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Bill Bennett


Cutting down the paper mountain

An annoying aspect of moving home was the sheer volume of paper we moved between houses. Despite living in a digital age, it was a third of the total weight moved.

We’ll put books and magazines – probably the largest part – to one side and concentrate on other paper. It is time to become a paperless journalist.

Home business is paper-centric

I run a home freelance journalism business and my wife also has a writing business. We have plenty of paper. Our three two-drawer filing cabinets are full of business documents. We store at least the same amount in boxes.

We’re journalists, so we keep archive copies of newspapers, magazines and other publications we have written for in the past – about two filing cabinets. Reference material fills another cabinet.

There’s another cabinet of non-work related documents. Add in our children’s old schoolbooks and their junk.

All-in-all our paper collection would fill a room. Around six full-sized filing cabinets.

Admittedly we’re at the high-end of the scale, but our hoard is not abnormal.

Clearly I need to get rid of as much paper as possible. Ideally we’d have none, we’d be paperless. But that’s unrealistic.

I’m aiming to cut the paper mountain to just two two-drawer filing cabinets and my scanner is my friend.

Before starting, remember paper is:

  • Awkward to move
  • Heavy
  • Bulky
  • Relatively fragile
  • Many documents are badly faded or torn
  • Combustible
  • Prone to mould (and therefore unhealthy)
  • Difficult to search.

Move to paperless started years before

We knew the move was coming, so I started scanning documents well in advance. Six months later I estimate I turned around 10 percent of the total pile into digital documents. The process is far slower than you might expect. And even if you take care, some scans have to be done two or three times. At this rate it could take four years to reach my paperless target.



5 thoughts on “Cutting down the paper mountain

  1. Of possible interest:

    Mendeley Desktop and Mekentosj Papers are software for managing pdf’s and other electronic documents.

    DjVu is a format optimized for storing scanned papers. Compression and speed rates are competitively higher than pdf files. There are different tools for creating djvu files, my favourite is djvudigital(gsdjvu), a command line utility for linux that batch converts all the scanned documents I’ve already made pdf’s out of.

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