I know, I know: As business owners and nonprofit leaders, we're actually encouraged to trot out what we've accomplished. We use testimonials from past clients, honors for our past work, and carefully crafted histories of our successes to convince would-be customers and donors how utterly fabulous we are.
And that can put us in the mindset that we need to save every single thing that points to what we've done. Which can put us right in the middle of a big pile of decidedly stale stuff.
Here's some stuff I've found real, live organizations holding on to:
1: Stacks of posters from years of events somebody worked their butts off for
I've seen these on the walls in a random, decidedly not-curated kind of way. And I've been guilty of just piling some up on shelves in a totally haphazard, half-torn fashion. In either case, they're not doing you any good. Save two or three copies of each if you feel you must, and dump the rest. And unless you have a retrospective display of The Awesomest Annual Event Ever--with every poster from the beginning of time--take all but the most recent one off the walls.
2: Old receipt books, signage, mounting hardware from a gallery closed seven years ago
I found these jammed in among one org's astonishing supply of plastic storage bins. When we let go of a big part of our organization--even when it's the right decision--it can be hard to get rid of everything at once. You have to keep certain financial records, but if you're still holding onto stuff from some big service you used to do, help the organization move out of the past: let go of the hardware.
3: Countless iterations of building blueprints conceived in an amazing, community-based process
These were crammed into four cabinets of an organization that was contemplating a big move because it needed more space. They were about 15 years old, and none of the staff who were around the table at that time remained. It was time to let those suckers go.
4: Office furniture from a different time when we had so many more employees
I have seen a warehouse full of this. Or the smaller version: empty offices packed with it. Even if you want to keep proof of your hey-day around, furniture is not the best choice. It's big. It takes up a lot of space. No one can see it but you or the storage company. Sell or donate.
5: Awards from 1992 or 1999 or 2003
I have rarely worked with an organization that did *not* have this stuff issue. Are you wowed when you see an award for diversity from 1999? Or an indie paper pick from 2003? Maybe if there are a string of them since then. But otherwise, it looks a little bit sad.
Y'all, our organizations' successes have expiration dates for usefulness. If you aren't excited by the look, the content, and the recent date of your stuff, neither is anyone else.
Be the leader who frees your organization from the weight of its past successes.
We really want to know about the cool things you're doing now.