“So much of excellence, is of course, the art of elimination.” My, my, how that would have been excellent advice to my 20 year-old self. I haven’t been able to stop hoarding information since I started college. All of the notebooks I kept class notes in from each college classes are in boxes in our garage right alongside each graded paper.

The obsessive-compulsive collecting only worsened in graduate school. I spent hours trying to develop systems to manage information. The right folder within folder nesting system so I could find anything I needed to on my computer whose files grew exponentially. The right Excel files to tell me what books I owned and which labeled box they were in. Was I ever a student who could sell my books back at the end of courses? Of course, not. They are all boxed up in the garage, but I have an excellent system for retrieving them.

The information hoarding worsened as I got to my dissertation. Now, there were journal articles to print and read. Hundreds and hundreds of them with highlighted passages. Of course, each one went into a colored coded folder with a typed label to then be alphabetized. The dozen or more huge plastic totes where they sit in hanging folders show off my need to keep every page of research.

What about when I started teaching graduate students? Well, then I needed to create three-ring binders with plastic sheet covers inside holding everything outline, research article, assignment, test, PowerPoint, etc., for each class. It took weeks to create each one, often causing me to get behind on what I actually needed to be teaching. These binders sit in totes in the garage as well. My career as an academic long ago ended.

I simply exhausted myself hoarding information. The apartment looks fairly stripped down, except for an excessive number of books, so my obsession is mostly hidden in the garage and behind one walk-in closet door. One thing is clear for sure. I never learned the art of elimination. I cling to ideas, research, books, etc. like there is a chance one of them will save my life one day.

Maybe it isn’t too late to learn this art of elimination. It would behoove me to get cracking. My grandfather, unlike the one in your article, died a severe hoarder (of everything, including dead lightbulbs). Wish me luck!

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