Today we purged the majority of old printed samples we have kept in the basement for more than twenty years.
Why did we purge?
The shelves were full, and we needed space. Recently, we talked about how to manage those shelves. What should we do with all this material we had once thought was so valuable? Should we reorganize it and pack it all away again? Or should we just throw it all away?
It was Labor Day. We had no plans, so we decided to make some decisions and tackle this huge task. Have you heard the old advice, “If you haven’t used it in …” ? (some period of time) it’s time to get rid of it. In my case, this period of time wasn’t six months or even a year; it was more than two decades. I had not even looked at these printed samples in a long time. I asked myself, am I ever going to need them? What could I possibly need them for?
In the basement
The samples were in large plastic containers with hanging file folders, separated by client name or by the type of project, such as “miscellaneous letterheads.” Stored in six heavy containers were brochures, newsletters, annual reports, folders, and more. Most were duplicates or even several copies of each. In the past, we had asked our clients to give us samples when the project was finished, primarily to build our portfolios. Now, we use a digital portfolio and rarely ask for samples.
It was a trip down memory lane. I had not seen these printed samples in many years. There were a few I didn’t even remember. The majority of the clients are no longer part of our current client list. Clients and people move on to other jobs and companies. I worked for one particular client for nineteen years, and then new leadership came in and decided to make a designer change. I had more than one box dedicated to their magazines and annual appeal campaigns. Goodbye to those past treasures!
Old CD disks
After we purged the boxes, I moved on to ditching old CDs. In bygone days, we would back up our files on a tape drive (old technology that no longer works), and I would frequently burn CDs to have an extra copy. CDs were a common method to transfer files to or from the client, especially if there were many photos that were too big to send via email. Some CD cases had paper directories that listed the projects and dates. It’s hard to believe how something so valuable could become obsolete in a matter of a few years.
I had mixed feelings about this big purge. On one hand, it was great to toss piles of paper we no longer needed and make space on the shelves. On the other hand, it was somewhat bittersweet. I was getting rid of files that represented the past. Did I throw out things I should have kept? Should I have saved more? (Well, I must admit I did save a few favorites I just couldn’t part with.)
The dumpster was full
I made several trips to the recycle trash dumpster until it was almost filled to the top. That’s a lot of stuff. But it was so much more than just “stuff” to us. It represented hours and hours of thought, creativity, and work. We valued our clients and the opportunity to help them communicate their messages through design rather than words. Why did we hang on to all of these projects for so long? I think it was because they were tangible evidence of our work over the years—something we could revisit whenever we chose to and perhaps even feel some pride in what we had created.
But it was time for them to go, difficult as it was to bundle them up and take them to the recycling bin. There are new clients and new projects to focus on now. There are new ways to store samples of our work. And there are probably new and better ways to make use of those empty shelves.