November 2009 Newsletter

Tip of the Month: Changing jobs, keeping (some) stuff

In a cluttered office, I’m discovering, almost nothing is worth keeping. — Stephen Baker, writing about packing up his Business Week office.

How many times have you changed jobs — or changed your entire career? I’ve worked for three companies (in a variety of roles) and then started my own business — and that’s probably less change than many people see in their career paths.

So how do we best handle all the paper and stuff related to our prior work? Here are two suggestions.

1. Shed in phases. You’ll quite likely agree with Baker that many things are obviously not worth keeping — but you might need some time before you’re ready to part with other things. When I left my last company, it took a while before I felt pretty sure I was not going to work in an Information Technology department again. When I did feel sure of that, I got rid of all the excellent books I had on software engineering. (I gave them away on freecycle.)

2. Honor the past. If you’re keeping papers, file them away nicely, or scan them. If you’re keeping objects, they probably bring back good memories of your best experiences. So consider keeping them out where they can be seen.

What kind of objects? You can see three of mine over on Flickr. (Yes, one of them resides inside a medicine cabinet.) Even though I worked at Hewlett-Packard for many years, I didn’t keep a single HP mug, or any of the congratulatory plaques. Rather, I kept reminders from one of my favorite projects — and a funny name plaque that was custom-made for me. Your choices might be equally quirky; that’s fine.

Judy Shintani writes about taking her awards from POPAI (Point of Purchase Advertising International) out of storage and displaying them; I think that’s terrific.

If you have items you want to keep but not put on display, consider creating a memory box: an attractive box that stores important mementos.