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What Do You Do With Old Notebooks?

10/07/2010

Are you a journaling enthusiast? (Do you like movies about Gladiators?) Or perhaps you started journaling to work through a difficult patch. In any case it’s likely you’ve got more than a couple of notebooks stashed somewhere collecting dust and depending on your perspective on the matter and available storage capability, you’re wondering what to do with all that creativity, thoughtfulness or angst. Unclutterer answered a reader’s question regarding disposal of old journals and sketchbooks. The answer, it turns out, depends on the reason one started journaling, though that’s not always the most important consideration. I am of two minds on the issue. I like reading old journals, particularly whenever I come across a list of goals or the genesis of a project I’ve since completed. It makes me feel like ten Christmases when I spy a wish list and discover that I accomplished or acquired everything and I cross the stuff off. On the other hand, I am definitely wary of hanging on to stuff out of obligation, guilt or a combination of both. That said, it’s pretty easy to be dispassionate on the matter when you’re not actually engaged in the activity. This became increasingly clear to me when I came across a couple of journals I kept after graduate school while I was on a hopeless and demoralizing job search. Reading the journals beamed me back to a pretty miserable time, which thanks to my fantastic writing skills, was faithfully and vividly rendered on the page. Those journals got stomped on, soaked in the bathtub and eventually burned to cinders. I contemplated backing over the journals with my car, but figured tire damage would mitigate any satisfaction experienced would be short lived. So spill. What do you do with your old journals/notebooks?

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17 Comments leave one →
  1. 10/07/2010 12:27 pm

    I don’t actually journal in notebooks, because of hand disability stuff, but I do keep notepads to jot down ideas/grocery lists/directions/what have you, and I do keep those, filed with all my other random bits of paper. It sounds weird probably? But I like to flip through them now and then and sometimes I actually reference them (I root out an old phone number or something) and lately I’ve been using them to duplicate grocery lists. It’s kind of interesting to look through them and get this weird collapsed view of what I was doing in a given period of time. (Like, the last three pages in my most recent are post ideas for Fry Butt, an outline for an article I’m working on, a grocery list, and notes taken on my last visit to the vet.)

  2. 10/07/2010 2:26 pm

    I don’t actually journal in notebooks, because of hand disability stuff, but I do keep notepads to jot down ideas/grocery lists/directions/what have you, and I do keep those, filed with all my other random bits of paper. It sounds weird probably?

    It doesn’t sound weird at all. I definitely keep an idea/grocery list little notebook and I love reviewing them from time to time. It’s pretty sweet to catach a glimpse of what a day was like. Those I would never consider throwing away, but the journals, I often have and do.

  3. 10/07/2010 7:24 pm

    Yeah, it’s funny, actually, when I cleaned out a lot of stuff before moving to San Francisco on a contract job a few years ago, I threw out probably *all* of my high school journals, but I kept all of my notepads with grocery lists and notes from interviews and other random scribblings. Looking back, I realised that shit was way more interesting to me than my teen angst.

  4. 10/07/2010 7:40 pm

    I’ve been keeping them in a big plastic Rubbermaid tub with a lid. So far I haven’t gone back through them. I started them when I was in a bad working environment and battling depression at the same time. Fear of all that anger and other negativity coming back at me keeps me from re-reading those first books. I hold on to them “just in case.” But the majority contain mundane crap mixed with poetry and story ideas. One day I’ll go through them again and decide which stay and which go.

  5. 10/08/2010 4:38 pm

    So far, I’ve kept them. They’re a hopeless mishmash of everything: goals, drawings, memories of Grandma, a chronicle of my life and sometimes current events. There are happy memories, like descriptions of our honeymoon, but also details of fights, and angst, and occasionally far TMI to be suitable for showing to anyone without censoring (even my husband blushed at one entry I showed him). The entries written entirely in German are either of something I wanted hidden from prying eyes or were written while I was living in Germany. I have no idea if my German’s even good enough to understand them!

    The first diary from when I was 6 will definitely be kept for the hilarity value. I think the first entry starts with tallying how much money I had. ($26, IIRC.)

    The high school dream journals will probably go because the handwriting is illegible and what is legible reveals more about my subconscious than I realized at the time. I’ve kept my expense-tracking and food/exercise notebooks, and I still have my thesis to-do and ta-da lists. It is oddly motivating to see how much I’ve accomplished and how far back the habit of overstuffed to-do lists goes.

  6. manatee permalink
    10/11/2010 9:56 am

    I really do love journals – different formats, paper texture and color with and without lines, there are just so many wonderful possibilities. When I was younger I sort of kept a record of my daily activities but one day I stopped more or less mid-sentence and never went back. These journals still do exist and I plan to include a paragraph in my will how they should be disposed of (can’t bring myself to do it). Nowadays I write down my dreams since I have some quite interesting ones and I tend to forget most of the details if I don’t. I still like to read in the older ones, so there is no need to destroy them any time soon.

    @tg: German is my first language and it amuses me that somebody would use it this way. 😉 It for sure doesn’t work with English because to many people understand it. I guess I will have to learn a third language… (actually I started with Finnish but I am nowhere near good enough to write down more complex stuff than “I love chocolate”).

  7. 10/11/2010 4:09 pm

    The high school dream journals will probably go because the handwriting is illegible and what is legible reveals more about my subconscious than I realized at the time. I’ve kept my expense-tracking and food/exercise notebooks, and I still have my thesis to-do and ta-da lists. It is oddly motivating to see how much I’ve accomplished and how far back the habit of overstuffed to-do lists goes.

    @tg – oh man the high school journals. Definitely hoping most of mine got lost in the various moves that happened during my youth. I would not like to take that trip down memory lane. I don’t think I could get my face back to normal after spending so much time cringing. Being a teen and documenting that experience is really embarrassing.

    @tg: German is my first language and it amuses me that somebody would use it this way. It for sure doesn’t work with English because to many people understand it. I guess I will have to learn a third language… (actually I started with Finnish but I am nowhere near good enough to write down more complex stuff than “I love chocolate”).

    @mantee – I also used German to hide secret crushes, “Ich liebe Michael…” from prying eyes. I don’t think it was any good, as everyone in my family, except my sister had a similar grasp of Germany. My sister was fluent so it was a really bad idea to put all my secret crushes in German, of course it took me several months to figure that out.

    I have to say, growing up in Germany made me really love and appreciate office supplies, beautiful pens and journaling.

  8. manatee permalink
    10/11/2010 10:24 pm

    @snarky:
    No, I guess it really isn’t a good idea but one can try… 😉
    The protecting issue never came up for me, since I had a lockable closet and had the only key. Very convenient.
    You grew up in Germany? Which area (federal state), if you don’t mind telling?
    Pens and journals, nothing could make me more happy*. I think there is also a genetic component since both my sister a I tend to spend too much money on it and possess way more journals than necessary (right now between 5 and 10 in different states of use in my case). I also possess stuff like seals (plus wax), quills and ink in different colours (mainly green and black). And that’s just because, but I guess everybody here understands.

    *okay, that’s not even remotely true is a lot shorter than: apart from chocolate, sex, tea, a good book, nice company, a day outside…

  9. manatee permalink
    10/11/2010 10:28 pm

    Sorry, it really bugs me when I mix stuff up like that (at least at this time of the night).
    “that’s not even remotely true /but/ a lot shorter than”

  10. 10/12/2010 2:27 am

    @manatee – I grew up in the state of rheinland-pfälzischen in the good old city of Mainz-Bretzenheim!!!

    Pens and journals, nothing could make me more happy*. I think there is also a genetic component since both my sister a I tend to spend too much money on it and possess way more journals than necessary (right now between 5 and 10 in different states of use in my case).

    Oh tell me about it. Sometimes I’d rather spend my small book budget on notebooks. It means I get very behind in my reading, as I am usually forced to wait for hot titles to arrive at the library. I love buying notebooks/journals, and though I do tend to go through them at a decent rate, it’s not nearly fast enough to justify the rate in which I purchase them!

  11. manatee permalink
    10/12/2010 10:09 am

    That’s funny. My sister lives now in a city very close by (can’t remember right now which one – shame on me) . Now I have to ask: what do think about carnival? For most people outside of Reinland-Pfalz it is a fascinating but somewhat annoying tradition. At least that’s the opinion of people I usually talk to… 😉
    Oh my, and now you’re talking about books. Way to get me into a conservation. I constantly bemoan the lack of good books (what I consider good books) in the library – I have to buy them but sadly the budget is tight. * A real dilemma for me.
    But back to journals. My last purchase was a spiral book with a Moomin cover. I didn’t really need it, but had to buy it anyway. Nothing can be compared to the first words in an unused journal. That’s one of the major reasons for my fascination (or mild obsession).

    *I better stop here because I have no problem filling pages about it and I don’t want to derail further.

  12. manatee permalink
    10/12/2010 10:20 am

    *hrmm* – that should be conversation.

  13. Leah permalink
    10/12/2010 10:40 pm

    the bottom shelf of my bookshelf is actually about to be filled to capacity with old notebooks and journals from the last 5 years, and i’m never getting rid of them! there’s only one journal i ever ripped up – i remember the day quite vividly, i was a vegetarian at the time and i started weeping ate a hamburger and ripped my journal to shreds and threw it around my room. other than that it’s all in tact and i enjoy going back to it and feeling the variety of feelings – the “omg where did my creative ability go” feeling when reading journals from 5 years ago (a feeling i no doubt had 5 years ago while reading journals from 5 years previous), the “holy shit i’ve grown up since then” feeling, and the “holllly fucking shit i am exactly the fucking same” feeling. i do this every year or so when i “clean out” my bookshelves.

    speaking of journals i’m teaching 11 year olds and we’re reading the diary of anne frank. they uniformly cannot conceive of why one might keep a journal on paper!!!! and when we did our “what would you bring into hiding” writing exercise 7/11 of them said their iphone, and only their iphone. it makes me feel old!!!!

  14. 10/13/2010 10:55 am

    speaking of journals i’m teaching 11 year olds and we’re reading the diary of anne frank. they uniformly cannot conceive of why one might keep a journal on paper!!!! and when we did our “what would you bring into hiding” writing exercise 7/11 of them said their iphone, and only their iphone. it makes me feel old!!!!

    @Leah – i guess they don’t realize the iPhone is trackable and therefore useless if the goal is to hide. Or maybe 11 y/o don’t understand the point of “hiding”? Like they think it’s gonna be just like staying in their rooms all weekend. That’s kind of sad and it does make me feel really old too. I think my phone would be the last thing on my mind. My first thing would be to have loved ones with me and definitely having a paper journal and pens.

    I wonder how these kids thing books and stuff get made. Or do they not read either?

  15. Leah permalink
    10/22/2010 5:08 am

    it’s strange because when i was 11 i am almost positive i could fathom the point of hiding, and also fathom the idea of needing a diary to talk to as a friend in replacement for more superficial friendships (i asked them to relate to her desire to name her diary for this purpose and all of them thought AND wrote that it was strange to them).

    before teaching middle school, which i have only done since september, i kind of hated the knee-jerk anti-technology opinions! but seeing these kids *so* reliant on things like facebook and the ways in which it has produced this total alienation from anne frank’s diary has really changed my mind. for such a large percentage of them to mention facebook it these essays really, really, really bothered me!

    i would bring my music and my paper journals and pens, barring a potential to bring all the loved ones i would want to bring. the only girl i gave an a to was one who wrote in detail about the necklace she would bring from her estranged best friend.

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