#3 and #4 – 52 Fewer Things


A household recycling bin issued by the local ...
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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.

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One comment

  1. Since I take digital photographs, I have literally thousands of them on my computer. In the beginning, I didn’t have a clue about tag words or ways of organizing, and a system developed gradually. Now I have to go back and take a second look at those files. I’m on February, 2008!

    The good thing is that with three years between me and the date they were taken, I’m not feeling so possessive about them. I’ve tossed a lot of photos and whole photo files, knowing they aren’t really worth keeping and I’ll never need them for anything.

    If you’re culling even a few old things a day–and doing the same immediately with current material–you’re making progress!

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