Information Collecting

You might say that I am an information junkie.  I love learning and there is so much out there I could learn.  And it seems like it’s getting easier and easier to have access to a plethora of information – at your fingertips, whenever you want.  I will hold myself back from a rant about the reliability of this information, yet with the Internet so accessible, there’s tons of information to be had.  We might not stop and think about our collecting in this realm.

Our collecting information might be fairly limited to certain topics or it might be more general.  It doesn’t matter which one it is if you have a tendency to collect it.  It’s relatively easy to collect information and physically less cluttered if it’s digital.  Nevertheless, it’s collecting in either form.  We don’t see the space in the same way when it’s digital, yet this doesn’t mean it’s not getting cluttered.

First, is your collecting of information getting in your way? How much time and energy are you spending on collecting this information? Are you referencing this information again? Can you find what you know you saved when you want it again?  Do you have guilt that you aren’t using the information you’ve collected?

Just like with most stuff that you can collect, if you are keeping it, you don’t want to be controlled by it.  It’s there to serve and help you. Period. You also want to be able to easily find it.  Since information these days is both physical and digital, it can be challenging to keep everything together.  (I’m moving strongly into the digital realm, as it’s searchable and saves paper.)  It doesn’t matter which one suits you as long you make it work for you.

Sometimes this means taking a hard look at what your response is to information.  Do you have a desire to collect it?  If you collect it and then do something with it, then there’s nothing wrong.  If you seem to have information that you haven’t even looked at, it’s time to consider what matters in your life.  Do you want to spend your time and energy going through and examining all that information? (Are you really going to make time and energy to do that?) More importantly, are you going to continue to collect information for this unknown future point when you will use it?

How much are you collecting because it “might be useful one day”? Do you lack the confidence that you could find the information when it became relevant?  Have you thought about how fast information changes, so saving something that might be relevant down the road might really be saving irrelevant information?

I struggle with these limits.  As I’ve already said, I love learning.  When I look on my computer or at my papers, I’ve been amazed by how much I’ve saved.  It’s hard to part with them – yet this is exactly what I’ve been doing – examining what I’ve kept and tossing what I can.  I’ve also made some changes in how I handle information: I’m starting to scan certain things and I’m re-organizing the digital information so I can access it more readily.

As with all organizing projects, I see it as a process.  Your vision can change at any moment.  Additionally, our first step really needs to be examining what we’re collecting and considering what happens for us with collecting.  Even the most organized person collects – it’s what they do with the collecting that differentiates them.  Is the information you are collecting worth your time and energy? Challenge yourself with your answer – it can open up a new way of viewing your stuff.

Purging School Papers and Why Saying Hoarding Should be a Crime

I mentioned that doing the room re-vamp is a good excuse to sort through some old papers. The truth is, the little 2 drawer filing cabinet I picked up in college contained these college papers so well, they were together and out of the way. With all the things in life that needed to be done, I had no pressing need to pull out those papers and go through them. That is, until we decided to empty the room and remove the little filing cabinet! Fortunately, by then I had already decided that I needed to go through them and purge them.

But first, before I go on, I have a confession to make. I hate labeling behavior. Doesn’t make a difference if it’s mine or someone else’s. I just do not see much value in applying labels and see that they can too often apply to a wider audience. The problem lies in the negative connotations that we associate with the labels and being reluctant to think of ourselves with these labels. I am thinking of “hoarding” and in writing this I decided to look up the definition. According to Merriam Webster, hoarding is “the act of collecting and hiding or storing (esp. valuable items) for preservation, security, or future use; treasure up (esp. money); store in the mind etc.”

I was working with a woman who had labeled herself in this way. I was talking to her and mentioned that I struggle with “hoarding” too. As an organizer, she dismissed my claim, unable to believe that I hold onto things more than I probably should. Yet, the truth is that there are things that I am reluctant to get rid of. I believe that we each have things that we hold on to, things that someone else might not see the value of, and organizing is about finding places for the things that matter to the individual. The important piece about holding onto things, is making a place to keep those things we value, and as long as they have a logical place and do not hinder life, it does not matter how or what we collect.

At this point, I am almost embarrassed by the fact that I have kept all my college and, even worse, many of my high school class notes and handouts, and a few from middle school. I have lugged them through many moves and cannot say that I have used or read them since I acquired them. Many years ago, I did gather each class together, in either a three-ring binder or a folder, and labeled each of them. They lived easily together. As I was moving them out of the room, I made sure to keep them all together.

Despite my not looking at them for so long, I think it is important not to just toss them. I have been going through them, looking at the name of the class, which helps me know if there are likely things I might want to save, and directing me on how much time I might spend on going through the papers.

One of the first things I discovered, which validates the importance of going through things before tossing, was some drawings my best friend made on some poems I had written for a class. I have found other things that I still value and want to keep.

As I continue the process of reviewing these, it has become obvious that I will need a way to organize and store the papers I still want to save. I am pleased because I also can see how much I have decided to get rid of and that far outweighs what I am keeping. The things I still feel are important also show me what I am still interested in and value having information on.

Here is a YouTube video of the process of going through old notes and papers.

Some of the notes and papers I have saved are the reproductions that classes have included as part of the required reading. I find this is one of the hardest areas to sort. I am an avid reader, and books are one of the things that I am loathe to part with, so I will take more time going through these photocopied essays and poems. They were useful for the class itself since they were organized by the order they needed to be read. One of the major reasons that they are not fully functional as they are currently is that I do not really know what I have amongst them.

Likewise, I have made another YouTube video for the reproductions from classes and how to approach the task of sorting and saving what is important.

Maybe I am unique for holding onto school notes and papers for so long, even finding some that date back to middle school, yet it was obviously something that I valued. Does it make me a hoarder? Does it matter? The crucial point is how we do not let our collections interfere with living life and to organize them so that when we want to appreciate those things, we are able to do so.