jb… a weblog by Jonathan Buys

Overload and Archive

A few years ago I adopted David Sparks’ paperless workflow. I installed Hazel and TextExpander, bought a ScanSnap scanner, and started dutifully scanning all of my paper that came in the mail. I scanned the water bill, my bank statements, and notices from my son’s second grade teacher about upcoming snack days. Over the years, and 2000 documents later, I’ve got a massive database of useless facts.

Never once have I actually needed to go back and look at what my home phone bill was last September. Even less have I needed to know what the schedule was for March in the third-grade classroom. I became so enamored by the ability to save everything that I stopped thinking about what I actually needed to save. I was hoarding.

Like any hoarder, I justified my activities. Why did I spend an hour every other week scanning things into my Mac? Why, for the most basic reason of all… I might need that someday! Eventually my Spotlight searches became nearly useless, as every keyword was littered with results from my OCR’d scans, useless information I didn’t need to keep.

So, today I staged an intervention for myself. I archived everything and started from scratch1. With the help of stackexchange, I now have a sane plan for what to keep and for how long. Some things will still get scanned, like reciepts for large purchases and the kids artwork that we can’t bear to part with. For the most part though, the paper will come in, live in my drawer for a month or so, and then move on out.

The new system will take some getting used to, but in the end I think I’ll be happier and better organzied for it. There’s no need to keep things I’m never going to look at again, physically or digitally.

  1. Archived, not deleted. Oh, I’ve still got everything. I mean, I’m not crazy

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