The shock of paper

A year ago, I packed up my apartment and moved to Boulder for the summer. Then I moved into a sublet, Then I moved into a house in Oakland, Before that, I’d done 5 other moves–from a rental in San Jose to another in Palo Alto, from a house in New Jersey to San Jose, from a San Jose house to NJ, from Brooklyn to get the picture.
This is by way of illustrating that any possessions–and files–that survived the moves had to feel pretty damn valuable.

So here I am, nice Spring weekend, deciding this is the moment to clean out my file cabinet and put away all those old bills, tax statements, etc lying around in a big old box.

Only you know, what I discovered?

So much of what I use to manage my life and pay bills, track insurance, etc. is now digital that I was able to throw 2/3rd of the paper out (after I shredded it, of course).

I am writing this post, tho, because it’s not the shift in the companies that service me that is noteworthy, it’s my attitude.  Somehow, a year ago, having files of COBRA statements, conference attendees, etc, felt useful; today it feels like so much clutter.

While I am not as close to the end of paper as I wish I was, it’s clear that online filing systems, the kindle and the cloud are making it much easier to not print things out–and easier to have repositories of records that are digital.

Side note: Anyone scanning their paper files? (Or is that over the top anal?)

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  1. maiki says:

    We have a system at our home of scanning in stuff that is important to the household (and then we send a copy to everyone and normally retain a copy on Basecamp).
    I used to scan a lot more, and I think Susan is going to get a new scanner soon, so I might actually open my check stub envelopes and get that over with to clear those out.
    I personally don’t generate a lot of bills, so I could scan everything without it being much of a hassle. Of course, backing up becomes even more important. But I am really good about that, too! ^_^

  2. says:

    This sounds like a seismic shift. I’ll be watching for similar, internally and in others.
    Scanning to files has always seemed to me to be, oh, too involved or too demanding a use by peripheral software. But in the last few months I’ve found the notion of scanning directly to PDF (and receipt, statement, etc. straight to the shredder) to have a very powerful allure.
    From the perspective of archiving and cross-platform retrieval later and compatibility with future equipment, I can’t imagine PDF is superior to TIF or that DjVU wouldn’t make even more sense. So I recognize this is not a fully rational response.
    But I do recognize that scanning directly to PDF has pretty much clinched it. And now reading your post may set me into motion . . .
    Roger Sperberg
    firstinitial nospace lastname gmail

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