For years, I have created elaborate filing systems for research materials. At two former law firms, I created "Brief Banks" that allowed our lawyers, especially newer ones, to easily access different forms, sample pleadings, and research.
After joining ASL, I created a filing system for the expanding materials I was collecting on negotiation, mediation, arbitration, group facilitation, client counseling, collaborative law, restorative justice, conflict theory, ADR system design, communication skills, teaching tools, student well-being, and leadership, just to name a few of the included topics.
The collection filled 12 file drawers and about five boxes. My research files, for various law review articles, filled another five Bankers' boxes. Conference brochures filled another three boxes, at least. My publications, including reprints, filled another six boxes.
The index to this set of files runs 53 single-spaced pages.
During its creation, when a former secretary started making the files and file labels, word got back to me that one of my colleagues thought the whole thing was a hot mess. Perhaps, but I could always put my fingers on a document with very little difficulty. Many files served as the seed to a student's research project. Colleagues often asked me for a school-related document that they couldn't find.
Subsequent secretaries have dedicated many hours to updating the files with the documents I'd collect over a six month period or so. One recently posted on Facebook that she never minded the task because it kept her busy during the quiet and somewhat boring summer months of the academic calendar.
These files represented, in some tangible way, my expertise in the field of Dispute Resolution and the time I had dedicated to learning what I could about its various aspects.
So, not surprisingly, one of the last acts of letting go has been throwing away all those files. Yesterday, I threw away at least 12 boxes of material I had stored in a storage unit during this transition.
Tonight, I finished throwing away the files at the office. I filled the last of three dumpsters that it took to get the collection out to the trash.
I have saved files that related to international dispute resolution. I may need those.
It has been very hard to let go of this aspect of my professional life. But also, amazingly liberating.
The file drawers are now waiting for the next person's hot mess.
P.S. I still need to pitch tax records going back to 1982 and figure out what to keep from the two file drawers of coaching materials I've collected during my time in three programs offered by Christine Kane -- Life, Business, and Gold.