While being here in the Seattle area I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about sentimentality and memories.
I love to document. That is one of the few unwavering qualities I have kept throughout my entire lifespan.
I photograph, write, hoard keepsakes, record, draw, compile, etc!
However this can cause several clutter related issues, mentally and physically.
- Every scrap of paper becomes important and it takes up space.
- You constantly worry about losing these “things” from your trip.
- Over-spending seems rational at the time.
- You become wrapped up in the past moments (of time/significance/value).
- Being mindful, alert, awake, and conscience becomes an uphill battle.
For example, I’ve been keeping my ferry ride receipts thinking, “Hey now I’ll have all the exact times and dates that I rode the ferry each day!” For some reason “late afternoon” is no where near as valuable as the “3:36 pm” stamped on my reciept. What? Why?
Analyzing the logic behind this reveals the mistake in my thoughts. Do dates, times, accuracy, amounts, digits (or anything that can be quantified) really have more value than being ready for whatever the current moment is holding for you? Is it worth missing out on all the great unexpected things that happen in strange places? This logic leaves regret and clutter waiting for you the moment you set down your bags at home. You’ll accumulate useless items, forget how you were feeling/thinking/sensing and you’ll waste time and money.
I still have a shopping bag full of unused postcards, books, brochures and receipts from a trip I took several years ago to San Francisco. It’s taking up space and making me feel guilty for not “doing something” with it. Sometimes we rationalize “Hey, this will be great for that scrapbook I’m going to make someday!” Yet, I’ve never made a scrapbook in my life, and I’m much more fond of digital organizing anyways.
1. Unless you are a die-hard scrapbooker, the paper is just junk.
Take a photograph of it, or better yet, find the spot on the front of that postcard and photograph yourself right there! Taking pictures is simple, easy, affordable and accessible to everyone these days; why do we still buy postcards with other people’s photos on them? However, there may still be things you need to keep for records or have an actual use for back home, if this is the case…
2. Dedicate a finite amount of space for travel trinkets and papers to bring home.
Be diligent amount what goes in and what doesn’t! Consider it a sacred space (folder, box, envelope, whatever) for only the most irreplaceable items and documents. Some people are collectors, so take that into consideration BEFORE you go on your trip. If you collect sand/dirt samples from around the world bring the jars with you and only take what you can. If you like sea shells bring a small jewelry box or trinket box for these. Press leaves from trees. For all of you sensual people (meaning the 5 senses!) Take a paper rubbing of Lenin’s headstone, or Micheal Jackson’s Hollywood Star. Rub a flower on a postcard you’re sending home (like a scratch-n-sniff). And of course, copy down that recipe for traditional sourdough bread to replicate at home. Then…
3. Store as much digitally as you can.
Easier to retrieve later. Less delicate. Longer lasting (keep backups regularly). Takes up almost no space at all! Really, digitize as much as possible. The zoo map you think you need to reference at some point can be scanned or usually something similar could be found online. But I’ll save the best tip for last…
4. Document as you go, and then forget about it!
Take a picture and then REALLY take it in. Use all of your senses here. Be present. You are in a brand new place and you can define your experience there any way you want. You can get in and out rushing to take all the snapshots to prove you were there and convince everyone how awesome it was OR you could actually just be there and feel amazing the whole time. These days, when you send an email you have a copy archived for a lifetime if you need to reference it. Your photos practically organize themselves by date or location. And with GPS and geo-tagging you can lookup the name of that awesome beach you surfed at later. Enjoy now; your friends will be jealous no matter how well or poorly documented your trip was. (They’ll be dying for your tan/shoes/massage/haircut/whatever long after you stop talking about the trip.)