Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Organizing The Paper Mountain (Part 3)

This third and final part of this series is dedicated to some specific suggestions, tips, and special circumstances that weren't covered in the other two posts.

What If The Paper Mountain Takes Up An Entire Room?
If your paper mountain looks like Randy Seaver's Genea-Cave, then this section is just for you.  In this case, it is all about breaking the mountain up into smaller, more manageable chunks.  For example, conquer one corner of the room or one bookcase or even just one shelf.  It will take a big dose of patience and some time, but no matter how large the paper mountain is you can tackle it!

Think of it this way:  When one of my professors assigns a long research paper of about fifteen pages, the first thing I do is break it down into manageable chunks.  For example, I'll make a deadline for myself to have the notes done by one date and then to write a certain number of pages every week.  By doing this, the huge research paper seems manageable.  I am no longer overwhelmed by trying to write a fifteen page paper.

How Do I Take Care Of My Original Documents?
The original documents that we collect in the course of our research needs to be preserved and protected.  Often times, placing these documents into our regular filing system is not a good idea because our filing systems are not made with all archival quality materials.  So what is a researcher to do?

Denise over at the Family Curator blog discusses a great way to keep our original documents safe while also having the information in our filing system.

How Do I Go Paperless?
The new trend these days is to go paperless.  People now pay their bills online, shop online, and even order pizza online.  This trend is not only environmentally friendly, but it also saves a lot of space and is really easy to back up.  It also has the added benefit of being uploaded onto the internet and therefore can be accessed from anywhere with internet access.

Here are some tips to make your move to paperless as easy as possible:

  • An excellent back up plan is absolutely necessary.  I highly suggestion a remote back up program like Mozy or Carbonite to ensure that your information is safe, even if your computer dies.  To be extra careful, you might also want to back up to an external hard drive.
  • The way you organize on your computer is very similar to the way you would organize your paper files.  The big difference is that everything will be in virtual folders.  There are other options to organize your computer files that should be explored before you decide to make the switch.
  • You will still have to take care of your original paper documents in an archival safe way.
What Should I Do With All The Paper Newsletters, Magazines, and Periodicals?
The answer to this question will vary from situation to situation.  But here are some questions to ask yourself to help you consider what to do with all of them:
  • Is there a website or database where you can access the information?  For example, Family Tree Magazine offers the past issues of the magazine on a CD.  Each CD has a year's worth of magazine issues.  An added benefit about this is that they are searchable.
  • When was the last time you actually looked through these newsletters, magazines, and periodicals?  If it was more than 6 months, then you probably won't be looking at them again.  Therefore, it might be worth considering donating these items to a genealogy society, library, or archive.  You can even donate them to a friend or sell them on Ebay
  • If there is an article that you couldn't imagine letting go of, then by all means make a scanned copy of it and keep it on your computer for reference.  Then donate the paper item.
For the magazines, newsletters, and periodicals that you are planning on keeping, you'll need to make a plan.  But what should you include in your plan?
  • How long will you keep each item?  Six months is a good rule of thumb.
  • Store these items in labeled magazine boxes.  That way you can quickly find the issue that you are looking for.
  • Stick to your plan.  If you say that you will get rid of that document in six months, then actually do it!  Your plan is useless if you choose not to stick with it.

The Number One Organizing Tip That Isn't Stressed Enough...

Organization is a P-R-O-C-E-S-S.  You must continually work at staying organized if you actually want to stay organized.  Just because you made your research space look all nice and pretty, doesn't mean that you are organized.

So instead of feeling depressed after that last paragraph, feel accomplished at the hard work that you've put into becoming organized.  Then get determined to make it stick by scheduling time every week, every month - maybe even every day, to keep you organized and feeling great.


Family Curator said...

This has been a great series, Elyse. I can see we are on the same 12-step program to get organized and stay that way. I especially like your concluding remarks... so true.

Leah Kleylein said...

Thanks for these 3 posts Elyse! Very helpful and inspiring as I continue my genea-resolution of organization this year!

becky said...

I've really enjoyed your blog! I, too, have followed Dear Myrtle's check lists and love them. I especially like your attitude of "one size doesn't fit all". After 30 years doing genealogy, I've amassed a LOT of notes, etc. I jumped on the binder bandwagon a couple of years ago without thinking it through. It just wasn't my style. I hate, hate, hate the binders! I finally saw the light and put everything back into my file folders. I have lots of stackable file boxes with a hanging folder for each surname and folders within for individuals. Works great for me.