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Going paperless

(Illustration: Free Images) 

Relying on having access to only digital archival information necessitates adopting a very different mindset for me.  I have been used to having the information I need stored in my file cabinets.  Yes, I have more than one, even though I am retired.  Or it is in a set of office sorting trays, or a cardboard file box, or even in a stack. There are several advantages for me to go digital. Plagued by procrastination, I seem to be much more motivated to keep my digital files cleaned out and organized so that my computer runs faster.  I also love the magic of the “search” box.  I prefer typing and editing on a computer keyboard (using ScribeFire in the Firefox browser), to composing on paper.  I do not know how I got along before I discovered cloud computing on Evernote.  My computer is even preferable for simple notes and scribbles, signified by my reliance on a nifty little application called Note Mania.  Therefore, the trick for me has been to have fun and useful tools – applications – that work better for me than the old way of writing.  But writing is not the only thing associated with retaining information.  Reading is equally important.

 Giving up the local newspaper means we will not have the paper delivered to our front porch every morning.  We will not read today’s headlines, articles of local interest, wedding announcements, or obituaries.  The files I am going through these days include lots of old newspaper clippings  associated with my history.  And I cannot throw some of them away.  They had value then and they have value now. How could we discard the obituaries of our forebearers?  The reason is emotional attachment, which is the core driver of hoarding, by the way.  As with preferring hardback books to reading lengthy pieces online, I still prefer reading the paper form of our local news organ.  But we cannot afford it any more.  So I get all my news from television or online like everyone else.  And I will have to figure out something else to use for mailing packing material, for protecting the floor when we paint the walls, for training the puppy or for lining the birdcage.  There are definitely some ways we cannot go paperless.  More importantly, I am fully aware that news organization reporters (predominantly print journalism) are responsible for gathering and publishing the original news items to which we bloggers so casually link.

 Trashing old paper files signifies literally not being able to get your hands on a piece of information you thought important enough to save at some time in the past.  My question is always, “What if I need (or want) this in the future. I am a keeper of information, not someone who would qualify as a hoarder, though some might disagree.  And I love to read from original materials.  It is that emotional attachment thing again.  What can compare, for example, to the original halting letters and spacing of my granddaughter’s first grade penmanship blue book?  She is now well into her 20’s and long past blue books.  What could be more precious than a mushy yellowed 1955 telegram from my boyfriend, now my husband of 54 years?  You can begin to see my problem.  But I am making progress.  I now know that I neither need nor want 1986 United Way training handouts on how to be a manager.  I have no regrets at being retired from that kind of activity.  And those old handouts would not tell me how to manage our Corgi dog who wants to run the household.  They are now dog-eared and faded copies that should go into the recycling bin.  Recycling, by the way, has helped me more easily make trash.  Stuff is not “wasted,” another of my mental barriers to going paperless. 

Forgoing extra copies implies the risk of losing the original document. The rule is that if the documentation is easily available elsewhere, do not keep the original or even a copy. I must remind myself that not every piece of paper is a valuable document.  Throwing the extras away gains valuable storage space for those essential originals the IRS wants us to keep for a time, or those identity documents that mark for your heirs your passage through this life. Yes, I am at the legacy stage of life, age 73.  I have provided my fair share of original recipes for those family or local club cookbooks.  My old scribbled pencil copy can go away.  The cookbooks are now all digitized, even if they show up in spiral notebook or paperback form.  I can always order another one, such as the Junior League club cookbooks that I collected as travel souvenirs for many years.

 Getting off mailing lists indicates that I could miss out on potentially important information from outside sources.  It also means accumulating less paper to throw away.  Remember the advent of the lists offering to help remove your name from junk mail lists bought and sold for the purpose.  I did that but the effort must be maintained.  Rarely is it now that merchandise is not available online.  I do still enjoy beautiful slick catalogs.  However, they are rarely free. The thrill associated with the arrival of the Sears or “Monkey Ward” catalog goes back to living in the country in Wyoming as a child and looking forward to the free Montgomery Ward Christmas catalog coming in the mail in November. These days the mailing lists from which I remove myself are those unending press releases that all proliffic bloggers receive.  Even when I am trying to live paperless, I still get junk Email I must handle/delete.  Spam filters do not work when mailers acquire your name legitimately. 

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