I have noticed a trend of people wanting to reduce the amount of “stuff” in your life. While the goal of simplicity is older than Thoreau, lately the need for an uncomplicated life has become far more acute. There are now highly-trafficed blogs devoted to reducing clutter and blogs devoted to getting things done.
The problem of clutter results from an overvaluation of stuff. (As a side note, this essay by Paul Graham is an excellent article on the subject of “stuff.” You ought to read it.)
On a related note, I’ve been going through boxes of old papers in my room, sorting out the trash from the treasure. Old homework assignments and the collection of old Collegians I saved for some reason—gone. Notes that might actually prove useful some day, I’m saving.
Now that I’ve finished sorting out the remaining papers by subject, I’m going to go through all of my notes and put them into my computer. My goal is to get this all in an indexable form, so that I can search for stuff with Windows Vista (or Google Desktop on an XP machine). If you can’t search for data and find it really, really quickly, it might as well not exist. Theoretically, I’ll be able to search my entire college career in seconds.
Some of these notes are easy to index, because I was storing print outs of typed notes or powerpoints that I already have in my computer. I just dump those into my new School Stuff folder from my archive on an external hard drive.
Some of it is a little harder, because they’re print outs with hand-written notes on them or handouts from class that I don’t already have electronically. These I’m planning on scanning into my computer as PDF files. Since I’m using Adobe Acrobat, I can run an OCR scan and make PDF searchable.
The really hard stuff is the pages and pages of hand-written notes. This stuff I can’t just scan, because there’s no way that Acrobat can read my handwriting. So I’m going to have to type up all of my old notes into text files.
While this will probably take a couple of days, I don’t think that that’s necessarily a bad thing. I’m thinking of this as a sort of comprehensive college review, a way of remembering all of the stuff that I learned. And once it gets into an indexable form, I’ll be able to find stuff as quickly as I can think of it—and it won’t take up physical space anymore.