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Oldie, 7/24/10: More Orderly, Less Hoarderly

I absolutely love shows like Hoarders, Hoarding: Buried Alive and Clean House.  Not sure why, since I don't have bulging closets, narrow aisles of stuff throughout my house, or even a cluttered car.  I guess what intrigues me is the mindset that gets someone locked into that type of behavior.  My father had a bit of that tendency.  He got it into his head, in his early 60s, to start trying to recycle aluminum cans.  But since he worked full-time during the week and drank full-time on the weekends, he didn't have a lot of time for separating them from the rest of the trash.  And it is quite telling that no one came up with a better plan...like installing a "Recycle" bin for cans only, or having my mother or me take on the task of sorting out the cans.  The result was a growing pile of plastic garbage bags in the garage, which were eventually discovered by field mice.

Thankfully, my dad gave up and let the sanitation department deal with it.  But he also had a fair amount of junk accumulated in the house, and I think he was prone to what I often see in male hoarders:  As youngsters, they see their fathers or neighbors turn salvaged building materials into efficient sheds, or build a bank of storage cases in the garage.  They grow up thinking "this is what a man does."  Buying it at a store is for sissies.  So they keep accumulating random junk, but it never translates into that elusive skill at repurposing anything and everything.  Admitting this shortcoming goes against the macho ethos, too.

But I'm pretty good at getting rid of things.  Having moved five times within an 11-year span, it was logical and reasonable to thin out the possessions so that everything could fit in the truck.  At this point, I'm pretty lean and mean.  ...though I often think about all the books I've parted with and wistfully visualize what my library would look like if I'd held onto them.  Some were real treasures.

Oh, well.  Yesterday, however, I found myself in need of a large 3-ring binder, and noticed that there were several on the bottom shelf of a bookcase.  They were full, and I knew what they were.  They were clipped pages from magazines, stored in sheet protectors.

Five or six years ago I subscribed to a variety of periodicals, mainly in hopes of winning some publisher's sweepstakes or other.  They piled up pretty quickly, and I never really had time to read them.  I'd skim an article and think "This is something I could use in the future."  [cue the ominous pre-hoarding soundtrack ... it sounds a bit like the opening theme from Jaws.]

So I got very organized, or maybe OCD is a more accurate term.  I remember spending hours with back issues of my magazines piled up, the binder, scissors and sheet protectors at the ready.  I'd patiently tear out the pages, sometimes complaining silently when an article that started on page 11 broke off, to be continued on half of page 77, with the other half being the continuation of some other article I was saving as well...  It was a lot of work, and took a lot of time, but I was sure that "someday" these articles would be "just what I needed."  And while I never had boxes and boxes of magazines piled in the living room, I do have an entire bottom shelf of a bookcase filled with these binders...which I have NEVER ONCE taken down to thumb through.  I've never needed any of the articles I so lovingly saved.

Yesterday I was somewhat dismayed at this wasted effort.  I took the pages out of the binder, but then thought maybe I should go through all of them [yes, more ominous Hoarders music, a little louder this time!].  Since it was late, I stashed the binder and the loose pages under the bed, but thought about it all day today and tonight.  An episode of Hoarders: Buried Alive had its typical effect on me -- I started thinking about clutter and wanting to do something about it.  During the show there was an ad for that "Neat Desk" scanner gadget that's supposed to "eliminate paper from your life."  I'm not planning on buying one because I have a scanner already.

I also have something called Evernote, which is nothing short of miraculous for preserving things out there in the Cloud.  I use it several times a week, just clipping web pages off the Internet.  Someday, maybe I'll go back and read all this interesting stuff, but until then it sits, paperless, out of sight, out of mind, and completely out of the way.

So, as I indecisively sifted through those loose pages in their slippery sheet protectors, I resolved to check out each article, and if I decided it was a keeper, I'd scan it into Evernote and throw away the paper.

And then, I had an even more wonderful epiphany.  One that would save me even more hours and labor.  Instead of scanning the hard copy into Evernote, why not just do a Google search and see if the article is online?  Then I can click my little elephant (Evernote's icon) and it would be saved just like that.

What a breakthrough.  The very first article I tried this with (something called "How to Order Wine Like a Pro" -- and now you know something about how my mind works), sure enough was right there, full-length, when I searched for it.  It now resides among my ever-growing "hoard" of indispensable online how-toery.

I imagine most of the other articles I supposedly need to keep will be found there too.

And I don't have to buy any binders.  Or sheet protectors.

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