Purging Regrets

For the most part, I’m a ruthless purger. In my early days of tossing, while I was still developing my style and methods, my mother used to worry that I was too reckless. That I got rid of too many things without thinking about them enough.

I have to admit that I have had a few purging regrets over the years. But they’re small, hardly significant really, when compared to the vast numbers of things I’ve purged without any second thoughts. I still feel a little silly that I sold my Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club album. At the time I’d listened to it so many times that I was tired of it. I made a decision to pass it along and get something new for my collection. Some time later I came to regret that decision, but it was easily rectified by buying the album again.

Every once in a while I’ll get a pang for something I cleared out that can’t be replaced so easily, maybe an article of clothing I used to like or a tchtochke that had meaning. But then I recall a fond memory of the item and trust myself that I made the right decision to let the physical object go. Then I move on with my day. I go through the same exercise for digital content, too.

Many people focus on decluttering physical stuff without a thought about how inundated and overloaded we all are with digital content. The same rules and basic strategies apply.  Here are couple of useful tips to consider when embarking on these types of cleaning projects.

  1. Develop some guidelines.
  2. Follow through with your decisions and don’t waffle on your choices.
  3. Move things out right away (e.g., donation bin, recycling, trash, etc.) so you don’t have second thoughts about them.

I once mentored two students at my job. Their task was to analyze 62 boxes of backlog records in the corporate vault to determine if we should keep them or destroy them. We reviewed their work and finalized the decisions. On their last day, I left them in the vault with a 96-gallon shred bin and a time limit to load up all the records to be destroyed. Then we locked the bin and went for coffee. The lesson learned was to feel confident about your decisions and complete the actions without hesitation and second guessing yourself.

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