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April 22, 2009

It's your earthday, it's your earthday, go shorty... it's your earthday...

Oh, the tens of people who will laugh at the headline. How I love thee, let me count the ways.

On this Earth Day I am cleaning out my office because on Friday I am moving to another office in some other area of the building. It's the farthest my boss can move me away from him without putting me in the parking garage with a red stapler. O Banking, you are vast and mysterious. I started the real cleaning out of file drawers and dusty cabinets a few days ago and yesterday got through two entire filing cabinets and this was the state of the sitting spot when I left yesterday:

office-april22-mess1.jpg

I thought maybe overnight it would morph and change and the folders would breed with the binder clips all Transformers-style and by morning I would have an assistant made totally from office supplies.

No such luck.

office-april22-mess2.jpg
It's still there.

The mountain of file folders and remnant notebooks and reference books is all that remains of the seven years I have worked here. Yesterday I dumped and recycled all the memos and presentations and documents that used to collect dust inside those file folders so that one day they will be your post-consumer particulate in toilet paper and kleenex.

I also cleaned out the little cabinet by my desk where I store (read: hoard) office supplies and discovered 32 semi-used post-it note pads. THIRTY-TWO. My entire life has been borne on the back of the post-it-note. It's my Borne Identity. hahaha. Cracked myself up. I also had a newspaper from 2002 (?) and at the bottom of the drawer I found two pictures of me and Mr. X from a vacation we took to Denmark and Poland. It was actually funny, and I showed them to Corey and Cindi and then I put them in the recycle bin, too.

This kind of cleaning feels GREAT. I thought it would be stressful, especially because I have a lot of work to do this week and the office seemed like a mammoth endeavor but it's been really liberating to take a break, maybe an hour a day, and just focus entirely on getting rid of stuff. By the end of today I should be finished with the major purging and I'll only have a fraction of the stuff left to pack up in boxes.

It's amazing how much less often I print stuff out these days -- going through my old files it's clear I used to print everything. The whole industry was paper-heavy, relying on documents printed out and stored in binders. The biggest change I can see is how everyone has slowly started to rely on saving and storing stuff electronically instead of on the printed page. It's the little changes that add up over time. Getting rid of stuff always feels like an accomplishment of greatness ... not necessarily because it's a noble cause in itself, but because your relationship with your stuff can define your whole life. It can drag you down, it can anchor you, it can make you feel secure, or it can just be a nagging to-do list item.

The biggest change in my relationship with stuff is that I definitely do not acquire things at the rate I used to. Learning to discern wants from needs was a good first step. Then there's the money aspect -- you have more money when you spend less of it. Finding a way to get rid of things has also been a challenge -- first you have to learn how to just let go of stuff, emotionally, and then you have to find ways of getting rid of your stuff that make sense. Like recycling old papers, and donating usable things (or going with the ol' yard sale technique.) My collection of post-it-note pads tells me I'm still not free of my little packrat ways but I am at least happy when I see my file cabinet purged and the old file folders recycled in the supply cabinet.

So I'm not exactly out there playing warrior of the environment today, but cleaning and recycling all this old stuff feels really good which must be good for the environment in a very roundabout way. After all, happy people don't flip you off as often in traffic and that makes the world a better place. Yes? Maybe I will even share my post-its with those less fortunate, like the guy down the hall who is always looking for something to write on. Or maybe I will just keep them all for myself. Baby steps!

Posted by laurie at April 22, 2009 7:22 AM