Starting 2023 with Nostalgic Recycling

I certainly can’t complain about 2023 so far. It’s gone smoothly and Vancouver is back to its normal rainy but mild weather pattern. To prepare for our move later this year, I’ve been going through file folders and recycling papers I no longer want to keep. It’s turned into an interesting and nostalgic exercise.

Before my mother’s dementia took over her life, she was an avid reader of newspapers, mystery novels, and Maclean’s Magazine. For my American friends, Maclean’s was, and perhaps still is, one of the most well-known news magazines in our country. For years, she would bring me all kinds of articles clipped from her weekly reading material. While I read and discarded most, some things I kept in a “General” file folder. Many of these articles are no longer relevant, however, there’s one special edition (not a Maclean’s) magazine I couldn’t part with.

It’s called ‘Heroes of the Heartland’ about the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. The photo of an emergency responder holding a baby girl in his arms is still heart wrenching. I think of all the acts of terrorism since then and the children who’ve been killed, and somehow I can’t let this one go.

On the upside, I had no trouble recycling expired warrantees, old newsletters and correspondence. To my delight, I’d forgotten that I’d already cleared out most of the bottom drawer in the 4-drawer filing cabinet you see in the photo, back in the summer. Those files included all the submissions, rejection letters, and other correspondence from 1980 to 2000.

Now I have the next decade to recycle. After these four drawers are completed, I have three more 2-drawer cabinets to go through. I was surprised that I still had handwritten performance reviews, not to mention numerous course certificates when I worked in retail twenty years ago. Do I need reminding that after a good review, my salary was bumped up to whopping $9.83 an hour? I think not.

Then there was the ten-year-long breast cancer study I took part in during my forties. After my sister’s bout with breast cancer 20+ years ago, I was invited to take part in a ten-year study to determine if the fat intake in the average North American diet increased the likelihood of contracting breast cancer when compared to women on a low-fat diet. I was placed in the low-fat group. If you’re curious, the study found no significant increase in the rates of breast cancer diagnosis compared to the low-fat group. Anyhow, I wound up with a thick folder containing newsletters, recipes, meeting notices, and so forth. It’s all in the recycling bin now.

You might wonder why I wouldn’t want to keep at least some of these memories? The answer is that I have in my journals, where there are detailed accounts about the study and many other events in my life. I also have my submissions and rejections recorded on an Excel sheet, along with detailed records of publications, books read, courses taken, and so forth on the computer.

Going through all this sorting might sound like a lot of work, but it’s not arduous yet. My approach is to do a little for about 30 minutes after dinner, four or five days a week. Writing still takes up most of my day and I have much more to say about what’s happening with that next week.

A Writer’s Recycling Conundrum

Pexels photo by C. Technical

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to downsizing my home this week. It’s probably because we’re in a hot housing market in our area and three houses on our street are suddenly on the market, one having sold in a matter of days, above asking price, which is a common occurrence right now. Since we’re planning to downsize and move in two years anyway, should we step up our plan? This leads to a more immediate issue. How do I begin to sort and recycle over thirty plus years of paper in my home office?

I’ve been writing since the early 80’s. During my first fifteen years, it was all about submitting short stories, personal essays, and articles in paper form, complete with a self-addressed stamped envelope for an editor’s response. I still have tons of correspondence from those days.

I keep our family’s household records in another filing cabinet, but I’ve been much better at shredding and recycling those. Canada Revenue Agency only requires folks to keep records dating back seven years. So, why haven’t I done the same with my writing files?

Two reasons, I think. One is that I have an emotional attachment to my writing things. All that correspondence, all the paper drafts and final drafts of stories, and all of the notes represent four decades of work. Tossing it away seems counterintuitive. On the other hand, everything I’ve written is on the computer and backed up on flash drives.

The other reason is one of habit. For many years, I’ve printed out a final draft of a book, blog, or review, though I’ve now stopped doing so for blogs and reviews. It took a conscious effort and some resolve to break an old habit.

I have two scrapbooks filled with memories about fun book launches, writing events, and reviews of my work. I also keep a binder containing my publication credits, publishing stats, income and expenditures, and so forth. Maybe that’s more than enough of a physical reminder of those decades, and I should just let the rest go.

I’ve managed to sort and recycle a few things. In a blog last year, I mentioned that I cleared off unnecessary information from my two bulletin boards and I’ve managed to keep them clear. I also went through my collection of articles on writing and began organizing them into binders. I’ve found that it’s a 50/50 mix about whether I look something up in a digital folder or a paper one.

I’ve also renewed efforts to pare down my book collection. Last weekend, I began filling a box of books to give away, but it’s part of a larger downsizing and spring cleaning project that will also involve dozens of cookbooks I haven’t used in years. Sorting and recycling all of my cupboards could take a while and I expect I’ll need to set up a schedule.

For you writers who’ve built quite a collection of notes, drafts, correspondence, and such, what do you do with all of that material? To you keep it in boxes and binders? Is it organized? Or do you recycle almost everything and rely on digital backups?

Cleaning and Reorganizing My Writing Space

Hiedi_Cartoon_Housekeeper.jpeg_full[1]I rarely do a thorough cleaning of my home in springtime. The weather’s often too cold and rainy, plus there are simply too many other writing events and responsibilities to tend to. I prefer to clean in the summer, when I can leave doors and windows open. The carpets dry faster and I’m usually energized enough to take things to recycling and donation centers.

Unlike the upstairs, which gets regular vacuuming and dusting, I haven’t given my basement office a thorough cleaning for two years. I’ve managed to run a vacuum over the carpet and dust my workstation occasionally, but I’m talking about removing binders and knick-knacks from the shelves, wiping down every surface and tackling a couple of cobwebs high in the corners.

I’m inspired to do this right now, not only because the weather’s warming up, but because I’m currently reading a book about holistic wellness. The author says that a good cleansing of one’s home can improve emotional well-being and I agree.

Office cleaning is unique. No one else can do it for me because I also need to take a long look at the things in my office…the books, unfinished writing projects, the unframed pictures still perched behind my printer, and the numerous papers pinned to the bulletin board in front of my desk. Some of them have been there so long that they’re no longer relevant.

I need to rethink what needs to be filed away or removed altogether. Which pictures should go where? Which writing projects should I return now that weeks, if not months, have passed? I still need to sort through file folders and purge information I no longer want or need, but hey, like writing itself, organizing one’s writing life is an ongoing process.

Whatever happens, there should be improvements by the end of summer, I hope.