Letting Go of My Writing Past

Steph_2 copy (2)by Stephanie Stamm

I wrote a post on this blog earlier this year about my intention to focus on balance for the year. I followed that up with a post on my blog outlining the activities I decided were necessary to stay in balance. The number one item—and the one highlighted in the pie chart I included in the second blog (also shown below)—is clearing, which I define as getting rid of anything that no longer serves, be that an attitude or any of the numerous objects I’ve collected over the years that I don’t need or want any more.

For a Balanced Day

I’ve been doing a lot of clearing lately. Three weeks ago, I donated two boxes and six shopping bags of books to the Friends of the Library. Last week, I (finally) took my old desktop computer, which I haven’t used since probably 2009, and my old huge box of a television, which I replaced with a sleek flat screen last year, to the household hazardous waste recycle center. I thought about donating them, but really, who would want them?

Dissertation Recycling
Goodbye, old files. Hello, recycling.

In addition to getting rid of hopelessly out of date electronics, I also purged my files. This included all the supporting materials and notes from my dissertation writing days. I got my degree in 1998. Have I looked at most of those files since? Only the outsides of the folders when I moved them from one household to the next—and, for the record, some of those files moved at least five times. Why did I hold on to them so long? Well, I put a lot of time and effort into collecting them in the first place. That dissertation was the center of my life for years.

The operative word in that last sentence, though, is “was.”

My stomach still clenched a bit as I tossed those files into a box for recycling, but I finally had to admit that those files represented my past—and not my present or my future. It was time to let them go, to free myself of the weight of them. I still have the bound copies of the finished dissertation. But I don’t need all my notes.

In tossing those files, I think I’ve finally released myself from the hold of a life I once had—and that of a phantom life I could have had if I had chosen to pursue an academic career—so that I can fully embrace the life I have chosen.

Sometimes it takes a while to let go of the past. We can only do it when we’re ready.

What have you been holding on to for years and years?


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I am the author of the New Adult/Young Adult urban fantasy series, The Light-Bringer:




I have also contributed stories (one fictional and one true) to the following volumes:

Undead of Winter Front Only Into the Storm Cover

24 thoughts on “Letting Go of My Writing Past

  1. Don’t think you will ever have to worry about hoarding. I’ve been at my sister’s house (which is the house my dad and mom purchased back in 1968) since Jan. 11 and while there I looked at a desk I once had in my bedroom back in HS and in summers of my college years. Found a letter from a girl and lots of booklets I picked up in ’72 when touring Civil War battlefields. Didn’t throw them away, though. Closed the desk drawers and went back up the stairs to the sounds of folks’ voices.


    1. Yeah, there are some things I just can’t get rid of either, Mike. I did feel something like a hoarder going through those dissertation files. And my bookshelves. Oh, it’s so hard to let go of books I’ve read and loved–even if I haven’t opened them in years.


  2. I admire your discipline. I have a lot of stuff I should get rid of, but most of it belonged to my late husband, and although it has been two years since he died, I’m still not ready. It’s a good thing I’ve got a big enough house and garage to hold everything.


    1. Sometimes it takes a long time to be ready to let go of things, Abbie. And some things we don’t ever let go of. As long as you’ve got the space, you can hang on them as long as you want. I’ve just found that it’s time to get many of these things out of my house and out of the way.


  3. Enjoyed the post Stephanie. Over the years I’ve learned to let go of unnecessary things but my next sorting date is coming up soon. The things I have the most problem letting go of are my original song sheets, old tapes, music books and my collection of cookbooks. I’m doing well, though, and that’s all that counts! Good luck with your clearing out.


    1. I can imagine it would be hard to let go of the song sheets, etc., Linda. Like my dissertation files, they are part of something creative that meant/means a lot. Books are hard for me to let go of–even if I haven’t opened them in years.


  4. Everything. I hold on to everything. Here and there I hold a purge, and I attempt not to bring more in. The other day I told someone how sorry I was that I had thrown out the pencil-on-notebook-paper draft of my 1985 thesis. I use the bound copy as a table to work crossword puzzles on, but I have this sudden desire to look at how it started. As long as I can’t get it back, I guess things will be okay. Good luck. I admire your determination. Your post might inspire me to take another box of skinny clothes to the Salvation Army.


  5. Stephanie, What you are doing takes a kind of courage and I admire you for it. As a historian, everything can be of use sometime (GRIN), but… That is the big one for me. Onward and upward, to a more balanced life. Congratulations to what you have accomplished. Doris


    1. Thanks, Doris! I know. I want to hang on to so much, but I keep reminding myself that I can find books in libraries and that it’s incredibly unlikely that I will ever do anything with my dissertation research ever again. So, the piles of paper for recycling keep growing. I intended to clear this year anyway, but the circumstances of my life have changed recently and made it really necessary. I’m moving–across the country–and there’s a lot of stuff that I simply don’t need to move around with me anymore.


  6. Inspiring post! But also interesting to hear others hang on to stuff not used, but still full of meaning. Clearing is a tough one. I’ve done some lately, and I have to force myself not to pick it out of the trash or give-away box again! And then there is the “Oh I wish I hadn’t gotten rid of that now!” Memories are precious and “stuff” helps us have them. Tough thing you are doing. You have my admiration. Neva Bodin


    1. Thanks, Neva. It is tough–but necessary. I’ve been going through books lately–and there are so many I want to keep just because someone I care about gave it to me, or because I loved it when I read it (even if I haven’t reread it in years). I hope I can hold on to the memories without all the stuff, but sometimes the stuff is what triggers them.


  7. I am walking alongside you on this one, Stephanie! I have been purging, sorting, tossing, and recycling for the past few weeks, and I still have quite a ways to go (but the garage will wait until warmer spring/summer weather!) Clearing/cleaning is a chore, and why we hold onto things that are no longer relevant and take up space (like old computers and boxes of receipts) is beyond me — I guess I might qualify as a hoarder! 🙂 Good luck with your clearing projects!


    1. Thank you! I kind of felt like a hoarder looking at those dissertation files–and all the things I’ve saved because they could maybe be repurposed into something else. Why do I do this? I’m with you–the garage can wait until it’s warmer. Provided I have time before I have to move.


  8. As ya’ll know I’ve been doing a lot of that myself. I’ve donated about 1000 books to The Salvation Army, and clothes, and VHS tapes, and I have more boxed up to go, but unfortunately, I didn’t get them out of the house fast enough and started pulling books back out of the box. LOL I read that for everything you bring in, you should take something out. I got a couple of new outfits and now I’m trying to decide what to get rid of. I wear all my clothes and I love them. LOL But, I must get rid of some of them, at least two outfits. Fun post, and I’m glad others struggle with the hoarding tendency. Cher’ley


    1. I tried the clothes thing for a while this past year, Cher’ley. For every new thing I brought home, I had to get rid of something. I did okay for a while, but I think I owe a few sweaters to the Salvation Army bag now. 🙂 I’ve been know to pull stuff back out of the bag or box if I don’t get it out of the house soon enough too. Good for you with your own clearing. 1000 books is a lot! I bagged up more books today. And I probably should do more–but I have to take the books in stages. It’s hard for me to let go of them.


  9. I haven’t started yet but my house does need a lot of clearing out. Unfortunately a lot of ,my own stuff is boxed in by the stuff in storage till my daughter’s house is ready …so clear out for me will have to wait.


    1. Yeah, sounds like clearing is a bit in the future for you, Nancy. You’ve got a lot on your plate now. I don’t have anyone else’s stuff to worry about–just years of my own accumulation. 🙂


  10. Congrats Stephanie,

    I need to purge as we’re expecting a baby this year. I want get rid of a lot of stuff, but just haven’t. The last purge came with a move. But I need to get rid of so much more (and I wanted to then as I hauled stuff with questionable value from one place to the next). I need to get rid of all my notes from my first two unpublished books. It’s at least 2 bankers boxes of notes from 3 different writing groups. I had planned to go through them, but I don’t think I will at this point.


    1. Thanks, Travis. I had intended to do some of this clearing anyway this year–getting rid of the old computer, etc. But the major clearing is prompted by an unexpected move. I’m changing jobs and moving across the country. I may also have to downsize my home–though I’m not sure of that yet. So, it’s time to just get rid of that stuff I no longer need. Congratulations, expectant father!


  11. Steph, I always freak out when I toss files, even if I haven’t seen, let alone used them, in years. Yet, after the recycle truck has driven away and a few days have passed, I realize that it’s all good and now I have space to store more unnecessary papers!


  12. In our recent move I let go of a lot of things, but not voluntarily. Like you I have decided those things were part of my past and the new place is our future. A place to start fresh with things like new furniture, new shoes, and new stuff. I am confident both of us will aquire lots of new stuff to replace the old.


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