22 Aug

Activity:. Given the vastness of my task, I decided to start with my low hanging fruit: files from my 15+ year consulting business in educational program evaluation, since most of these had digital counterparts. I was still working at the time, but these projects had all been completed some time previously. Because of the confidential nature of the work, I needed to shred the papers. Although I owned a powerful shredder, I felt that it was a poor use of my time to undertake the shredding myself. Four trips to Staples, which offers a shredding service, and 550 pounds later, I was also able to recycle a number of the banker boxes in which most of the files were stored and cleared out a couple of the deep file drawers in the basement. 

Value: I was surprised at how much I’d forgotten about what I’d accomplished. So, it was both a good reminder, but also a challenge, as I found it hard to let go items that represented all this effort and creativity. I kept some of the more inspired work. The best thing about this activity was not just that it freed up storage space, but that it got me started. I felt lighter!

Next Steps: Scanning is a possible option (especially for work that has no digital counterpart) since I have to admit I kept more than I should have, but letting go eventually is probably the best route to take. I need to ponder this one some more and think about why I want to hang onto so many examples of this part of my life.

Tip: Through Angie's list, I later found a deal for $99 from a company that would collect up to 350 pounds of items for shredding, including CDs and cassette tapes from work-related interviews, of which I had a lot. I had about six months to take advantage of this offer once I purchased it. It was a better value than Staples and saved both time and physical effort. Plus, it gave me a deadline. However, I did initially use discount coupons for some of the Staples shredding. Sometimes it's worth a small cost to rid yourself of something more efficiently.

Keys to Choosing Low Hanging Fruit: Everyone’s low hanging fruit is different. But I believe that the four keys to a starting point are that it should: 1) be relatively easy to let go of emotionally, 2) take a reasonable amount of time to accomplish (or at least to do a sufficient amount to feel like you made progress), 3) be easy to dispose of (e.g., running it around to Goodwill, tossing, recycling), and 4) free up space.

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