Scanning in the New Year

With the New Year upon us, resolutions abound. You may have thought up your own resolution, but might I suggest you put downsizing at the top of your list in 2015? 

If you are considering downsizing, I highly recommend it — and I’m sorry. It’s going to be a long haul before you sit back in your spacious office/apartment/closet and sigh with the relief of having empty space around you. But it will be worth it.

Let’s not start with the filing cabinet. Disclosure: I have not yet downsized my filing cabinet. Hello, Inevitable New Year’s Resolution. Instead, let’s start with the boxes. You know, the ones in the closet, the garage, the storage locker? The ones you don’t like to think about? Those ones. You might want to start with just one. It’s safer that way.

Downsizing Part 1: Scanning — I have tips for various methods of downsizing, but this post was getting ridiculously long, and I worried about the potential irony of that.  

I suggest you invest in a scanner capable of multi-page double-sided scanning. This scanner, if you are ready to let it, will change your life. I use the Fujitsu ScanScap.  

Do I have to scan everything?

You can keep some of it. I’m just suggesting you scan the majority of it.

What can I throw out/recycle/discard without scanning first?

Birthday cards from old coworkers and cards that don’t contain more than a signature. Notes from classes you don’t remember attending.

What can I keep in hard copy?

In your filing cabinet (remember, we’re not tackling that just yet), keep things that are temporary – receipts and information for upcoming tax returns. You can keep any memorabilia or photos that are really, really important.

Where should I store the sentimental items I decide to keep in hard copy?

In a special box. I keep mine in my night stand.

What can I scan and then throw away?

Everything else.

Dare I say it? Photos from before the digital era — take them out of the albums and scan them. It may seem harsh, but are you really going to hold on to every single physical photo forever? Note: downsizing requires disposing of lots of odd things, so time to befriend the Hennepin County recycling and hazardous waste drop-off facilities. You’re not supposed to throw old negatives or VHS tapes in the trash, to name a few. Downsize responsibly.

Users manuals — most of these can actually be downloaded, so rather than scanning them, just check online and start a folder on your computer for the manuals you download.

Old journals. Yup. I scanned all of my old journals. It was kind of horrifying, but do I miss that box of old notebooks lurking in the back of the closet? How many times did I haul them across town in a move? It was time for the journals to go digital -— a much more sustainable solution in the long run. Depending what you wrote in your journals, consider password protecting the files and shredding the pages after scanning them.

Where do the scanned files go?

Set up a digital filing system. My scanning folder is called “archived;” the subfolders are: “photos,” “memorabilia,” etc. Label the files in a logical way: “1998_photos” or “2011_memorabilia.” Regular backups will ensure you don’t forget what your BFF wrote in your high school yearbook.

A downsizer’s dilemma: Scan or toss?

If it’s of sentimental value or contains information that’s not easily accessible elsewhere, err on the side of scanning. My husband was opposed to recycling several old school binders that I suspected he’d never look at again. Of the three options: keep them, recycle them without his consent, or spend the time to scan them, I chose to scan and keep the peace.   

What if I get sick of scanning?

You can easily multitask while scanning. Watch some Netflix, listen to a podcast, or call your brother.

Secret of downsizing

After the initial painful haul, it will be a lot easier to sustain the system — and sustain it, you must. Remember the pain involved in the initial downsize, and try not to ever let that much stuff pile up again. I recently took a class that required a big binder of materials. I dutifully lugged the binder to and from class every Monday night, but the week the class ended, I sat down with my trusty ScanSnap and archived those class notes.

Is it worth it? Will you ever actually look at those old papers? Imagine all of the time wasted.

You will likely never even open 90 percent of the files that you scan. But how often would you dig through a box of old photos albums? This way, you don’t trip over the box every time you go in your closet for a pair of socks.

It can seem callous, getting rid of physical things. There is certainly something to be said for the feel of yellowed paper between your fingertips. But consider what you’re gaining. My husband and I don’t have a ton of space in our condo, but we are more than able to store all of our belongings. Our storage locker even has room for our bikes! And even if you live in a more spacious place, that doesn’t mean you are required to fill all of your space. Have you heard that goldfish grow to fill their surroundings? You don’t want to be a goldfish, do you?

The vital question is this: Are you willing to exchange time for space? Are you willing to spend an hour in front of the TV with your scanner and laptop in order to gain one cubic foot of space? The choice is yours. No pressure … but if you’re considering downsizing, I hear there are some great post-holiday scanner deals!

Our scanner is our trusty pal. Thanks, ScanSnap.

Happy New Year, and Happy Scanning. Enjoy the extra room.

Carissa Jean Tobin lives in a condo in Northeast Minneapolis with her husband. Her hobbies include creating humorous surveys for friends, lounging at the Wilde Roast Café, and administering the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator to interested family members, friends, and strangers. She teaches kindergarten in North Minneapolis.