For weeks now, it seems as though I have been battling to reduce the amount of paper around me. Progress is fleeting.
In mid-January, I filled a huge recycling container with old records and student papers, scholarly articles that I have – or have not – read and pondered, an amazing number of catalogs from scholarly publishers and notices of intriguing conferences. I was surprised to have so many of them: it’s my intention to toss these into the recycling bin while I’m still at the mailbox.
A little later, in response to a need from a colleague, I went back through some archived paper for a committee – and found double and triple copies of some documents (and unfortunate holes in the record for others). As I have years and years of records for that committee, it will take a while to sort it all out.
The alternative to having so much paper around is, of course, digital storage. My employer supplies a limited amount of central storage – but I am constantly at the upper limit, about to get the dreaded message that a file can’t save because there is no room. This isn’t due to lack of pruning. Rather, it’s the accumulation of graphic-heavy presentation files for courses taught often. I purchased an external drive (out-of-pocket), but it’s filling up too.
The digital age creates new dilemmas. On the one hand, I tell myself that it’s very unlikely that I’ll be called upon to make one or another specialized presentation a second time. On the other hand, I can recall times when someone has asked me to fill in for something on short notice, and those one-off presentations are what I have to draw on. People expect something polished – so I keep the large files, just to be ready.
The digital files, though, don’t have such a chaotic appearance as the paper do, and are a bit more amenable to being sorted and tidied up. I expect I will be doing battle with paper for quite some time – but I am making progress.