I got my first filing cabinet when I was in a senior in college. Education majors were supposed to put together a resource file. The theory was that this file would grow and grow through your professional life and after retiring after 40 years of teaching you might pass it down to a deserving young teacher. So I got myself a single drawer file and I was good to go.
For the 20 years I was an educator, I dutifully clipped this and that that might be good for teaching media skills and I pulled out any thought-provoking article about the “information age” that was gradually moving in to change our lives. I carefully labeled manila folders and put them in alphabetical order. I kept all sorts of things that interested me, from restaurants to travel destinations. I kept notes from family and friends and treasures our son’s life.
In 1989, I threw out much of my “resource” file because it was outdated and I was no longer teaching. Nobody but me would want what I had managed to save all of those years. So out it all went and I haven’t missed any of it. But I kept the personal stuff and restaurant and travel clips.
About that same time, I discovered the joy of hanging folders. I got them in an array of pretty colors and we used them for everything in my business and I used them at home as well. I had a lot of filing that needed to be done, and it was always accumulating. I used to hire people to come in just to file. I hated it, but I saw no way around it.
But somewhere along the line the world changed and the promise of information age came to life in the form of a scanner. The first ones we had were slow and clunky and documents copied one sheet at a time. Now we have stack loader scanners that quickly take a stack of documents and convert them to a single PDF.
We now scan in anything of any importance and we file it carefully online. Once it is scanned, it is retrained unless there is a security issue, but there is no fancy filing system. We hold the scanned documents in a stack by date – just in case we have to go digging. But I see a time coming soon where even that will be excessive.
I run a virtual company, but I have a storage unit filled with filing cabinets. I am simply aging these documents in place. Another few years and I can trash (or shred them all) and then I will get rid of the filing cabinets and the storage unit or at least get a much smaller one.
Today we file in the “cloud.” We back-up in the “cloud.” That is where we do everything. I really don’t need to keep much of anything in paper files. I am close to clearing the filing cabinets out of my home office. BUT… I am not quite there yet.
When I must deal with paper documents I keep them in plastic sleeves – sometimes in portable hanging files or in notebooks. I know what I must do – I must scan those paper documents in and recycle the paper. Not this week, but I know I will someday soon.
The Information Age is here!