Thanksgiving Alternative: Decluttering my Office

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American friends.  As a Canadian, I am truly blessed – I get to celebrate Canadian thanksgiving in October and then enjoy the celebrations of my friends across the border in November.  For a taste of something different – no turkey, no food, no lists of gratitude (although I recommend them), I thought I’d share about some recent successes I’ve had in my office.

I am a hoarder of information.  There, I’ve admitted it.  I am a hoarder.  

I love statistics and graphs and articles.  Worse, I print them out and file them.  Way back when, if I found a good exercise at a workshop, or in a book, I copied it and kept it in a file, just in case I ever needed that kind of information.  Fast forward thirty years and I had 2 – four drawer horizontal filing cabinets full of ‘information’.  Worse, I moved them.  Twice.

But when I was thinking about moving out of my townhouse I knew I had to downsize substantially – otherwise the storage fees were going to kill me.  And those filing cabinets caught my eye.

Hmmm.  What to do with all that paper?

Of course I needed information about getting rid of my information so I went to the internet to see what I could find.  Thanks to Esther and Jerry Hicks, I found the perfect plan for me.

One drawer at a time, I put my papers into bankers’ boxes and wrote the current date on them.  I didn’t look at the papers I just moved them.  And then I waited.  And waited.

The rule is that I may remove anything from any of the boxes anytime I wanted.  I didn’t remove anything from the first 3 boxes.  Or the next three.

At the end of six months, without opening the boxes to ‘snoop’, I picked each of them up and carried them to the dumpster.  As I let the first one go, I took a deep breath then exhaled.  Hmmm, the world hadn’t come to an end and my ‘valuable information’ was in the bottom of an almost empty dumpster – commercial size.

Box number two…same thing, only I felt a bit of euphoria as I let go.  Box three was mind blowing.  I felt lighter than air and delighted with the new me.  I hurried into the house and started looking for other things to get rid of.  The freedom and ‘lightness’ that came with clearing out the old was incredible.

Lesson learned on this journey?  I discovered that information is not worth keeping unless it’s personal, legal or financial.  I don’t need receipts that go back a dozen years.  I have to know what the taxman needs me to have.  And if I have had a problem with something I should hang onto that information.  But the truth was, I had so many papers that I couldn’t find what I needed when I needed it.

I’m down to a two drawer horizontal filing cabinet.  I keep prior year’s tax returns in a fire proof box in my basement.  And my favorite file is huge.  But if I need a piece of paper, I can find it.  Quickly and easily.

Happy thanksgiving!  Happy decluttering!



About Louise Behiel

Author, coach, therapist, mother and grandmother. I'm on a spiritual journey and consciously work to grow every day.
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21 Responses to Thanksgiving Alternative: Decluttering my Office

  1. Diane Capri says:

    Louise, where were you when I started on my “clear out” fourteen months ago??? Wish I’d known your technique back then. Yours is way better than the way I did it! Thanks for sharing!

    • thanks diane. I had tried to sort the papers out a number of times, and never got a strong start on the papers. I’d get overwhelmed and lose my energy and then I’d stop. a few months later…oh my gosh, I’ve got to get back at it again, but by then I would have added more paper to the piles. I’m amazed you were able to go through things and still de-clutter. I couldn’t manage that at all. well done.

  2. Coleen Patrick says:

    Happy decluttering and enjoy the order 🙂

  3. Wow, Louise, you’re brave. I’d have to go through the box before I could get rid of it for fear that I’d stuck something important in there and just forgot about it. 🙂 I have been going thru my house though, and trying to get rid of something every month. Recycle, donate, or toss. Gosh, we collect so much over the years, don’t we? 🙂

  4. Yeah Louise, you’re free!!!!!!!!!!!

    That was brave Louise. That’s a hard thing to do.

    Wll let me just say that I just went through everything we owned last year. Well, we had to. We moved! LOL Yes I know we cheated, but doesn’t feel great to get rid of the Stuff!

    • when I started planning to move I tried going thru things, but I made little to no headway, so I had to find another way…and this worked for me. I presume you downsized when you moved…I eventually moved into a house twice as big as the one I left, but I have been adamant about not hoarding things in this home. I get rid of lots of papers (often I don’t even print them) and I have bought a kindle so I don’t have to get rid of books. that’s been a huge help.

  5. Wow! Good for you, Louise. I totally understand your plight and I’m slowly becoming an ex-hoarder! You’re an inspiration.

  6. Sounds like a really good plan. Before our last move, I eliminated about 9 banker boxes by sorting through paperwork that traveled through four moves. I went through each box and saved a paper/file that represented that thought. I didn’t have to keep every card given to my late husband following his stroke. I forced myself to find a few or just one page to remind me of that time. Even after all my previous sorting, I still have too many papers.

  7. Stacy, you are a braver woman than I am. I eventually realized that the enormity of sorting through everything was overwhelming and was not happening. So I procrastinated rather than tackling that job a bit at a time. This was the only way I could get through the process because i didn’t want to move it all again.

    My sympathies on the loss of your husband. Sorting through the cards must have been wrenching.

  8. Teresa Owen says:

    Oy. My husband and I are hoarders. We aren’t nearly as selective as you were — we just keep EVERYTHING! Because one day we’ll either fix it, use it, or need it. Those days have never come! ARGH!

    • I hear you Teresa. When I bought my townhouse the owners had filled the basement and 1 of 3 bedrooms, to the roof with newspapers because “they might need them some day”. and when they moved out, they took out all that paper with them to their new house. Oh my heavens – 2 truck loads of papers…because they might need it. Never could figure out why.

      I just got tired of being weighted down by everything. I’ve found I rarely miss anything I throw out. It’s but that’s just me.the fear, not the loss that crippled me.

  9. I have a filing cabinet that I haven’t looked in for 10 years because – are you ready? – it’s too full. I should just close my eyes and toss everything…guess what I’m going to do this weekend? Thanks so much for the inspiration!

  10. Isn’t it a great feeling to throw clutter away??? I really need to get back into that habit. Especially with the paper clutter. I was LOL at the workshop handouts – those are my bane! I used to keep them, until I realized I never went back to refer to them later! So now, out they go.

  11. susielindau says:

    Soon you will be able to keep it all on your computer! Good for you throwing all of that paper out! I have containers to go through of all my kids work in grade school. Whoa!

    • Susie, I can commiserate with the school projects. I had lots of them. but as part of this cleaning, I realized that keeping things for my then 30 year old kids probably wasn’t a good use of my space. have fun – the memories were great.

  12. Linda Ford says:

    Good for you, Louise.
    I sometimes feel like I am drowning in stuff. So much of everything that it’s excessive. I often reach the tipping point and stuff has to go. I think about once a year we haul away a truck load of it. I’m hoping eventually it will get down to basics. The only things I won’t part with are family heirlooms, family keep sakes, my research books, my– sigh. Even the important stuff is too much.

  13. isn’t it funny how even the important stuff piles up? weird. I’ve had to redefine ‘important’ so that I don’t drown. Ironically, with my new house, which is twice the size of the townhouse, I have less stuff…I make sure to keep things under control, or else i’ll be in big trouble.

    be well. big hugs

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