Fearlessly letting go of information

stack of books with post its sticking out of the pagesI’m an information pack rat, and I’m out of control. I’ve recognized that I have a fear of not having the information I need when I need it. Because of that fear, I have stacks of magazines, journals, papers, and clippings that have either practical information to make life easier (like how can you use olive oil a hundred different ways in your household and, er, how to simplify and get rid of clutter) or ideas for travel and leisure. I also hoard professional journals, thinking that I’ll find the time to read them all.

The problem is that this stuff takes up space, clutters, and cleaning has to be done around it–not to mention the fact that I feel a little stressed when I look at the stacks and wonder when I’m going to find the time to read it (thinking that I’m missing out on something that will streamline my life or make it more efficient). The irony here is pretty transparent.

Some people like clutter and really thrive in that type of environment—finding the chaos stimulating. I’ve tried that. Clutter just doesn’t work for me. I’m relaxed and more creative in a fairly well organized environment.  My mind is released from the stuff. I really appreciate the zen-like aesthetic of almost empty rooms. Peaceful. No distractions. I may never have that kind of decor, but just to see most of the floor in my office would be a huge step. Huge.

It became clear that I needed to have a serious talk with myself. I did, and I’ve  figured something out about my information collecting.  What have I to fear?  There’s the internet, library and my husband, who is a wealth of information (or knows where to find it). I just googIed “practical uses of olive oil” and within seconds found that olive oil can prevent stretch marks, relieve jelly fish or man-o-war stings, remove paint from hair, and the list goes on and on. “Eureka,” I cried!

I just need to courageously plunge into the stacks of paper and know that the best way to make my life more efficient and easier is to fearlessly toss the paper   into the recycling bin and drop off magazines that might be an interesting diversion for sick people at my doctor’s office. The professional journals will be harder to part with, but I will have to be brave as I quickly look through and clip for files.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I will still buy and read magazines and journals, but if they’re hanging around after about three months—I intend to clip and then toss them in the recycling bin. Books are dear to my heart, and I will continue to buy, read and write them. There’s always the used bookstore for those I won’t read again.

I’ve realized that the clutter in my life is baggage–baggage I don’t need as I travel through my days. For instance, recently cleaning out my office closet took me two days of concentrated work on a weekend. Now my work is so much more efficient because it is no longer a struggle to search through all the stuff to get to what I’m looking for. I try to think symbolically when I go through stuff, like, ”I’m giving away this old computer software because I’m changing the ‘software’ in my mind by thinking differently, and I no longer need the old program.” The software served me well in years past, but it is obsolete for my needs now. Also, an added benefit of perspective is that by giving it away, it may end up in the hands of someone who can use it.

After that very important talk I had with myself, I’ve been trying to simplify, even in small ways, everyday. Some days I only have five or ten minutes to spend on simplifying, and that’s okay. I’m working up my courage as I write this to dive into the stacks of paper and publications I’m staring at. I must be fearless.

© Copyright, Mary Claire O’Neal

Mary Claire O’Neal is a communication consultant, speaker,  coach and is the author of the award-winning book, Becoming What You Want to See in the World. For more information: www.maryclaireoneal.com

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