Sorting my history

Our history collects around us and gathers dust as we walk by it each day on our way to the future. We can’t quite let go of it but we are not using it, looking at it or reflecting on it. What do we do with all of this stuff?

There is the pillow that Aunt Inez made to match a quilt. There are the glass candy dishes DSC04976.jpg– why did they need 5 of them and why do I keep all five? There are pieces of furniture, photos and more photos (no not digital real paper photos – boxes of them).

In the last few years we have cleaned out my Mother’s house and are still in the process of cleaning out the old family farm that goes back generations. (Maybe that is why there are so many cut glass candy dishes – one for each generation.) The stories remembered and many forgotten or unknown sit gathering mold and dust. We have handed out as much as we can out to family members but more remains. Uffda!!

Once home I decided I needed to begin to clean out my house of dust and stories but the act of physical cleaning once again was a bit overwhelming so my physical life belongings sit gathering a bit more dust. But – I also found a new age history that is collecting no dust and there is no lifting, no hot and smelly attics to deal with. There are stories, items I can’t remember why they were saved and items that are way out of date and talk about duplicates. There are so many in different files.

Ah, yes files! This gathering history is on my computer. It is the documents, photos, power points and more that are sitting in folders on my hard drive. This cleaning and sorting started innocently enough when I sat down to clear off my computer desktop and the “Working on Folder” I keep on the desktop during the school year. The file that I think makes it easier to find things when I am way to busy to dig deeper into the dark corners of my computer.

I started moving things into my hard drive documents folder and there I found folders titled:

  • Pictures or pictures or images -these folders hold pictures that I pulled from I- photos to use in blog posts or to send to friends or use in a ppt for a project.
  • Gardens or 2017 gardens or plants or tomatoes – these folders hold garden plans IMG_1230.jpggoing back about 5 years, lists of tomatoes ordered by myself, my daughter and her friends for the last few years, garden journals started and abandon – garden journal writing is now being saved in One Note – just another place for copies
  •  Archive file – this holds seven years of work with a program called Arts for Academic Achievement. Here I found budgets, ppts, documents, grants, meeting notes, images, permissions and contracts …
  • Writing – poems, stories, starts of manuscripts, articles about writing …
  • Books – book lists – kids and adult, notes from book clubs, list of books I have read …
  • Recipes – winter soup file, Thanksgiving dinner file, cakes, cookies, anything pulled from the internet that I thought I might make some day …
  • Teaching – files current and long ago documents created for students in my classrooms …

These files go on and on. It is an amazing collection of my life on the computer. It does not tell everything but does tell stories about my work life, my passion for gardening, and my IMG_1225.jpgobsession for taking photos of plants (I have not even begun to count how many photos of tulips I have in I-photo and in other files stored through out my computer.) It is my history without the dust and mildew.

I know what to do with the dusty and mildewy physical stuff of my family. I can easily sort and throw out items from old kitchens, bedrooms and bathrooms. We don’t need 20 bars of soap left from 1954 but what do I do with electronic files?

These digital files take up a little amount of space but they are not molding, they don’t smell – so do I just leave them?  Will anyone ever want to look back through this computer and read over the files? Is there a throw out date  –  every file created before 19– should be trashed? Will I look back over the teaching files to find documents or are they now so out of date it just does not matter?

I am slowly looking at each big folder and finding items I know don’t matter – health information from past insurance companies – 2004 and older are trashed, my daughters 2010 book order – trashed, my son’s middle school paper I helped edit for a science class – trashed, a digital receipt for a pair of jeans from Eddie Bauer – trashed!

OMG so much stuff!

I am keeping my writing, the book lists, the articles I find interesting.

The photos I don’t have a clue on how to being sorting, organizing and deleting – so all those tulip photos are staying for now! purple double tulip 2017.JPG

Have you looked at your computer history? Do you have a great way to sort and let go of old files? Tell us how you clean out your digital history!






About Joanne Toft

I am a retired Minneapolis Public School teacher. I walk, garden, care for my Grandson and write. Life is good!
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9 Responses to Sorting my history

  1. vanessaw2007 says:

    I don’t have a solution, but can relate to the overwhelming feeling you describe of just so much information to organize. I was going through my files and found a folder that said “stuff to go through”.. yikes.

  2. maryannreilly says:

    We write and collect out of a deep desire to represent and make sense of living. Treasures and yes at times those treasures can be burdensome. I have promised myself that the 40 + journals my husband left I will set aside and one day at some other time I will begin to read. Not everything we saved and collected across the decades mattered in the way that writing does. It’s good to have a sense of that.

    • Joanne Toft says:

      So true – writing matters in a special way and does not seem to have the out of date feel that some household items do. Journals can hold powerful memories – take your time and read when you are ready. I like your line “We write and collect out of a deep desire to represent and make sense of living.” Well said!

  3. Ramona says:

    Oh, I wish I knew the answer to your (and my dilemma). One thing I do now is get my daughter to look at photos with me. She’s much more willing to say delete, delete, delete. And help me find the keepers. I have so many fall leaves and tree pics. But I do love them! So for now, they stay, just like your tulip pics.

  4. Terje says:

    I am at awe that you have undertaken the task of cleaning a computer. Most people let the computers be because they seem as endless storage spaces that don’t leave a visible mess. I hope you will have energy for the physical cleaning too.

  5. Sonia says:

    I so sympathize with this process you are going through. In the past few years I’ve had to clean out or help clean out my mother’s, sister’s, and father’s belongings, and then last year my husband’s. Some things are easy to dispose of (and it’s not the same for each person), other’s much harder. I too have made lists of what I’ve thrown out, as a record, to remind me of what the other person kept, to remind me of our connection. The only computer cleaning I try to do periodically is the e-mail — there are the notifications from publications that I think I will read when I have time, but rarely if ever do. If it’s more than a couple of weeks old, delete, delete, delete. But then there are the e-mails setting up meetings which happened months ago; I should delete those too, shouldn’t I? I applaud you for taking on that task, and wish you luck in wading through it all.

    • Joanne Toft says:

      Oh so much to sort through of family members. It is never an easy task as you go through the life stories of others. The e-mails are easy for me to delete. I like seeing the small number to messages. I am determined to go through a little at a time to make sense of all the digital history. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Adrienne says:

    I sometimes wonder of being able to preserve things digitally is such a good thing. I save things I might not have saved in print. One thing I can say is that my computer files are neater than my real paper files!

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