A livestock owner told me the other day that he has a barn full of moldy straw. It has been in his barn for several years, left from a year of bumper wheat crops. It was given to him at a good price and he has been using it sparingly. Now it is moldy and barely suitable for bedding. He is using it liberally now, keeping his animals warm and toasty in the frigid nights we have been having.
It made me begin to notice how much moldy straw I have around my office. Files that are several years old. Notes from conferences or meetings I don’t remember attending. Phone numbers I am afraid to throw away, even though there is no name attached. Computer disks from a Macintosh that is long gone. Post-it notes reminding me of relationships I want to foster. Lots of moldy straw.
The straw in the barn has been taking up space, but it serves a good purpose on these cold winter nights. During the summer, it smells bad, rots quickly, and hides all sorts of warm-weather critters when it is spread around the stalls. There are probably a lot of good reasons to ration its use. Now, it is time to use it, to use it with abandon. If it isn’t used now, it will be completely useless and another daylight burning task when the weather is fit for more productive labor.
So, in an office, how is the best way to attack the moldy straw problem? The Macintosh disks can definitely go into the trash. There is no hope for their usefulness. Even when the machine was working, we called it the “toaster.” Any information on those disks is either expendable or simply lost forever.
The notes from the conferences, though, might have some useful information. Maybe they are worth one or two hours of perusal. Some insight that might have been highlighted, some quote that is memorable, some illustration that stuck could be worth a slight investment of time. The goal is to get rid of it, but to save the really useful insights. This is slippery business, and how I got here in the first place, I realize. Still, a few minutes invested in renewing ideas is a worthy investment, if I come out with less paper and some useful ideas.
The files are easy. They have to be kept for a few years. A dry place to store file boxes is all I need. A whole drawer empties into a box and out the door it can go. If a little mouse needs a house, it will be little damage to these things that I must keep, but will probably never need.
The phone numbers, notes, and names are harder. Obviously, I don’t really want to call these people, or I would have by now. But I probably should. No, I won’t. So, just now, while writing this, I threw about twelve post-it notes in the trash. I can’t remember which “Michelle” I was going to contact “next spring.” And by the looks of it, I am already late. My niece has moved since I posted that address I just removed. A few other long ago accomplished reminders were under more recent and also accomplished tasks. It was not as hard as I thought.
I found a few important notes; someone to contact for business, an email address I had been looking for, a reminder to send a thank you. One ragged post-it note stays, though. It is a keeper. A little reminder by my favorite poet, Ogden Nash:
“To keep your marriage brimming,
With love in the loving cup,
Whenever you’re wrong admit it,
Whenever you’re right, shut up.”
I will keep that one posted. It is not moldy straw. It is fine alfalfa hay.