One day, I was getting dressed for an event and almost dressed. When I was ready to put on my socks, I couldn’t find the pair I was looking for. After fumbling around the sock drawer for what seemed like forever, I had only found one. Because I was already late and stressed, panic set in; where was the other sock? Why was this taking so long? Why did this minor activity killed all my momentum? In the end, I couldn’t find it, picked another pair, and in frustration, dumped the entire drawer on the bed!

When I came home later, the sight of my ransacked bedroom made me do something I hadn’t done in years: sort the socks. Because I was no longer rushing, it seemed much easier. But as I was doing it, an idea struck me – I was having the same problem with other “piles” in my life: receipts, business cards, menus, and, of course,  stacks of newspapers and magazines. Each had reached a point where they were so overwhelming that I didn’t want to deal with them!

I realized these are all forms of data. There was information in those piles that could have helped me make better decisions. Those receipts could have helped me track my spending and save money. Those articles could have given me valuable information that could help my business. And those business cards could have turned into profitable business relationships.

So my Sock Drawer Adventure taught me some important lessons that I began to apply to the other data in my life. In the end, it wasn’t that painful and it took less time than I thought. For you, I’ve broken it down into 9 simple steps:


One of the first things I realized was, “damn, I’ve got a lot of socks!” Every Christmas, my Mom gives me a pack of socks, yet I never stop using the ones that I had. As a result, I had more socks than I could ever possibly wear.

We all collect information that we never use. The volume alone overwhelms us, and never get to any of it. The first step in getting control of our data is to stop hoarding data and take a good, hard, honest look at what you’ve got.


Every scrap of paper is information, and you never know what you’re going to find. I found some interesting socks that I had never worn. I found some that brought back memories of specific events. I also found a fair amount of spare change, stamps and other trinkets that were stashed there.

Leave no stone unturned. It could be a long, messy process, but look through that old file box or that discarded thumb drive. You never know what useful things you’ll find.

I’ll continue with steps 3 and 4 in my next post. In the meantime, start tackling your own piles of data…that should keep you busy until then! 🙂