I need help to get rid of this

marie26October 29, 2007

I have been very good about going through and organizing my papers. Besides needing to go through the filing cabinet again (not a terrible job), I have 2 bins to still go through. One of them won't be a problem. It's already perfectly organized and I know in my mind which items I'll be keeping.

It's the other bin that is a huge problem for me. About 7 years ago, I did major research for a book and the subject for the information is not outdated. The Rubbermaid bin is filled with binders with plastic sleeves and information in each sleeve.

I know it's because of all the work that I put into it that's stopping me from just throwing it all out. And I know that there's only a small part of the information collected that I will need for a future project.

I had come across several of these types of binders in another bin and typed the necessary information into the computer from that and got rid of half of the information. But these binders in the bin have so much information that it's futile for me to put it all into the computer. I had the information on a previous computer and probably on diskettes but I don't have any of that anymore. Stupid, I know. I really don't want to take all this with me when we move again. But I certainly don't want to throw away all of those plastic sleeves since they're so expensive to rebuy and I have a thing for stationery. And then how much lighter would it really be if I just threw out the insides of these plastic sleeves?

So, I'm looking at this bin and need to make a decision. Give me reasons to keep only those items I'll need to refer to in the future. The only reason I can come up with is that this will push me into working on my new project since I'll have to take out the information needed from these bins.

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Have you heard of "sunk costs"?


By Barry Schwartz

Barry Schwartz is a professor of psychology at Swarthmore College and the author of The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less.

You have good tickets to a basketball game an hour drive away. There's a blizzard raging outside, and the game is being televised. You can sit warm and safe at home by a roaring fire and watch it on TV, or you can bundle up, dig out your car, and go to the game. What do you do?

You've ordered too much food at the restaurant and there you are, completely stuffed, with a pile of pasta sitting on your plate. Do you clean your plate or not?

In each of these cases, the money is gone. Do you "waste" it, or do you go to the game, and finish your pasta? It is claimed by economists and psychologists that the right way to approach questions like these is only by looking to the future. Since the money is spent no matter what you do, the only real question you should be asking is what will give you more satisfactionÂwatching the game by a roaring fire or sliding to it in a blizzard; leaving the restaurant feeling content or leaving it feeling stuffed. The "sunk costs" are sunk whatever your decision; only the future matters. The fallacy in thinking about sunk costs is precisely that people feel compelled to get their "money's worth," even if it makes them suffer.

The sunk-cost fallacy appears in contexts less mundane than wasted food or basketball tickets. You've invested several million dollars to develop a new product only to be scooped by your competitor, whose version is cheaper and better than yours will be. Do you go on with the development nonetheless? You are two-thirds through a research project when a report of an almost identical project appears in the relevant journal. Do you finish your study or abandon it?

    Bookmark   October 29, 2007 at 4:53PM
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Talley Sue: thanks for the post. I think we all have felt like we needed to get our moneys worth at certain times. Your post has really unravelled the root of that feeling. Quite interesting and I thank you for taking the time to share it.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2007 at 5:52PM
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Walk away from anything that won't bring you future happiness. Take the pasta home in a doggie bag. Forget that football/basketball game. The team will win or lose without you. And the big corporation can always use it for a tax loss.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2007 at 5:53PM
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If you want to get rid of all the papers, but feel like you need to keep them, why don't you scan in the documents and save them to a 2-inch flash drive? That way you'll save space from all that paper and you won't lose the info.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2007 at 6:27PM
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From the very informative article Talley Sue posted above:

"To acknowledge sunk costs and change course need not be an admission of foolishness or even failure. One can think through a problem in the right way, and formulate a wise course of action, only to discover that it doesn't work out. The world is an uncertain place, and good decisions do not guarantee good results (just as bad decisions don't guarantee bad results). But a reason people are seduced by the sunk-cost fallacy is that investments of time, money, or lives on ventures that do not work out feel like failures. They feel like a waste. And people seem willing to waste even more (time, money, or lives) to justify what has already been spent and avoid that sick feeling of failure."

I'm almost ready to just dump the whole bin. I do realize now that the information I would pull out of all these binders for my current project is on the internet and it would probably be easier to just look it up.

I put so much effort into this and then just didn't finish it is very disappointing to me. Maybe it goes back to being a thinker and not a doer or maybe I realized this wasn't a really a necessary "book". For me to scan all of this would just be prolonging the inevitable. I know I won't be using most of the information.

I just wish I could get over this feeling of failure.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2007 at 9:47PM
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"I just wish I could get over this feeling of failure."

That grabbed me and makes me ask: would ditching the bin get you closer to putting the book effort into a healthier perspective?

I think you should feel good about taking a shot at the book - that's further than I have ever gotten with some of my ambitions. I congratulate you on that. And if you are sure that book is not something you are going to take up again, just let it go. That may help you see it for what it was - something you did do - rather than the distressing baggage it has become (= something you 'didn't finish'). Big difference because the former is all about potential and possibility. And that is healthy. If I could recall I would quote esteemed people who say something to the effect that failing is not a problem, how you handle it and what you take from it is what matters. Many successful people have had some remarkable ups and downs - and unfinished projects! The key is to move on.

I am willing to bet ditching the bin will be very freeing. And may open you to another possibility.

PS I read Schwartz' book a while back and found it very interesting. Life and decisions have become so much more complicated. EX: phones: landline v cellular v internet, corded v cordless, carrier, minutes, long distance plan... so complicated.
Doncha miss Ma Bell sometimes?

    Bookmark   October 30, 2007 at 12:24AM
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I just wish I could get over this feeling of failure.

I found out this, when I ditched several uncompleted sewing projects, etc.:

I got RID OF THE FEELING of failure along w/ the stuff.

Because the stuff was a CONSTANT REMINDER of something I had started and not finished. And that I STILL WASN"T FINISHING!

Once the stuff wasn't there, and It was no longer *possible* to finish it, I found the guilt went away too.

It had been a hobby, a leisure activity, that I enjoyed the doing of and the planning for. But I didn't feel like a failure every time I looked at it, because *I couldn't look at it anymore.*

In fact, some of those projects don't even cross my mind much--except in situations like this. I have completely forgotten they were ever around.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2007 at 9:36AM
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We can be so harsh with ourselves, can't we? It's terrific that you were interested enough in a subject to pursue writing a book. I think you have two different issues going on here.

One is, that you gathered a bunch of info for your book but only part of it will be useful. And I know that there's only a small part of the information collected that I will need for a future project. When I gathered materials for papers, I always brought home more books than I needed. I also spent money copying journal articles that I decided weren't relevant to the points of my topic. This happens. You spread a broad net to make sure you've got your bases covered, then you refine your idea. This extra material is your broad net, it was useful at the time. Perhaps it helped you decide what your focus wasn't -- which is useful in itself.

The second is, that you haven't written the book. I put so much effort into this and then just didn't finish it is very disappointing to me. . . . I just wish I could get over this feeling of failure. Writing this book is still a possibility if you want it to be. The extra info that you're contemplating pitching isn't really tied to this. If you decide you don't want to write the book, acknowledge the work you've done (an accomplishment in itself) and move on. I agree that unfinished projects hanging around make you feel worse. If you know in your gut you will never want to complete it, let it go. You can devote this freed up energy to new ideas and projects, ones of value to you now.


    Bookmark   October 30, 2007 at 12:29PM
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Everyone's advice is really helpful and I've taken parts from each one that relates to me. I should be proud of doing as much research as I did and even though the bin had been in a garage corner, I always knew it was there, ready to be worked on again. But I haven't touched it in years and I know I won't be writing this particular book. I enjoy doing research and I probably went way too far with this. But I do need parts of it for my new project so it really wasn't a complete waste. As Tina said, I did use a broad net and now realize what parts are important. To be honest, when I began collecting the information, I was pretty new to the internet and this really helped me learn my way around it.

I know that I must get rid of most of this. Maybe tonight while watching TV? It's time to think ahead to new ventures, not backwards to ones I let go.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2007 at 4:02PM
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I wish one bin was my only worry It's the rest of the stuff in my houe tht bothers me. DS doesn't really want to do a yard sale and I can't do one alone. What to do what to do!!

    Bookmark   October 30, 2007 at 5:33PM
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I understand your feelings. I am doing exactly the same selling my loom and EVERYTHING that goes with it for weaving. I can not begin to tell you the hours I spent winding yarns and cutting Levi's to make into rugs. So many hours. Moving the stuff THREE TIMES and finding places to store all of that stuff each time. The guy coming to get it wanted to bring his car. NO way!! This is a truck load of boxes and suitcases not to mention the floor loom itself. There are four large suitcases. 5 medium boxes and 6 smaller boxes. Every box = time and money. I asked a very fair price and got it but if I were to add the time I spent dealing with this stuff it would stagger me. I am letting it go. I used to love to weave and now I would rather do mosaics.I am already much happier knowing someone else will love my loom and use the things I gathered for weaving. I no longer have the guilt of having it all here taking up space I do not have.

I just hope you are as happy in the decision you make for yourself.


    Bookmark   October 30, 2007 at 8:18PM
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Chris, I had read some of your other posts about the loom but never related it to all the energy, passion and money put into it. I am definitely not alone in this and appreciate your post. I don't think I'll be able to get to it tonight but I will get to it.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2007 at 8:47PM
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I haven't followed this at all but if you are on your own program of organization can you just put this aside and go on with what you planned. You can come back to it at another time? In the mean time you can get on with the program. Maybe as you go the landscape in your head will rearrange itself and that book and all its agonizing wil be in a different place.
Right now it is an obsticle that does not have be dealt with this second.....Tache

    Bookmark   October 30, 2007 at 10:35PM
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I forgot to address your plastic sleeves. I use plastic sleeves in binders for many things. I keep all of our house hold appliance books in plastic sleeves in a large three ring binder. I keep my favorite crochet books in the plastic sleeves in a binder. I keep my genealogy information in plastic sleeves in a binder. Also all my computer software in the sleeves in , now a small childs suitcase. LOL It out grew the binder. I think I might be able to purge some of it. But we have 5 computers,one going away soon.

And YES I USE two computers One for me one for the cemetery stuff,and hubby has his and there is an extra one I have been too lazy to clean up and get rid of.Then the one going to my Mom. Since they are all laptops they do not take up much space.

Maybe if you purge the papers out of the sleeves and save the sleeves and binders and fill them up with other things, maybe from your file cabinet you can get rid of it. We used to have a four drawer file cabinet full, and I was able to get rid of all of it but the four HUGE binders I keep and I keep them on the book shelf. I also have all of the cemetery information in sleevs in binders. I am a sleevy binder junkie. Heheheh Sure makes it easier to find what I need. Also hubby likes the house stuff in the binders and helped me decide what to keep and how to organize it.

AND.... TA DA...... I also sold the chair tonight!!! Woo Hoo another big thing out of the house. I do not think I have anything large I want to get rid of now.!!! I am very happy!!


Here is a link that might be useful: Loom that was for Sale now sold.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2007 at 10:43PM
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What talley sue said, big time:

I got RID OF THE FEELING of failure along w/ the stuff.

It's absolutely amazing, and feels so shallow beforehand: everyone knows that you can't run away from your problems, right?

Well, actually, if it's a thing, a project, a hobby  you can. I keep reminding myself of how much better I feel not to be confronted with the reminders of my (past and moved on from) hangers-over-my-head.


OK, now I've probably got enough regained moxie to move on those boxes of needlepoint. Thanks!

    Bookmark   October 30, 2007 at 10:47PM
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shades - Maybe it's because I haven't had coffee yet ;-) but I can't seem to visualize what type of sleeves you use and how they are used..... Would it be possible to post a couple of pics?

I need to weed out paperwork again and would like to simplify as much as possible (more than I already have). And, I'm collecting a lot of crochet info - enough said!

    Bookmark   October 31, 2007 at 5:21AM
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P.S. Talley Sue - Your quote from The Paradox of Choice really hit home and I had DH pick up a copy at the library. I'm the queen of 'get rid of it' but still get hung up on money spent/get at least something back on big ticket items. Fortunately, there aren't that many, but still, it's a stickler for me and DH is worse.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2007 at 5:25AM
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wantoretire_did: I think it's easy for all of us think there ought to be some "return on investment" (the business folks call it ROI) on our money. But we limit ourselves to thinking of it in PHYSICAL terms.

It can be very powerful to think of that investment as paying off in NONTANGIBLES.

We bought an extra suitcase for a big trip, and 4 years later realize it's in the way. What we paid $40 for was the ease of maneuvering, etc., on that trip.

We bought an expensive bedspread, and 11 years later our tastes in color change. We paid that money for the pleasure of looking at the room for 11 years.

Sometimes all we buy is the OPTION--we don't even end up using the thing we bought.

But in every case, we already GOT our return on investment.

I know how powerful this can be, bcs now and then I achieve it.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2007 at 9:40AM
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Since I have this picture handy and already loaded to my webspace I am showing you the cemetery book of maps and list of names I had just finished re-creating a few years ago. A job that took me 6 years to do and continues to be on going. That was then 350 pages of names and maps. My Baby. LOL

Tally_sue I read once something about spending big money on clothing or? Then you figure how many times you wore it or looked at it and can figure cost per wearing viewing. This makes it easier to pass on or toss something. If you loved that bed spread for many years you looked at it 365 times a year for once daily and if you paid $365.00 for it and used it for 10 years it cost you 10 cents a day for the pleasure of looking at something you loved. Course you might not have spent that much but I need easy figures in my brain this morning. LOL Even so I am not sure I did this right. UGH Need more coffee.


    Bookmark   October 31, 2007 at 12:49PM
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In my bin, I have 3 binders the same size as what Chris posted. And each one has as many of the plastic sleeves. There are 4 smaller binders as well. At least now people can understand why this is such a dilemma for me.

Looking at the Chris' picture makes me realize how much effort I put into this and how I wasted all that energy on this. That said, it's done and I will get rid of them.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2007 at 1:21PM
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And another lesson for me, I'm gleaning now:

Don't spend the time (& money) on page protectors for research like book research, esp. since it'll be only me flipping through it, and it won't get used THAT often, and it doesn't need to be pristine--I'll still be able to write the book if the paper gets a little wrinkled.

The binder idea is nice, but I could just poke holes in the paper.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2007 at 2:01PM
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There is a real reason for the page protectors in the cemetery binder. I flip those pages several times a week. I have to use them out in the weather locating graves when there is a burial. And selling plots to people. When I took over the cemetery sexton job the pages were in a binder with no protectors and half were ripped out and falling out of the book.

Having said this. I still like having our house appliance books in the sleeves and in binders. Lots of times there are more than one book for each item. Easy for hubby to find what he needs and not make a mess of all of it which is what used to happen. Also my computer stuff otherwise I make a mess of it.

I see the sleeves as a step up from file folders. They keep things together in an easier way for me to store since I do not have room for file drawers here.

I LOVE the sleeves and bought a second box for us to use here. We keep some house plans from when we were looking at new manufactured homes. I have shared them with several people and get them back in good condition as the left. Ok But why do I save those plans. We have moved 10 times in 20 years so it is likely we will move again. There are a few we really liked. Having the plans make it easier for us. When we considered building onto this house out came the plans and we pawed through them again.

I think it all boils down to. It is ok to keep something you use or want to keep as long as it is not driving your brain crazy to have it. Or even annoying. I have pared this house hold down to the point things work for us. I do not have to churn to find things.

So Marie I say if you can find a use for your binders and sleeves keep them. I also say please do not kick yourself for spending all that time on the book. It was something you wanted to do at the time and you did it. So that was a good thing. I am sure you learned lots about the subject you were wanting to write a book about. Knowledge is never bad. I read and read about curing cancer. Will I cure my cancer?? Probably not but I keep trying to learn about it. I do not think we need to punish ourselves just because what was important to us at one time turns out to not be important now.


    Bookmark   October 31, 2007 at 5:59PM
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The best part is that I purchased the sleeves (all A4 size) when I lived in Asia and they were extremely inexpensive. It would cost me a small fortune to replace them here in the States. There really isn't any point to dump the sleeves since I do have room for them and I wouldn't want to ever have to replace them in the future.

Perhaps I'll follow Chris' ideas and use them for household management. When I had cleaned out my filing cabinet, I kept one of each old statement from current and past accounts. It would be a good idea to put these into one of the binders and only keep current statements in the filing cabinet. I could keep this in a place that I could grab in case of fire, following Talley Sue's advice in the thread about emergencies. It would also make sense to put all the how-to appliance information that is now in designated drawers only sorted by DH's electronics and my kitchen items into 2 other binders. I'm sure I'll come up with more uses.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2007 at 7:06PM
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Thanks to Talley Sue for the wonderful article. That analysis is one that helped me to get rid of the last few boxes of stuff in the garage.
Marie--is there any way that you could condense the book subject into an article for a technical, professional or business magazine. I have written for newspapers and gotten published, as well as magazines. I was an assistant editor for a business magazine at one time--we were desperate for appropriate articles and cartoons. Magazines need new stuff every month.If it was going to be a novel--try a short story.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2007 at 7:26PM
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Oh, I think I've been unclear.

I'm not anti-page protector.

But I am realizing that I find it easy to invest more in storing the project, or in organizing it, that it truly needs.

Were I researching a book, I could get by w/ simply punching holes, I'm just now realizing.

So I'm seeking to simplify in many areas. Like, if I want account numbers, etc., in my firesafe box, it's fastest to just shove a copy in there, instead of carefully copying them to a separate paper, etc.

Marie, if those are A4 size, isn't that an unusual size? Definitely worth keeping.

And I agree w/ Marie; look at that material, and your knowledge of it, and see if you can think of it as a newspaper or trade-journal article.

And Chris, I think this is the most valuble thing anyone has said on this thread:

I do not think we need to punish ourselves just because what was important to us at one time turns out to not be important now.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2007 at 9:22PM
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Chris - Thanks for the pic.

This is all making more and more sense. I'm thinking I can do a lot with plastic sleeves and this will be a good winter project. Maybe I can get rid of a filing cabinet :-)

    Bookmark   November 1, 2007 at 7:34AM
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When you decide to let it go, you may want to try something a friend taught me years ago.....when I am 'letting go' of anything, whether it be a physical thing or a mental thing, I put both my hands up in front of me with the fists facing away from me and closed (as if I was holding onto whatever 'it' is). I then say "I let it go" and open my hands and push them away from me. It amazed me the first time I did it; it was as though I was actually holding the hurt feeling, the bad memory, the pet peeve, whatever, and it was then gone. With something physical like your papers, I put it in a box, bag, trash, and 'let it go'. Verbalizing it and physically (visually) doing it makes so much easier for me. And final, too!

Give it a try.


    Bookmark   November 1, 2007 at 10:06PM
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I've been reading this thread with interest. Marie26, the comment "how I wasted all that energy on this" really caught my eye. I'm wondering, didn't you enjoy or at least derive pleasure, self-respect, self-satisfaction or the like from the project when you were working on it? If so, then it wasn't wasted energy. Just the outcome became different.

I remember a project I was doing in the back of my pickup one time. Making a bed/storage system there. Never finished it, actually used it a couple times but the frames did get used for sorting for a while, then I knew I'd never finish it or use it again because I didn't camp much anymore. I understand your feelings. But I did use the wood for other things and went, hey, it was fun doing what I did. Maybe some wasted time, but it was productive at least to have a goal. We don't always reach our goals. It's what we do when we don't reach them. Moap over them or set a new goal?

Believe me, there's been more than just the one project that had a lot of time put into it. My moving planner for one thing! And after 15-20 years, I've come to the reality that I'm not going to move, at least not for a long time. :( But the good part is that it's helped others who are moving. Not a lot of consolation, but some. And I enjoyed doing it. I enjoy research and learning things. Just from that standpoint many things are worthwhile to me.

Don't beat yourself up over it. Appreciate the pleasure you got from it, whatever it may be and move to a new satisfying venture. Good luck!

    Bookmark   November 17, 2007 at 7:33AM
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Hi Marie26, I mostly just lurk here, but wanted to share this with you. Those plastic sleeves do not cost that much. The ones in your box are probably stretched or torn or scratched. Your time and peace of mind are worth more than the price of a few packs of plastic sleeves. Toss the box and see how much better you feel when you let it go. Even your post inspired many of us, and you learned from the research. You deserve that empty corner ;)

    Bookmark   November 18, 2007 at 5:18PM
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Today, I finally started getting rid of all the paper in the binders. I finished one binder and there are quite a few more to go through. About the 10th page in, I looked at the information and thought "I need to keep this". But I forced myself to throw it out anyways. I know I can find this information again should I need it. That was a huge step for me.

Now I'm on a roll and when this is done, I'll just save binders and plastic sleeves in the bin. I'm not yet ready to let go of them. And as long as I have space for them, there's no real need. But not using the information in the binders was bugging me for years. I'm not sure if it feels liberating yet but it needs to be done.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2007 at 5:51PM
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I'm almost finished this project. All the binders are now empty of the information and any plastic sleeves I own are now inside of these binders. They are all in one bin and easily accessible.

There were a couple of folders in the bin that I quickly sorted through and got rid of some of the papers. But I still need to do a thorough culling of this. Actually, another project that I've been thinking of doing relates to this information so I might not have to do the research I thought I would need to do.

The best part is now I feel liberated! I can think of my next major project without that bin in my head. I'm free at last (LOL).

    Bookmark   December 4, 2007 at 5:52PM
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YAYYYYYYY!!!!! I applaud you!


    Bookmark   December 4, 2007 at 6:31PM
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I am officially finished this project. I organized the 2 folders and just need to add them to the folders already in my filing cabinet.

The bin had moved with me quite a few times through the last 6 years and it really took away my desire to start anything else. Part of me, I think, felt that if I couldn't finish this, why would I finish anything else, if that makes any sense? It only took a couple of days to actually get rid of most of the information. Now I am free to start fresh with something else.

BTW, DH thinks I'm insane to go through papers. He doesn't understand why I don't just throw it all out. To be honest, throwing it all out without even looking at it would drive me insane.

    Bookmark   December 4, 2007 at 10:22PM
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