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Learning, Sharing, and Teaching => Ask a Mustachian => Topic started by: scrubbyfish on December 18, 2013, 11:30:15 PM

Title: how did you ditch your thesis/book/journals/photos/art/etc?
Post by: scrubbyfish on December 18, 2013, 11:30:15 PM
Although it is quite small, I really feel my collection of papery things is holding me back, mostly from moving on to a different career. In the past two decades, I've written courses, books, etc. I have copies of each for three reasons really:

1. As proof to myself that I once contributed more than I am now.
2. As proof for my kid, after I'm dead, of what I was passionate about, and how I served others.
3. As proof to potential future employers of my abilities.

It seems totally irrational to me, but I feel if I don't have the printed/bound versions in the portfolio, my kid and future employers won't "get it".

I'm also having a hard time releasing my journals, which is really a 2" thick file of select pieces.

But...I dream of being free of all of these, to start fresh, to have a lighter paper load.

I'm betting there are others here who have written theses (not that I've done that), books, or other papers -or developed visual art, crafts, etc- that took a lot of work and time and which reflect aspects of you that you care about.

Have you managed to declutter these? Did you develop a process that supported you to do so? Any regrets? Other related thoughts?
Title: Re: how did you ditch your thesis/book/journals/photos/art/etc?
Post by: gooki on December 18, 2013, 11:50:53 PM
For my wife and I, our critical work is digitized and stored on multiple PCs.

I've just recently thrown away my design portfolio. As the last three job interviews I've had, I simply rock up with my ipad. So have finally come to terms it is no longer needed.

I've kept one book on the bookshelf for my kids to read.
Title: Re: how did you ditch your thesis/book/journals/photos/art/etc?
Post by: galliver on December 19, 2013, 12:59:46 AM
I don't understand why having these things is holding you back from a different career. You did A once, you're doing B now. Where is the problem? If seeing them bothers you, put them in a box out of sight and out of mind. If their mere presence bothers you, maybe see if a friend or relative is willing to keep them a while to help you move on. Or if you can store them externally. Bury in the yard or the woods as a time capsule. Email yourself the location.

I understand wanting to minimize and declutter, but your work is irreplaceable, and in a few decades will be your children's and your grandchildren's family history. I really wish I had some artwork or school assignments from my mom. Or better, grandma! And for this, a digital copy isn't the same. You can't leaf through a digital copy.
Title: Re: how did you ditch your thesis/book/journals/photos/art/etc?
Post by: scrubbyfish on December 19, 2013, 09:53:53 AM
Thanks, gooki and galliver!

How the items hold me back is purely psychological, for sure. It's that as long as I have them taking up room in the filing cabinet, I feel I "should be making use of" them (revamp the courses and redistribute them, etc). I haven't yet moved from A to B -I've been doing A for two decades and am bored silly; I stay in it because of these archives.

Keeping digital copies for proof purposes is totally doable, yes! Once that's done, the idea that really excited me was burying them! I could make a treasure map for my kid to follow when he's 40 :)

It was interesting to me to hear the perspective that a person (galliver) would really want paper artefacts of their family history. I have a few things from my dad but only things I use every day. One sibling has a room of his stuff. My oldest sister saves family history stuff because she really, really enjoys bringing the stuff out once in awhile. Me, I have no attachment/interest in anything except a few of the photos. I'm always grateful to my mum that she keeps very little stuff, such that her kids will have little to struggle with releasing after she goes.

I just keep feeling that if I threw it all into a bonfire, and it was gone for good, I'd feel an amazing lightness and oomph to start over, and that's exciting to me!
Title: Re: how did you ditch your thesis/book/journals/photos/art/etc?
Post by: galliver on December 19, 2013, 10:48:59 AM
For the record, I think keeping a ROOM full of mementos is excessive. I think my limit is a standard file-size or UHaul "small moving box" size one. I am not a minimalist in the least, either.

Glad you liked the buried treasure idea. :)
Title: Re: how did you ditch your thesis/book/journals/photos/art/etc?
Post by: anastrophe on December 19, 2013, 11:23:51 AM
I am a minimalist and have struggled a lot with this.

Old portfolio type stuff is all digital and I just check on it and back it up occasionally.

But I kept a journal from age 11 through college and I have a box of those. And a box of photos. And a small box of letters from my high school penpal. These are incredibly sentimental items and it's hard to imagine parting with them even though I'm now the type who only has one set of extra sheets and two plates. For now, I've just said that as long as it's not taking up too much space (fits in a large U-Haul box) and I don't have any practical difficulties storing or moving it, it stays.
Title: Re: how did you ditch your thesis/book/journals/photos/art/etc?
Post by: Jamesqf on December 19, 2013, 11:31:28 AM
Maybe different in my line, but thesis, papers, &c were always on disk.  Only reason there were ever printouts was because the grad school required them.
Title: Re: how did you ditch your thesis/book/journals/photos/art/etc?
Post by: MontanaMoneyMustache on December 19, 2013, 03:10:28 PM
I just graduated with my undergrad degree yesterday, and last night tossed about half a truckload full of papers and projects. I literally had an entire office cluttered up with paper and folders.

Maybe not as important or memorable as some of your documents, though. I basically tossed everything that I did not immediately need, and never foresee using again. I have almost all of my school/professional work backed up electronically, so if I ever need it I can just reprint or view on the computer. Also got rid of class notes and such since most of that can be found in text books or online.

As others have suggested, digitize what you can, and only keep the few very important pieces in hardcopy. Good luck!
Title: Re: how did you ditch your thesis/book/journals/photos/art/etc?
Post by: galliver on December 19, 2013, 08:17:36 PM
Congratulations, Montana!

I need to do that >_> I didn't back up as I went, so now I need access to a scanner with document feeder and maybe a paper cutter to get it done. Someday. Someday.
Title: Re: how did you ditch your thesis/book/journals/photos/art/etc?
Post by: SisterX on December 19, 2013, 09:29:25 PM
For those of you with theses, check out what your U's policy on keeping archival copies is.  I, personally, find it much cooler that I can go to the U my parents went to and check out a copy of each of their theses than it would be to have one kicking around the house.  I also know that the U will never get rid of them, and they're digitized so no accidents (such as a fire or flood) can destroy them.  It also seems to scream more of "legacy" to have works by my parents in a library than it is to have copies at home, if you're worried about what your kids will think when they're older.
It is quite freeing to get rid of "keepsakes" that don't really mean anything (anymore).  I also love digitizing, not only for the aforementioned reason, but also so that they can be shared more easily.  Old family photos used to only have one copy.  Now everyone in my extended family has at least access to old photos so there's no question of who gets to keep which photos/albums.  We're starting to do the same with all the old home videos my grandparents made.
Title: Re: how did you ditch your thesis/book/journals/photos/art/etc?
Post by: Capsu78 on December 20, 2013, 01:28:21 PM
I am finding out that this is more of a journey than a destination-  I am entering my 4th year of digitizing all the paper "stuff" I have hoarded over my lifetime- first paychecks, original driver licenses, letters written to me back in college- and I now find that I am managing 60,000+ images.  I am still only halfway through my non digital photos.
I have found it much much easier to pitch out many originals after I scan them, but it took a while.  I still keep the originals of things my parents wrote to me-  "... we took care of this unpaid parking ticket for you sonnyboy, but don't forget the long arm of the law has a way of catching up to you"
The very positive upside is retrieval and sharing.  I can easily pull up pics from my grown kids infancy at a few moments notice, something I could never do with bins of photos.
Title: Re: how did you ditch your thesis/book/journals/photos/art/etc?
Post by: scrubbyfish on December 20, 2013, 03:54:03 PM
Thanks, everyone!!! Great to hear from other "otherwise minimalists" who struggle with this piece. My collection is, again, small. My young son and I live in 400 square feet and have oodles of space to move, play, be. The papers are inside one filing cabinet. One drawer is tax stuff I'm required to keep, one draw is daily life files (son's school and autism stuff) and office supplies (envelopes, etc). One is archives (these projects, five little things from my son's infancy. So it's not a lot.

And yet, in having this conversation with you all here, I realized that for me it feels like a spiritual issue, if I can call it that. I feel like I'm relying on these physical items of proof, and am over-relying on the past. I haven't gotten to develop a new project in 5 years, and this seems to be driving me batty. I have this belief that if I release the old stuff, including on a physical level, my life will change for the better. I crave more freedom -just me, my kid, laptop, car, tent. The filing cabinet is hard to drag around. I once lived for some time with only a bank account, a library card, and a school bag of stuff. I don't want to quite do that now, but I want the filing cabinet gone.

I have one friend who lives in an even smaller space -he hides his required stuff (taxes) in an out-of-the-way place at his work. Ha!

I love the thought of the library! Several of my works are in regular libraries (but would be pulled as they become obsolete); Canada has a legal archive that keeps a copy of everything permanently. I have resisted sending the latest project to the Archives, only because it seems silly to (waste of mailing money). But now it makes perfect sense!

Scanning/tagging/organizing seems like a lot of work. Hmmmm...  But such a great solution to much of the paper!

I had a dream about this last night -in real life, one of my projects had been essentially co-opted and over time the new agency downgraded everything about it: content, typesetting, artwork. (Why, I can't imagine. If you can spend $10 to make something beautiful or the same amount to make something ugly, why choose ugly?) I woke from my dream almost in a sweat, remembering this. (I've regretted allowing the co-opt to happen -limited experience on my part. To this day I wish I had simply shut the project down at its peak, and let them create ugliness from scratch.) In the dream, and in those moments after waking, I wanted desperately to be able to show people the version I had made, the beautiful and comprehensive version, and struggled with the fact that my name was linked to the current one. And so I keep a hardcopy of the beautiful one -my proof that I can see the difference. Wild.

I imagine some might be perplexed as to how I'm making this such a big deal, and I can't really speak to that. It just is, in my soul and heart. I was once reading a fellow who develops then sells blogs. Another reader asked how he ensures the blogs retain their integrity after the sale. He said he can't, and that the blogs tend to spiral downward in content and focus after the sale, but that this is how he makes his living -creating a great blog, then selling it for $20,000. He hangs on to the few that are most important to him, that he would be devastated to see going downhill. I couldn't help but wonder if he feels compelled to keep "proof" of the pre-sale versions of those he sells. I really admire this guy's ability to let his "babies" go.

I have a hunch that most successful business people are folks who are willing to walk away from their past attempts, set fire to it all (figuratively speaking), and start fresh. It's an energy thing. I've done it -with incredible results- in so many areas of my life. I feel really compelled to do it here, too, to get those kinds of results.

Thanks for being in this conversation with me, folks!
Title: Re: how did you ditch your thesis/book/journals/photos/art/etc?
Post by: melalvai on December 20, 2013, 04:43:10 PM
When my grandfather was in the nursing home, someone had brought his PhD dissertation and displayed it. For many of us grandchildren, that was the first time we'd seen it. We ooh'd and aah'd and read a page or two before giving up because we were nowhere near smart enough to follow it. It was pretty cool to see it. I'm glad he kept it, and that someone (probably my dad) had thought to display it in this room.

Of course, Grandpa was the opposite of minimalist, so there was no question of him not keeping it.

I don't know if that helps you, but it's something else to keep in mind, related to the issue of proving to your kids what you did. Someday there might be other descendants who want to know more about you.
Title: Re: how did you ditch your thesis/book/journals/photos/art/etc?
Post by: scrubbyfish on December 21, 2013, 09:44:07 AM
Yesterday I bravely looked through one pile. I learned several things:

1. Newspaper clippings (about my life and/or my projects) fade and are definitely better stored digitally. Ditto a few other types of print.

2. My boyfriend says the same weird thing annually (per my journal). I showed him. This issue may now be resolved ha!

3. Some of the things felt totally release-able, so I let those go.

4. The rest continue to be things I value so much that I will keep them.

5. If these things were stuck in a house fire, I would be sad. i.e, In a family that has literally never said to me, "I love you", three members have written me long "love letters"! I had never realized that! It would be best to store these -or at least copies (digitized or otherwise)- off site.

6. I realized that if I clear a filing cabinet drawer of the things I don't value (autism stuff from the government, etc), I can store the oversize stuff that I do value there.