Thursday, November 10th, 2011

On a Mission to Edit Out the Paper…

Wrecked OfficeRemember this, way back in the beginning of September?

My office (and the rest of the damaged house) is starting to look liveable again.

Fresh paint has been applied, and (even though insurance didn’t cover it*) we opted to put in new carpet. I am just too paranoid about mold.

The carpet folks laid most of the carpet yesterday–a charcoal grey, smooth piled loveliness–and will be back this morning to finish up. I can’t wait!

But our furniture and things — which were boxed up and taken away by the Fire and Flood Company, won’t be back until early next week. That’s when the fun begins:

I’m on a mission to “edit out” a third to a half of the items that were in my office originally. It’s true that the company carefully wrapped and boxed my stuff, making it appear more bulky. But the sheer number of boxes they removed from my office astounded me.

And while many of them came from the double closets (yeah, that’s one thing I really like about my office space) and didn’t clutter up the room, even with the doors closed behind me as I wrote, I often felt the stuff “mentally” clutter my mind.

It’s hard to write in that environment!

Things I need to clear out:

  • some abandoned crafty items I’ll probably never get back to
  • tear sheets (and in some instances) entire copies of newspapers with my stories printed in them
  • empty binders I’ve been hoarding to put all my genealogy paperwork in
  • boxes of photos from high school, containing pics of (some) people whose names I can’t remember
  • probably some other stuff I’ll be surprised to find when I open up the boxes!

The big issue for me, since I’m:

  1. a writer
  2. a genealogy buff, and,
  3. a former journalist with hundreds (a thousand or more?) clips

… I’ve got a terrible paper problem, especially since I so often want to keep things for “posterity.”

But the paper is starting to weigh me down.

At a minimum, I’m toying with scanning all the old manuscripts and tossing the paper. Ditto on the newspaper clips.

But what I really need is a paper-flow system to get things under control. Most days, I’ve got more paper funneling in than out, and it’s taking a toll: hence the three boxes of collected papers I need to weed through before I even get to the closet items.

How do you handle the influx of paper? What do you do with critiqued papers and clips and tear sheets that may or may not be looked at again? Where do you draw the line on what to keep?

* The insurance company was AWESOME, but they didn’t pay for new carpet. Understandable, really, since it was able to be dried. But they’ve done more for us regarding everything else. I have no complaints, and have actually been impressed with their service.

8 comments to On a Mission to Edit Out the Paper…

  • Just some thoughts: Old clippings, especially if they’re research–scanning with some kind of system makes sense.

    Old manuscripts, if still in good condition, and if you’re willing for anyone else to see them–think about whether these could be given away as prizes or sold. If you just want the words for reference in case you want to rewrite them, scan and OCR.

    Old partially finished crafts–offer to give away if recipient pays shipping.

    Photos–Gosh, I wish there were some automated system to scan photos rather than laying them on the glass one at a time by hand. If you come up with a time-saving way to scan old photos, I’d love to hear about it!

    • Hi Deirdre! Thanks for all the ideas.

      I love the idea of giving the crafts away for free if someone wants them. As to manuscripts… people would want them as prizes? I might have to try that (in the future, when I have a bigger blog audience.) 🙂 Thanks for the vote of confidence.

      As for photos… if you have Adobe Photoshop, you can lay several photos on a flatbed scanner and scan them at the same time, then use the built in “crop and straighten” function. It will crop all the photos into different files for you. It will even rotate photos that are positioned the “wrong” way on the glass…but that tends to degrade the scan a tiny bit. (Still time consuming, though.)


  • A. R. Hill


    Just my two cents – when I have a lot of paper that needs to be kept track of, but I don’t necessarily want it physically floating around the house, I scan it. You might consider an external harddrive for the purposes of storing all of that stuff that is important to you but that you don’t want to keep physical copies of. That will allow you to keep everything (which you should do – never know when something might come in handy or when you might need to reference something) without having it “cluttering” you. There are automatic scanners you can get for sturdier items like printer paper, but newspapers should probably be handled by flatbed scanners.

    A. R.

    • Thanks, A.R.! Once you scan and file, how do you find the items again? My biggest fear: having to read through all the files to find what I want…

      • A. R. Hill

        Hi Kelly,
        The best way I’ve found is to organize them while you scan them. Create different folders on the harddrive for the different types of items you have, then sub-arrange from there. For example, you might do a “newspaper clippings folder”, “manuscripts” folder and so on, then organize inside those folders by creating a folder for each year for the newspaper clippings and a folder per story for the manuscripts folder.
        You can organize even further from there, just pick a system that you can navigate intuitively. Each scanned item should become a separate .pdf file, so you shouldn’t have to read through a whole bunch of items to find what you want. Just name them appropriately and done! 🙂
        All the best,
        A. R.

        • Hi A.R. – Thanks for the breakdown. I’m going to give it a try once the scanner and desk come back from the fire and flood folks…. some time in the next week. (They packed it out, but I have a feeling I’m going to be un-boxing. Should be quite a hoot.) Thx!

  • Kelly,
    What an adventure! Glad it seems to be turning out mostly well. I learned a little about paperwork management in the Navy. I’ve also read several time management books, each with suggestions about how to do it. The best method, I think, is my own (easy to remember) technique:
    Look at each piece of paper only once, and do one of the following things with it:
    1. File it. (Right now, where you know you can retrieve it).
    2. Act on it. (Again, either right now, or make a short to-do list on the side of the actions you’ll take)
    3. Route it (to someone else for action. This may not be applicable to your situation, but might be fine at work. Add to your to-do list to follow up on these.)
    4. Trash it.

    Why is that easy to remember? Well, I combine the first letter of each of the four options into a four-letter word, and just remember the word. I call it the FA** method.
    You might want to put some sort of time limit on this too. For example, if you haven’t taken action on something in six months, say, then trash it.
    Good luck!

    • Hi Steve! Just so you know, that word is verboten around here…

      Nonetheless, you make is sound so easy…. It’s just so hard to make decisions on some pieces of paper that come in the door (but your time limit method sounds like it’s worth exploring. That might be just the ticket for me.)


Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>