they’ve outlived their purposes.