Home Forums Challenges Sentimental Clutter Decluttering diaries / journals

This topic contains 40 replies, has 25 voices, and was last updated by  sleepykitten 6 years ago.

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  • #159872

    Hi all,

    I find I have a tension between utilising a diary or journal as a therapeutic tool and the clutter it becomes to me after a small amount of time (only a couple of months).

    I recently rediscovered 10 years worth of paper diaries I had kept through the 90s, and was filled with horror realising I still had them. A brief glance through the pages caused me to cringe at my former perspective, and I immediately wanted to shred them. So I’m in the process of doing that now, but I only have a small shredder, so it’ll take a week or so.

    As much as I like to record my life and utilise a diary to clarify thoughts and feelings, it’s such a private thing. I keep thinking how I’d hate to die and have these diaries left behind as a record of my thoughts – and that’s because thoughts evolve and old diaries are no longer an accurate reflection of my thoughts and feelings. There’s no hindsight update!

    So since finding these diaries again, they’ve become my decluttering priority numero uno!

    I’m wondering if anyone else feels this way?

  • #211768

    bandicoot
    Member

    Decluttering diaries / journals

    i can’t bear having anything like that around!
    a friend once gave me all my teenage correspondence to her….when i was in my thirties.
    i read it all through once for a giggle, then burned it.
    i am not interested in “then”… i am interested in “now”.

  • #211770

    Decluttering diaries / journals

    Hear hear bandicoot! … and thank you, I thought I was a bit nutty feeling this way. Now I feel perfectly rational πŸ™‚

    I wish I had an incinerator – the process would be so much faster! But then I’d probably toss half the house in there.

  • #211810

    RebeccaL
    Member

    Decluttering diaries / journals

    I’ve also burned diaries… the pain goes up in flames!

  • #211812

    Ella
    Member

    Decluttering diaries / journals

    Not only does the pain go up in flames…
    but also the dreadful potential for abject humiliation if somebody else should happen to read them.

    I’m in the process of going through some 20-year-old engagement calendars that doubled as diaries. O the horror!

    Worst of all is realizing that I’m still grappling with the same issues from 20 years ago! So much for any therapeutic benefit from all that journaling. :-/

  • #211823

    Decluttering diaries / journals

    So well said RebeccaL and Ella! It would be so satisfying for the pain and potential humiliation to be currently going up in flames but I have to settle for it being sliced into segments approximately 1″ x 3mm.

  • #211825

    Swede
    Member

    Decluttering diaries / journals

    I’m all for burning bad memories… But personally I couldn’t get rid of my old diaries. Esp from when I was five yrs old and could barely tell d from b. Haha. I’ve gotten rid of loose pages and random calendars, but never my diaries. πŸ™‚

  • #211829

    Jackthetiger
    Member

    Decluttering diaries / journals

    I never understood the diary thing. I can’t imagine writing things that might come back to haunt me. I want to leave the past where it is.

  • #211830

    Swede
    Member

    Decluttering diaries / journals

    That haunt you?? Lol. All of you couldnt have had such terrible lives?? My diaries are full of fun and happy memories. I don’t have hundreds of them, just a small box full. I too want to leave the past where it is but I do enjoy reading them every few years or so. πŸ™‚

  • #211840

    sleepykitten
    Member

    Decluttering diaries / journals

    I enjoy my old diaries, even though many of the entries were written from places of self-doubt or anger. I occasionally get rid of a journal written solely for therapeutic reasons, but on the whole I find value in seeing how my feelings have changed over time. Part of who I am now is understanding who I was then and the process of becoming a more complete and mature person.

  • #211844

    poodle
    Member

    Decluttering diaries / journals

    I only have 1 diary that was a Christmas present when I was 9. I go back and read it sometimes. Some bad things, but the majority are things that make me smile and laugh when I remember them: birthdays, slumber parties, Christmas, etc. What I have kept nearly every one of is cards and letters. I can’t part with them. They’re mostly from family members who have died. But when I look at them, I feel close to them again. My aunt always made a big deal out of birthdays. She’s been gone almost 10 years (she died 2 days after my 24th birthday). I’ll never part with any of the cards and letters, but I know that I need to organize and pack them away because I don’t look at them as much anymore, but I want them to accesible. Right now they’re in a vertical chest.

  • #211855

    chacha1
    Member

    Decluttering diaries / journals

    I have never been a big diarist. I have two from high-school & college that I really need to dig out and shred. I am positive there is nothing in there that I will want to revisit in my old age.

    I cleared out old letters a couple of years ago and reduced two Staples boxes to one drawer of my bed’s platform. The best letter from each past love, a few from my college advisor who was very important to me, a few from my grandmothers, etc.

    The things I tend to hold onto are “works.” Poems, drawings, stories, etc. and of course photographs.

  • #212704

    Puss
    Member

    Decluttering diaries / journals

    Hi, I have just posted something similar. What have you decided to do with your journals?

  • #213252

    gmtbillings
    Member

    Decluttering diaries / journals

    I just went through four years of high school yearbooks and handwritten notes. Some of them are just hilarious, and so I tore out specific pages and scanned them to a ‘High School Scrapbook’ folder on my hard drive and recycled the originals. Now and again I’ll go through the pictures and chuckle, and that’s it.

  • #214799

    Lossea
    Member

    Decluttering diaries / journals

    Stackenblochen, I feel absolutely the same way in that diaries became a burden to me. I started writing 10 years ago, and by this year had tons of journal books, some neater than others, some having scrapbook inserts, some having nothing but entries. My diaries have been the most sacred things I had and, like others noted, I often wrote for clarification, therapeutic purposes. But a year ago my life started to change rapidly and even in times of hardships I didn’t feel like writing. This is when I realized that I get by quite alright without having to document my life, and old diaries started to press on me. Like, I’m keeping all these emotions enclosed in these books. I want to simply digitize them, because these past days do reflect how I evolved, and this is valuable to me. But I unleash the emotions from their “physical confinements” by scanning the journals and recycling the originals. It is tons of job and takes forever, but it feels very rewarding. I totally feel you on this.

  • #214806

    Puss
    Member

    Decluttering diaries / journals

    Lossea, I find your post interesting as I am wanting to digitalise my journals. I do still write but am contemplating on journalling on the computer if I can get used to it that is as I have always loved writing in books for journalling and on the computer for anything else but I feel like you and most people on here, that the books are becoming clutter, plus there’s less chance of privacy with the physical journals being there.

    Have you scanned all your journals now or are you thinking about doing it? I’d just like to know how long its taken you and how do you file the journals on the computer as with my scanner it will only save one page at a time. Also, someone at work who is knowledgable on technology told me today that scanning takes up a lot of hard drive space, I do have an external hard drive which is 500 gb. Also do you worry about the journals not being accessible on the computer in years to come.

    Thoughts very welcome.

  • #214811

    EraserGirl
    Member

    Decluttering diaries / journals

    why shred when you can burn them?
    very cathartic.
    unless your famous..or you have nosy kids..most of our handwritten stuff will go out in the trash when we die.

  • #214827

    liag
    Member

    Decluttering diaries / journals

    Yes. I kept journals for years and got rid of them after having several miscarriages. They were to painful to read, with the hopes and plans of parenthood. They were not for anyone else, either. I finally succeeded with two children, now grown, and had no time to write in journals, happily.

  • #228868

    Lossea
    Member

    Decluttering diaries / journals

    Puss, I apologize for not checking in earlier! I was very serious about digitizing my journals and did finish! At this point, I have no more physical journals around. I have a flatbed scanner, which sometimes worked to my advantage. But overall I have to say that the process was very tedious. So much that at some point I gave up on scanning (I will get to why shortly). The journals I had were of different formats: some were notebooks, where it is easy to rip pages out; others were actual “books” with binding. Those were the most painful to process. As you could guess, the notebook journals were easy – I would rip the pages out and scan them very quickly. The “books” were a whole different story. At first, I tried to place these journals open and scan both pages. And it worked for some narrow journals…However, I had to push hard on the top of the scanner before every scan so that there wouldn’t be shadows. That happens if the book is placed open, it will tilt upwards in the middle. Even with pushing down hard, there were still shadows and some words weren’t seen clearly. So I decided to tear out the pages and scan one at a time.

    The funny thing is that this preparation was the most annoying and time-consuming part! The books were sewn and glued so well that it was a mess and took energy to rip out sections at a time. At those times, I seriously questioned whether going through this is really worth it. But I stuck with it and then scanning was easier.

    I saved each scan as a jpeg image to the external drive. The way I manage mine were logical to me, but may not work for others…I created a year folder (for instance, 2011) and in there had 12 folders for each month that started with a number, so that they are in order (01 Jan, 02 Feb, 03 Mar,…). Then I saved the scans to an appropriate folder and named scans with a day (01 for 1st, 02 for second of that month). That way there are in order. When there are numerous entries for a day, I added 1, 2, 3 to the day (01-1, 01-2, 01-3,…). So, a lot of numbers! But at least they are in order that way. I could also place images into word file, but didn’t so that I could easily zoom in on the pages. Sometimes my writing was small or hard to read…

    But that scanning takes a long time! I ended up just taking photos of my journal entries. I would lay the journal open on my lap and take a picture, then turn a page, take a picture…All with flash, so it’s very readable and so much faster than tearing and scanning.

    In all honesty, at some point deep inside I started to feel that I wouldn’t go back and re-read these journals. This is why eventually I didn’t want to spend so much time digitizing them by scanning, when I could have taken a picture. The file size is of no big difference…Each file might have been 1MB, which is big, but I honestly don’t even know how large the files are. With a 500Gb external hard drive that you have, it would be no problem. Digital space is so cheap.

    Of course, when you store something in digital form, there is always a risk that one day the device will break and you might not be able to access the files. In fact, that happened to me recently. I had a fine working external hard drive with tons of pictures on it and all of a sudden it became inaccessible. Computer asked to format it before it could use it…I didn’t think to store a copy of these pictures someplace else, for a backup! Luckily, I was able to recover the files using R-Studio. But I’ve since learned the lesson to keep numerous backups.

    But to be honest, as for the diaries, I think that I wouldn’t be too broken if I one day couldn’t access them. There just hasn’t been time to go back and read…I remember some things and the present has just sucked me in so much. Or maybe I learned to live in the now. The strange thing is…I think that if I would just recycle my diaries without digitizing them, I might have regretted not making a copy. But now I have it and may not ever go back…

    Did you ever digitize your diaries?

  • #228870

    ninakk
    Member

    Decluttering diaries / journals

    Hello ginormous flounce…

  • #228871

    Barbs
    Member

    Decluttering diaries / journals

    β€œIt’s the good girls who keep diaries; the bad girls never have the time.”

    Tallulah Bankhead

  • #228874

    Ella
    Member

    Decluttering diaries / journals

    LOL. Good one, Barbs!

  • #228927

    sleepykitten
    Member

    Decluttering diaries / journals

    @Lossea – I feel similarly about digitizing my sentimental papers. I NEVER could have brought myself to get rid of them if I hadn’t digitized them first. So I spent all this time digitizing. And now I realize that at least half of them I am not really interested in saving even in digital form (I probably will save them, since digital space is cheap, but you get what I mean). I think sometimes you need an intermediate stage to allow yourself to let go.

  • #228987

    Puss
    Member

    Decluttering diaries / journals

    Hi Lossea, thanks for your reply and good advice. I have got my journals scanned but I didn’t do it myself, I paid a company to do it for me as doing it myself was becoming so tedious on the flatbed scanner. The original journals are now in loose leaf form as the company had to seperate the pages to put them in a feeder type scanner.

    So my plan is now, or should be, to toss the original journals but somehow I am having difficulty in bringing myself to do it. I have read some of them, some entries I feel I want to keep on paper, some I find I want to get rid of as it anyone saw them they may feel hurt or I would feel embarrassed!

    Do you still journal and if so what form to do journal in? I must admit I still like the idea of using paper and was thinking along the lines of destroy those old journals, keep any future ranting on the computer or anything I wouldn’t want anyone to see and just keep a paper journal for general day to day things that are not so private.

    Now I have spent the money on scanning I don’t want to it to go to waste but I am still having a hard time in shredding. Any views on this would be welcome.

  • #229010

    mdfloyd
    Member

    Decluttering diaries / journals

    O M G! I’m so glad I decided to read this thread. I suddenly remembered that I have a huge Rubbermaid tub full of old letters in my closet I’d completely forgotten about.

    I’ll have to go through and either scan or photograph them — then I thought, are they worth all that trouble since I’d completely forgotten them?

    I’ll just have to drag that thing out and see, won’t I? I did a major purge of old letters and things several years ago and did get it all down to that one big Rubbermaid tub.

    I bet I can get it down more or even completely by scanning!!!

  • #229017

    Swede
    Member

    Decluttering diaries / journals

    @mdfloyd – I used to keep a lot of letters too… When I re read all of them I was surprised that there were very few special enough that I actually wanted to keep. Went from four medium sized boxes to one small box! And now that they don’t take up a lot of space I’ve decided to keep them as is. Even tied a red silk ribbon around them as you see in cheesy romance flicks. I find myself looking at them more often now that there aren’t thousands of them. πŸ™‚ So yeah, my advice is to grab a handful and read. It’s fun but not something you’ll wanna do again… and then you can let go.

  • #229019

    ron
    Member

    Decluttering diaries / journals

    funny, burned 4 notebooks and papers from a job I had 13 years ago tonight in a metal garbage can. shreaded a boxfull of paystubs

  • #229162

    s
    Member

    Decluttering diaries / journals

    Yes! I had a bunch of journal/calendars….never read them, but it took 20 years before I finally had them shredded. I realized that for me, digitizing was just procrastination.

  • #229209

    chacha1
    Member

    Decluttering diaries / journals

    My feeling is, you only need one copy of sentimental stuff like letters or journals. Because 99 times out of 100 you are not ever going to read them again. It is just HAVING them that makes you feel good. (“You” is generic, btw.)

    Making a digital copy of paper material is – in my opinion – only a good use of time and money if you’re going to get rid of the paper. If you can’t bear to get rid of the paper … what was the point?

    I think answering that question: Why am I so attached to this stuff? is a turning point in the decluttering journey no matter what your particular issue is. Whether it’s 20 carousels of slides from your grandmother’s international travels, or personal journals, or college textbooks …in order to successfully declutter this stuff, you have to figure out what its value to you truly is.

  • #229456

    gailbon
    Member

    Decluttering diaries / journals

    A while back, my daughter found an old journal of mine from when I was in 7th grade. Apparently, she found my life to be quite “boring.” But at least it gave me ammunition to point out that I was a good kid, a great student, and she’d better follow in my “boring” footsteps…..

  • #229689

    metagami
    Member

    Decluttering diaries / journals

    I am looking into buying a Zpen or some kind of scanning pen. When I retire (in a few years) I’ll make it a project to go through my 25 pr so diaries spanning 50 years. I’ll scan just those paragraphs, lists, sentences, or ditties that I think might be worthwhile saving — thinking of a future granddaughter or grandson who might be interested. I’ve had such a lucky life of working in 63 countries, and have recorded so much rich cross-cultural, linguistic, historical, and anecdotal stuff in those places. I also recorded the experience of having, and raising, a child by myself, and in many of these countries. So I (vainly) think some ancestors might like to someday look over some of the material. I’m interested if any of you have used a scanning pen — the kind researchers use in libraries, or spies use?! Someone recommended ABBYY Finereader, but it looks too sophisticated. Thank you!

  • #229720

    sleepykitten
    Member

    Decluttering diaries / journals

    @metagami – honestly, if you only have 25 diaries and you’ve written about 63 countries, I would just go ahead and scan them all! That doesn’t sound excessive to me, though I am a big fan of journals. I think it is quite possible that your ancestors or a historical society would have interest in those diaries.

    I don’t know anything about scanning pens, but I am pretty sure ABBYY is the software that does OCR – i.e., that actually tries to recognize your handwriting and make it searchable. I wouldn’t personally bother with OCR as it often produces errors (unless your handwriting is VERY neat).

  • #229824

    Lossea
    Member

    Decluttering diaries / journals

    @sleepykitten – You couldn’t have put it any better, about needing this intermediate step to let go. I am glad that digitizing your journals helped you to loosen your attachment to them. It did definitely help me to view every entry as less sacred, and I think it comes from the feeling of security. If I have numerous digital copies of the journals stored at different locations, the chances are the journals will always be there, as opposed to them being more vulnerable in physical form, should there be a fire or something like that. I am glad that you already realized that a part of the journals you are not even interested in keeping even in the digital form. I hope to get to that point too – to weed out what is worth keeping, and remove the rest.

    However, I haven’t even gone through the digitized copies of my journals since I made them…When I was digitizing my journals, I briefly glanced at the entries and I know that there are good, valuable stories here and there, but a lot of them are drawn out too much. I think that I would want to save the essence of my experiences without the extra words. But in order to do that, I would have to retype everything! The entries would be easier to read, if I ever felt like it. While at times it probably wouldn’t be the original flow of thoughts, I feel that it would be a better and cleaner option, rather than keeping all the scans as pictures…

    I think that it will be another intermediate step of letting go. Other than keeping them for me, I also would want to keep them for my family to read. My child/children, most likely, if I am lucky to be a mother one day.

    I will try to do this in pieces, working around getting my Master’s. We’ll see how it goes.

  • #229828

    Lossea
    Member

    Decluttering diaries / journals

    @Puss – I feel you on having difficulty letting go of the paper copies. After all, it is more than words on paper. Those are days of your life, emotions, and it can be very hard to let go of them. But at least there are some entries that you feel could cause you or someone else hard feelings, should the entries be read. That could be a good place to start…It definitely doesn’t mean that you need to get rid of the entries altogether; they might just need more protection. I think that having these entries in the digital format would make them less accessible to others, and it could bring you a peace of mind.

    A lot of the entries in my journals fell into that private category, and for me recycling them was easy, when I weighted the pros and cons of keeping them. I also want to keep as little as I can of things that others would have to deal with, should anything happen to me, and that was the biggest driving factor for me to remove the physical diaries.

    I think that the hardest part is to break the ice. If you find that you can let go of some paper entries, it’s a great victory. And victories tend to lead to more victories! It’s definitely not a marathon. Starting small is always safe and not as scary as undertaking a large project. I am glad that you did get your journals digitized!

    I do still keep a journal, and it’s completely digital (Word). I keep it in Dropbox, so it doesn’t need to be backed up. It’s the best solution for me. I like nice pens and writing on paper as well, but I am positive that I don’t want to go through the digitizing process again…Your plan sounds great to me! Keeping a personal journal on the computer and keeping a paper journal for less private entries. That way, you get to enjoy writing and have no worries about someone coming across the entries. Good luck!

  • #229830

    Lossea
    Member

    Decluttering diaries / journals

    @metagami – It sounds like you have rich experiences that your ancestors would be curious to read. I think I would appreciate if my grandmother or mother kept journals. It is usually interesting to read about lives of people who traveled, and it would be especially interesting to people who are related to you!

    I have definitely heard of scanning pens, but unfortunately, I don’t know anyone who has had any experience with it. I think it can be a convenient way of scanning select paragraphs and should transfer the text well, since it is designed to recognize cursive writing. It could be helpful to search for scanning pen reviews; it should bring up some useful results. Good luck!

  • #229840

    Puss
    Member

    Decluttering diaries / journals

    Thanks Lossea, I’ve just started going through my old journals and its a case of deciding what to edit. There are some things that, although they wouldn’t offend anyone as such, I find them embarrassing and wouldn’t want it to give a wrong impression of me. If I edit out these things it will impact on the other entries that follow on. Maybe I shoud just get rid of the lot and start over again, its just getting that courage.

  • #229842

    fields_of_green
    Participant

    Decluttering diaries / journals

    Regarding scanning pens, if the intent is just to get the text into a Digital format, there are a couple other options to consider. One option is to read your text and record the audio. This serves a couple of purposes. It documents your voice, as well as your words, and it’s a wonderful legacy. There are examples on the Internet, not only of text only blogs, but blogs that combine audio and video. It captures something that sometimes words alone do not. Some people produce little videos about what matters to them at the time, something educational, and that kind of product is a nice bit of history, if you have some desire to be creative.

    I’m not suggesting putting the journals on the internet of course, but Internet blogs can provide some inspiration. You’d be surprised how much hearing a voice as well as reading the words can mean to family members later on. I would give a lot if I could hear my father’s voice again, even if recorded on a lowly cassette tape.

    Other option to consider is dictation software. You would read your text and the software would turn that into words. You’d have to speak your punctuation too, which takes a little getting used to, but it would be easier than tracing over written text. Dictation software has other uses too. It’s not inexpensive, but worthwhile if you want to write a lot.

    I’m probably more heavily in the digital preservation camp than most, but I feel that if a person has misgivings about destroying a paper version of their writing, they shouldn’t do it. There are more than one solution to most problems. When the feeling is sorted out, and it becomes something you want to do, and then it’s just a logistical or mechanical matter rather than an emotional one.

    I’m enjoying all the posts of people thinking about these matters, as I also sort out how to manage my possessions and work out what is important to me me and what is not.

  • #230168

    sleepykitten
    Member

    Decluttering diaries / journals

    @ProfClutter – I love commonplace books – my problem is that when I’ve tried to keep one my nightly journal and my commonplace book have begun to overlap. I don’t Journal-with-a-capital-J: i.e., I don’t pour my soul out for pages on end. I usually just write a couple items of interest from the day.

    You make me want to start a (paper) commonplace book, though.

    M.u.s.t…r.e.s.i.s.t…u.r.g.e……

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