The other day, I was going through some of my files and I realized I had pay stubs from over a decade ago. I flipped through them thinking why the bleep did I keep these?

But then, as I continued to look at them, I felt a flutter in my chest that reminded me why. They were paystubs from my first real, adult job. Those stubs reminded me of my independence, my strength, my naivete, my beginning.

It was as if those stupid stubs were looking up at me like:

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and saying “No, don’t throw us away. We’re an important piece of your history!”

I have piles of this type of clutter stashed around my apartment. Not just paystubs but tickets from the Bulls game I went to where Benny the Bull kissed me, a t-shirt from the college trivia tournament I won, the USA Today “Back to the Future” issue on October 22, 2015…

You get the point.

Do you have those happy stashes too that you’re just not ready to part with?

Well if that’s the case, here is my handy adulting tip.

Take your items on a photoshoot

Like with my paystubs (tickets, t-shirt etc.) it isn’t the actual THING IN MY HAND that makes me happy – it’s the sight of it that evokes some positive feeling.

So, if it’s the memory you enjoy, take a picture of the item and then toss it.

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Yes, it’s really that simple. Now you have a lifetime copy of it that you can look at any time and it doesn’t take up ANY space.

Put it on display

Want to take it a step further? Create a folder (mine is called “Joy”) on your computer and put all your (appropriate) photos in that folder (or, hell, inappropriate. Whatever works for you!).

Then, set up a photo slideshow as your screen saver.

That way, you can look at the things that give you that warm and fuzzy feeling all the time. It can also make for a great conversation starter when people are over. I can tell you from personal experience that dinner parties will never have awkward silences again if you’ve got that screensaver running.

This is a triple win because

  1. You created some extra joy in your life because you get to see your photos and smile far more than you did when they were stuffed in the bookcase/drawer/closet.
  2. You create a better space for yourself. There are studies out there that show that clutter causes decreased performance and increased stress. So now that you’ve cleared out some room, you won’t only be happier, you’ll have less stress and better performance.
  3. You’ll actually get to enjoy your happy things longer because the idiom is true. A photo WILL last longer than that old newspaper clipping.

Now go take some photos and declutter, you adult!