Journals – keep them forever or let them go?

Journaling can be very helpful when used wisely. But there are a number of traps that people often fall into that can make it just another form of paper clutter.


Journaling can be a valuable process. It allows a level of introspection that can lead to insights about your life and can help you to navigate through it more consciously. But do you really need to keep all your journals forever?

Extract the wisdoms

It’s essential to be aware that it is usually what is out of balance in a person that causes them to feel the need to journal.

To understand this, think about what happens when two people who enjoy each other’s company spend time together. They will talk until everything communicated between them is balanced. After that they can experience that magical companionable silence of dear friends, which is possible because there is nothing more that needs to be said. They are in balance.

It’s the same in your relationship with yourself. Most of what you write in a journal will be processing your “stuff” (mental, emotional and spiritual clutter) to allow you to see what you need to learn at that time. You write until there’s nothing more to write and then you feel in balance again. You can extract the wisdoms and let the journals go.

Don’t keep the scaffolding

The art of living is to learn from our experiences and move on. If you find yourself needing to keep re-reading journals to find out where you’ve been, it means you aren’t getting to the essence of the experience first time round, and then you will tend to recreate similar experiences in your life to have another go.

Always write with the intention of getting to the core essence of the matter and having realizations that move you to a new depth of understanding and perception. When you do this, you will no longer feel the need to keep the journaling that got you there.

A good analogy for this is that when you build a house, you don’t keep the scaffolding. It was useful during the building process but you don’t need to keep it after the house has been finished, or store it in the garden just in case you need it again. Its job is done and you move on to the next stage, which is living in your house (living your life).

I do think it’s a good idea, however, to keep a list of dates of what happened when. I have a document on my computer called “Karen’s Life”, which briefly lists all the major events in my life since I was born. I find it comes in useful for all kinds of things.

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Copyright © Karen Kingston, 2010, updated 2019

About Karen Kingston

Karen Kingston is a leading expert in clutter clearing, space clearing, feng shui and healthy homes. Her two international bestselling books have combined sales of over three million copies in 26 languages and have established themselves as "must read" classics in their fields. Her best-known title, Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui, is now in its fourth edition. She is best known for her perspective-changing insights and practical solutions that enable more conscious navigation of 21st-century living.
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8 Responses to Journals – keep them forever or let them go?

  1. Deanna C says:

    This article and subsequent comments make good points. I not only put down important things that happen day-to-day in my journalling, but I draw and create and add notes from various meetings. Never-the-less, I now have maybe 100 journals and am beginning to wonder what will become of them. What should I do with them? I do go back occasionally and have a look at what my life has been. There is one in particular I feel that I should burn but I haven’t gotten the courage up yet! My fireplace is waiting.

  2. Christine J says:

    Karen, I love that you have a document called “Karen’s life” where you date major events. I study astrology and would like to do something like this. Do you have any recommendations on creating this list?

    Truly, Christine

  3. Marilee says:

    What a timely post. I have journals going back 50 years. The thought to shred them all has been coming to me lately. I’ve mentioned it to friends and they say, “oh no, you need to keep them for your children to know what your life was like.” But in truth all anyone would know of my life from my journals are the struggles, for I do use them to work out what is out of balance. I never go back and read them; they have served their purpose. Time to stop the past from tugging at me and let them go. Thank you Karen.

  4. Melanie says:

    Hi Karen, this is the exact thing I’m grappling with right now! How timely to read it! I love your wisdom and feel the same way with regards to books…I used to hang onto reference books and fiction books and deliberately eschew them in case it brought up memories I feel I hadn’t integrated fully. Then I would internally best myself up about it! I still do this on occasion though…what is your suggestion for fully integrating the lesson, so we don’t repeat it in our lives and can let go of the physical clutter at the same time? Many thanks for your incredible work xx

  5. Patricia S says:

    I’m losing my memory of earlier events in my life. Journals are my only records. How do I read them and let them go if I’m losing memory?


    • Hi Patricia

      There’s an assumption in your question that holding on to the memory of past events is a good thing. I know that culturally this is thought to be the case, but from a spiritual perspective, it’s questionable. The more a person is immersed in the story of their life, the more wrapped up in it they become, and the more difficult it is for them to see the bigger picture.

      In Regression, Samuel Sagan explains, ‘Between our conscious memories and our unconscious superimpositions, we do not see the world, we dream it… We can only see our world, which is full of the ghosts of our past. We are disconnected, living in a cloud, and we do not even suspect it.’

      In Death, The Great Journey, he goes on to explain that our final years is a time for disentangling ourselves from the story of our life here on earth, to make the transition to spiritual realms at the time of death easier.

      So there is much more to your question than you may have considered. I encourage you to go deeper with this.

  6. Stacie says:

    Good post! I myself have been taking quotes from old journals and then shredding them. I have a lot that accumulated and am in the process of weeding them down. I also do note important dates when I go through the old journals. It feels good to shred them!

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