How do you handle paper clutter? I don’t mean bills and bank statements, because to me those are relatively easy to manage.?For me, paper clutter is mainly things I’ve written: sermons, short stories, old letters, columns, articles, etc. Many of these predated my current computer, so I’ve had to decide if they were worth scanning, etc. I’m glad I have these type of papers, but sifting through them has required a lot of thought.
For a few months, I have been munching my way through the 3-drawer file cabinet that once contained twenty years’ worth of sermons. The file itself is gone and the usable contents are in digital form, dutifully backed up. A few items migrated into my “to archive” pile. Because my next writing project involves my past, it has seemed worthwhile to dive into my archive of old journals, letters, and college papers. I am knee-deep.
Some of these artifacts are quite fun to review. For example, I have my Kindergarten report card. I am happy to tell you that I got a red star–superior–in “Work Habits.” I’m curious. My only memory of working in Kindergarten involves a play ironing board. What was that you said about gender stereotypes? But many of my paper-triggered memories are not as much fun.
I am trying to move deliberately through this sifting/archiving process. I find that small steady bites is best. I am recycling about two-thirds of the paper and chronologizing the remaining one-third (it was all a jumble). (Following my principle: Never organize what you can just toss!)
I uncovered a paper I wrote on “The Church Fathers” in 1973 (tenth grade). One of the people I discussed was Jerome. I copied this quote from somewhere, without saying where I got it: “This type of man has his good qualities and his failings; he is obsessed by the desire to get on with his work, consumed by the inner flame which all those who live by the pen so well know. But he is also rather vain, very sensitive to criticism, extremely touchy, quick to consider anyone who does not share his way of thinking as the lowest of the low . . ?. But nothing could be further from the truth than to regard him as simply a bookworm.”
I find it interesting that I found this quote interesting enough to record! Perhaps I was just filling up pages. But I wonder if I realized that these words could also describe me.
I had no idea that I’d find a long-lost twin in my archive!