Thursday, December 27, 2007

Taming Another Paper Tiger

With the new year comes the inevitable list of New Year's Resolutions. Perennially, getting better organized is high on my list. That means unloading more unnecessary stuff.

If you've read my book, Sorting It Out: One Disorganized Woman Solves the Problem of Too Much Stuff, you know that I refer to the process of organizing as similar to that of an archaeological dig. We clear away the obvious "top layer" of stuff first (the easy decisions, like trashable items), then we move on to the next layer (items that require at least a tiny bit of thought), and the next. Usually there are many layers that are gradually uncovered in an organizing expedition, each one presenting unique challenges. The more we dig, the slower the process becomes as more difficult decisions need to be made. Unless we have the luxury of hiring a team of organizers to tackle the task all at once or unless we have a time limit that forces us to move in a hurry, it's not uncommon to need a break of weeks or months between some layers, just to re-group mentally.

Assuming there are no debilitating psychological issues that hinder our progress, eventually we can work through our reluctance to let go of many possessions because eventually we're faced with reality: too much stuff, too little room for it.

But sometimes we hit a layer in which there are things that we decide simply must be stored. We've deemed them valuable and justified keeping them. That means we need to find room somewhere. If we're determined to hang on, even though we have no room, we may rent additional storage space -- not the optimal solution, especially if cost is a concern. So, what can we do? Start digging elsewhere.

In this household, tons of paper have been generated, probably quite literally, over the years -- okay, decades -- as a result of writing for a living, so paper storage is a big issue. (Believe it or not, children, there was a time when computers stored everything on big floppy disks and, before that, even typewriters were used to write!)

In my fantasy life, the one with a small staff of computer-savvy assistants who take care of annoying mundane tasks, all the old scripts, storyboards and development projects currently sitting in boxes in the garage would be scanned with a snazzy Fujitsu ScanSnap and reduced to a few much more manageable DVDs. But even at 18 pages per minute (with no paper jams), a whole lot of time would be required to scan those many boxes of documents. This presents a dilemma because the helpful staff is not currently on the payroll and there are more pressing demands occupying my attention.

Oddly, all that important paperwork is the only stuff in the garage that remains in cardboard boxes rather than plastic ones. Fortunately, the boxes are well sealed and miraculously seem to have avoided any moisture damage. So, assuming the contents are worth keeping (the vote is yes, because not only is this a well-organized early career history, the material also has potential for use in future teaching plans), this stuff needs a better home.

As expected, a little digging in the garage and its attached storeroom revealed some "top layer" trashable items as well as other lower layer things that can now be let go, creating a fair amount of extra space. This allows for a comfortable solution to the storage dilemma.

When organizing, sometimes the path of least resistance really is the one to take. Life does have its priorities. So the papers will be transferred into shiny new plastic boxes and stashed under the stairs. This will require only a short time to accomplish and will provide much better protection for the papers.

When that staff of assistants finally shows up for work, the papers will get scanned. Meanwhile, they'll sit comfortably in waterproof plastic, still accessible but out of the way.

And how's the more recent written material stored? All on hard drives. Is it backed up? Well, maybe there's still room for improvement in that area. But, I'll get to it, one layer at a time.

Happy New Year, readers!

© 2007 Cynthia Friedlob

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