Friday, November 13, 2009

Relabeling the Past

I try to be conscious of the natural resources I consume. Taking care of our environment has been a passion for me since I was a little girl. I take ‘reduce, reuse and recycle’ very seriously in my life.

One of my practices is to reuse manila file folders as often as I can. I’m very organized, and I have a file for just about everything. All my projects have a folder. Each trip I take has a folder. Every vendor I work with has their own folder. Each tax type and tax year has its own folder to call home.

Some folders live on in my files forever. Others have a temporary life span. For example, once a trip is past, I usually don’t need to maintain a file folder for it. There are exceptions, of course. If it’s a trip that I might want to refer back to for some reason, I’ll keep it for awhile. Usually, however, I can ‘retire’ that folder once the trip is behind me.

Every once in a while I go through my filing cabinets and purge old files. I did this last year and filled 4 file boxes with paper to shred! I had a lot of ancient paperwork – documents from the purchase of my first home, student loan documents for loans I paid off 20 years ago and a whole lot of other things I really didn’t need to hang on to anymore.

I emptied all these file folders with the intention of shredding the contents. Most of the file folders themselves were still in great shape. I made a big pile of these folders for reuse.

My general practice is to scribble out the label on the file tab and then flip the folder inside out so I can write on the blank side of the file tab. Once I’ve done this and used the folder a second time, I have to resort to applying white labels to both sides of the file tab. As long as the file folder stays in good shape physically, I can keep using it over and over again.

The other day I finally got around to preparing my giant pile of ‘old folders’ for reuse. I got out my box of white labels and sat down at my desk.

It was a little bit like walking through my past. I encounter vendors I no longer work with, past legal difficulties, documentation for my last traffic ticket, assets I no longer own, trips that are long past and projects that never got off the ground – unfulfilled dreams and goals.

Somehow it felt cleansing for me to apply clean white labels over the words that described past experiences. Many of these things weren’t exactly pleasant for me – especially the legal issues and traffic ticket! Somehow applying the labels over the top of the written expression of these experiences felt powerful to me. It felt like another layer of letting go! I had done some letting go when I shredded the contents of the folders. Now, as I prepared these folders to house something new, it felt deeper.

What a great analogy. I can take these containers that held an experience in my past, and clean it out, relabel it and prepare it to support me in something new!

If only it were this easy to do with actual past experiences. If only we could more easily realize that the experience is in the past, and that we can take what we learned from it and move forward into new, different experiences! Relabeling the container for the experience in our minds helps us release the trauma, drama or pain of whatever it was and move on.

Experiment with relabeling some file folders – and use it as an example to yourself of what is possible with your larger life!

Grab a box of labels and get busy!