How I Shredded Hundreds of Documents but Still Did Not Tame the Beast

Does email matter? And should garlical be a word?

A focus of 2018 has been an overdue clean-out of my filing cabinet. Overlapping and overstuffed folders have been rationalized and largely recycled—or burned! Important archival records for the Take Control Books series that TidBITS sold last year have been tucked away with care. I’ve been feeling self-congratulatory about bringing all those documents to heel.

I was opening the metaphorical champagne too soon. Today I was working on my monthly bookkeeping tasks for TidBITS when I came upon a to-do item that I’ve not crossed out since 2016. How could that be? For years, I’ve moved email messages relating to finances from my In Box to a special mailbox. I started this mailbox as a place where I could stuff email-based invoices when I received them, so that I could find them easily at the end of each month when I paid editors—this was perfect for making sure that everyone was paid promptly. However, soon after I created this mailbox, I realized that I would take care of anything I stuck into it on a monthly basis, along with issuing payments to editors.

This system was a winner for about a decade, but it seems that in 2016, I gave up on clearing out the mailbox each month. Sure, I’d take care of anything pressing, but for the most part, I let stuff sit, to the tune of over 300 messages. Fortunately, about 200 of them were easy to delete or file. As for the 121 remaining messages, these represent questions. Questions like what to do about Equifax, whether I want a Rite-Aid plenti account, and the mystery of which of my Apple ID accounts has an unwanted iTunes Match subscription for $24.99 per year. It’s a quick slide from being puzzled about these sorts of questions, to bemoaning adulthood, and arriving at the question of why bother—who cares?

Screenshot 2018-03-03 18.26.48

But, 3:30 rolls around and it’s time to go running. It had been snowing in big wet clumps all day, and the entire outside is white snow and brown trees. I slip into my pre-run routine: lunges, leg swings, socks, running shoes—definitely screw shoes for today. I’m out the door and running.

A few miles go by, and the sun comes out. I’m moving under a tree, and the wind blows a huge waft of snow out of the tree into the sunshine and then down onto me. So now I’m running through sunlit snow and the snow is all over my face. And now I don’t care about email or about petty questions. I don’t care about questions at all. All I care about is the tender slide of sun-warmed snowmelt down my face.

How does this end? In fiction, I’d use a machete to poke the delete key on my keyboard and dump those 100 messages. I’d fling a few essentials in a bright red suitcase, fly first-class to Italy, eat something garlical,* and become an overnight sensation as an opera singer. In real life, it doesn’t end. The messages keep on eating electrons in my email, and I’ll deal with them. There’s no glory in that, but at least there’s a run at the end of the day.**

* Yes, I know that garlical isn’t a word. But it should be! It combines garlic and magical.

** My first two blog posts have had the theme of how running improved my life. I promise to cover other themes as well.

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