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Does journal writing encourage holding on to the past? Perhaps trashing your journal can put you on the path to liberation.

5 Reasons Your Journal is Rubbish

The road to journal writing is lousy with road blocks. You should see the collection I’ve amassed over the years! Everyone’s got their own favorites.

I was recently talking to my friend Nathan, a gifted photographer and documentary film maker. He’s not only creative, but highly productive. He expressed an interest in journaling, but he was concerned he wouldn’t be happy with the outcome. “What if the next day I reread it and don’t like what I wrote?”

“Then don’t re-read it,” I told him. “Throw it out.”

This advice came spontaneously, but it surprised even me. I’m obsessed with archiving. Every word I’ve ever put on paper since age six is catalogued and filed in acid-free archival storage. I’d add climate control and a fireproof safe, but my apartment is only 300 sq. ft.

(Although I admit I occasionally fantasize about everything I own being consumed in flames. It would be devastating, yes. But think about the intoxicating freedom on the other side. No history. Clean slate. )

I’ve been around the block enough to know that just because something works for me doesn’t mean it will work for you – and vice versa. If you’re serious about improving your life, don’t take anyone’s advice without testing it out first. See if it works for you. This journey is not one-size-fits-all.

So despite my visible discomfort, I recommended that Nathan throw away his journal when he was done writing. He thought that was a great idea. He said that just might work.

5 Benefits of Trashing Your Journal

I know some folks who regularly purge their journaling archives. Out with the old, in with the new. They do it painlessly, naturally. It works for them. Would any of these reasons make it work for you?

1. Pure liberation

Talk about Zen and embracing impermanence! Throwing out your journals can be totally freeing. You’re tossing your attachments to the wind and claiming back personal power of choice.

This may sound strange, but I see my hair quite similarly. Chopping it all off (or shaving my head!) is ridiculously empowering. It’s liberating to watch all that history fall right into the garbage.

2. Clean slate

Nothing like a fresh start. The past is done. We can’t change it. If you find yourself ruminating on your past or you’re filled with regret, a clean slate might do the trick.

3. Keep the process

Most of the benefits of journaling come from the process of writing. Eliminating the product of writing keeps your focus directly on what’s important: getting it done.

4. Freedom from self-criticism

If you throw out your journals, your inner critic has no ammunition to use against you. You don’t have to like what you’ve written, and you won’t even be able to judge it. Once it’s gone, you’ve got no fodder to criticize yourself over.

5. Ultimate privacy

If you’re concerned about others reading your journals – either this weekend or after you’ve moved on from this life – destroying them is the perfect way to protect your privacy. Just be sure you invest in a quality shredder to avoid any dumpster divers.

Do you trash your journals? Or do you prefer to hold on to them, like me? What would happen if you did the opposite of what you’ve been doing?

3 comments

  1. Trashing my journals every once in a while is a great way to make room. Not so much in a physical way (storage), but as you said, forgetting things is natural, so why keep everything that might have hurt you and ist written down in a journal forever. What I do is going through my archives before throwing books away and take certain drawings out or memorabilia out that will give me strength in the future as I can see a progress and therefore are encouraged to move on.

    Sounds eclectic, but keeping the good while letting the bad behind made things easier for me. A lot.

  2. @Julie – that makes perfect sense to me! I like the idea of holding on to certain drawings and memorabilia — I think if I ever started recycling my old journalings, there are definitely items I’d like to hold on to, scrap book style. I can see how keeping only the positive past around can be inspirational.

  3. I’m just like you! I’m a pack rat, I keep all the things from college (and anything else I can get my hands on!) and I recently just started putting them into my journals, throwing those away, I wouldn’t remember all the fun times I’ve had in college. I can’t really see myself ever tossing them.