Sunday, March 23, 2008

Weighty Decisions

I’m about a third of the way through with cleaning out a file cabinet that contains the past 35 years of our life. I suddenly had the great revelation yesterday that we really don’t need most of this stuff any longer.

My husband is a confessed packrat and an ardent note-taker. As such he has always generated a lot of paper. Much of it has ended up in those files that had swelled to the point where it was virtually impossible to add another piece of paper.

As I go through one file at a time, my rule of thumb for keeping something is only if it has historical value or there is even a remote chance that it will be needed in the future. That eliminates about 50% and makes for much more manageable file drawers.

The Internet has been the single biggest factor in eliminating the need for paper. If you want to order replacement vacuum cleaner bags or a new filter for your air purifier, you have but to search for it on the Web and voila! you have a dozen sources. If you have lost the instructions for your camera, your watch, your iron, you name it, it’s all out there.

So far I haven’t come across even one item that has real historical significance. I take that back -- I did find the titles to all 4 of our cars. If we were to both leave this world tomorrow, just about all the paper in those files could safely be recycled.

So why don’t we go paperless and regain the space taken up by 24 lateral feet of files? Because we are children of an era when files were once important, when you wanted to be able to put your finger on your last electric bill or your last bank statement.

Maybe when I revisit these files in 10 years when they are once again clogged, I will be so persuasive that they can simply be discarded forever. But we’re not there yet, not just yet.


Blogger Colette Amelia said...

It is a weighty decision indeed for it sometimes seems that just when you think you don't need something, you do. But when the cost of keeping things become increasingly higher and as well the cost to move them a whole new context comes into just what is valuable and needed.

Good luck, the process is more painful than the after affects!

and don't worry about the tents, you can only do your best and others should only expect that you are doing your best and if they aren't satisfied they should pitch in and help.

4:37 PM  
Blogger media concepts said...

Best invention: the shredder.

12:47 AM  
Blogger Old Lady said...

My house next?

7:58 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Colette -- I am just relying on the fact that I have fairly good instincts about what to keep. I have seldom wished I could retrieve anything from the dump!

MC -- Thanks to you I am just about to plow through the recycle bin to find the old Visa and AmEx statements with our IDENTIFYING NUMBERS on them. I didn't even know we owned a shredder, but apparently we do and I will learn how to use it today. (Just between us) I got big brownie points from my husband for thinking about this.

OldLady -- I don't do windows and I don't do anyone else's file cabinets. You're on your own!

9:11 AM  
Blogger Kellyann Brown said...

Here's a thought, if you want it for sentimental reasons, scan it or take a photo of it, then release it to the universe. A photo file takes up waaaaay less storage. I'm one to talk though, I have tons of ephemera that I just love to "own".

6:18 PM  

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