I took out all my paper notes, index cards, photos, notebooks, clipboards, loose papers, and the working files from my laptop bag. I stacked them up on my desk (a standing desk I built myself). I knew when I set out that this would be a worthwhile exercise. I didn’t realize the problem was as bad as it is.
What’s my motivation? I’m a tidy person (now) and most would consider me fairly well organized. The thing is, all of these “hard copies” are irreplaceable. They don’t have any kind of backup. I live in a region that is prone to several varieties of natural disaster, including earthquakes, wildfires, flash floods, and mudslides. (Plus I have pets). If anything happens to my notes, they’re gone. Seriously, there is no possible way I could evacuate all this stuff. So that’s the worst case scenario, may it never happen.
More pressing is the fact that all this paper isn’t searchable. I have to remember whether the piece of information I want is in a notebook, a file folder, or an index card, unless of course it’s electronic. See, my notes aren’t even consolidated in one medium. This manifestation of my indefatigable creative mind has spilled over into Evernote, Dropbox, my email, and notes on my iPhone, as well as files on my writing laptop and the desktop I share with my husband.
Recently, a friend asked me if I had information that would help him apply for a creative project. It so happened that I did, even though our project happened ten years ago! I knew I had it. The trouble was that it could have been in one of six different places. It is pretty impressive that it took only half an hour to pull up this completely obscure remnant of my paper past. If I had already scanned all my stuff, like I have meant to do for 7-8 years, it would have taken me about two minutes. In the process of rummaging, I knew without a doubt what my first Discardia project would be.
Here’s how I’m breaking it down into small steps:
1. Set aside time every afternoon to work
2. Make some decisions about where to store which data (thumb drive or cloud?)
3. Make some guidelines about what I know I want to keep and what can go away
4. Assess the notebooks, because most of them are mostly blank
5. Divide between archival, back burner, and active project queue
6. Choose what to scan and what to type (I type 90+ WPM and text is more searchable)
7. Scan it all, most important first
8. Discard at least 80% of the paper
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I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.