My final post of the productivity series got delayed due to our rather big announcement (followed by a slightly less big French announcement), so thanks for your patience.

So let’s be honest. I’m not the only hoarder out here. Am I? Go ahead. Raise your hand. (I’m watching, you know).

But so much of the stuff we collect (or that gravitates toward us) is cool. Or memorable. Or meaningful. Because we attach memories to it. When we touch it, we feel connected to a past we cherish. A moment.

But let’s face it: how many times have you actually pulled that thing out–whether it’s a collection of things or just a single prized thing–and looked at it? And for how long? If you’re like me, probably not very often, and probably not for very long.

So what’s the value in it? The answer is–unless it’s a sacred family heirloom–not much.

That’s because the real value is in you.

It’s within our own memories that things acquire meaning. And stuff, on the other hand, is very much expendable.

You don’t own things, things own you.

-Brad Ringer

Shoot It

My iPhone is glued to me. I almost feel naked without it anymore. Not because I like it (oh, it’s super cool, but sometimes I wish I wasn’t so dependent on it), but because of how much it actually does for me.

One particular day I was fed up with how much junk was in a certain section of my basement, taken up by cool old bottles I’d somehow deemed valuable along the way. Then the thought entered my head, “What am I ever going to do with these? And where would I display them? And who would care?” That’s when I decided to chuck them. But before I did, I remembered my iPhone.

And I took a picture of each of them.

Suddenly I realized their value was in my head, and the picture would stir that memory just as much as holding it. But without the physical space they’d take up. That section of my basement was purged, and I was free.

Likewise, when people are handing out copies of meeting notes, if they can’t email them to me I just take pictures of them on my iPhone and hand back the packet (to their astonishment). Because realistically those notes are just going to sit in my office and take up space; what I really need is to reference them later, a task much better suited for a digital image stored on my hard drive.

The pic above is of a conference promo card I got in the mail last week. I liked one of the design elements and wanted to save it for future reference. But rather than take up more valuable space in an already full morgue art file, I snapped a pic of it.

So what things in your life could you live with a picture of instead of the real thing? Tell us the juicy details below. I know, I know: it might be hard. But the sense of relief you’ll feel after throwing out all those things might just be worth the price (and then some). ch:


Jason Clement · 8 Feb ’11 at 4:33 pm

Im more curious as to what design element you like :)…

Seriously though, I find myself taking pictures instead a piece of paper more and more often as well… next up, I’d like to know how you keep the gigabytes of files you now accumulate organized and uncluttered. I have folders and folders on my (2) 1TB back up drives labeled “to be sorted”… Ugh!

    Christopher Hopper · 8 Feb ’11 at 4:45 pm

    You bring up a fantastic point: am I, in a sense, replacing physical clutter with digital clutter? Yes. And no. Yes in that I must make sure the digital version is organized. But there’s one huge pro (the “no”): I know this is a picture. And all pictures usually go to the same place (versus physical things which could occupy various locals in my life). Right now I tend to use iPhoto, which my iPhone naturally dumps into, as a catch all. Even if I don’t ever sort them, I still can recall, “Hey, that meeting was in April of last year roughly, let me browse for it quickly.” However if something is really important, I find that I tend to categorize it (sort it) right away because of it’s value.

    As for the design element I liked, most of the card I hated (eeep!), I actually wanted to remember the idea of “entering a promo code from this card during online registration” as a great piece of tactile marketing.

Nathan R. · 8 Feb ’11 at 8:56 pm

We take pictures of our kids “artwork” before secretly disposing of them. They also ask that we take pictures of their “creations” of blocks, legos, etc…

Great post!

Does anyone else find it funny that you took a picture of taking a picture? 🙂

    Christopher Hopper · 8 Feb ’11 at 9:49 pm

    I was waiting for someone to say that! I used a staff member’s iPhone to shoot mine!

    That’s a great idea about the artwork. I never knew how much little kids actually produced! We’ve done that with a few pieces, but should amp that up as my drawer is getting overly full.

Beth · 8 Feb ’11 at 9:17 pm

taking pictures is a great idea. At the office we are trying to eliminate file space, because with 1400 clients, it gets to be a lot of paper. So we are scanning everything. This stuff we have to keep organized. It has save so much time and space, but you still wouldn’t believe the paper work we can’t throw away.

    Christopher Hopper · 8 Feb ’11 at 9:50 pm

    You tax preparers amaze me! And that’s so cool that you can scan everything now; you must have a super duper scanner though, eh?

Brent Ammann · 8 Feb ’11 at 10:50 pm

Great idea! It’s been stated that you’re only replacing physical clutter with digital clutter, although it’s much easier to deal with. As you mentioned, it’s being organized in the process. Even if you didn’t want it, it’s much nicer to delete than have heaps of physical trash to throw away. The other added bonus, you liked the design element (in this case, the promo marketing code) if it had been an actual design that you liked though, instead of scanning the paper you’ve already made a digital image that can be brought into Photoshop or Gimp and used as a base for your own idea!

    Christopher Hopper · 9 Feb ’11 at 8:34 am

    Brent, great points. Never even considered the fact that digital captures can be incorporated right into work flow. Brilliant!

Rebekah Berthet · 9 Feb ’11 at 8:37 am that sounds like a catchy name for a conference! 🙂

    Christopher Hopper · 9 Feb ’11 at 9:55 am

    Woah, you’re right. Could I hire you to do some promotional stuff?

      Rebekah Berthet · 9 Feb ’11 at 1:14 pm

      Hmmm..I’ll have to get back to you on that! Sounds like something I’ve done before..

Christian Fahey · 9 Feb ’11 at 11:22 am

Books, books, books. That’s why there’s a public library. Unloading and it feels good.

    mooney · 9 Feb ’11 at 3:10 pm

    right Christian, you are slowly moving it to my place up the hill. my “open hours” are better than the library’s I guess. lol

      Christian Fahey · 9 Feb ’11 at 4:33 pm

      Tarantula. 🙂

      Christopher Hopper · 9 Feb ’11 at 7:30 pm

      The Fahey anointing is spreading!

        Christian Fahey · 15 Feb ’11 at 12:26 pm

        Of course. Arachnidically!

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