Thursday, July 30, 2015


Cluttered Memory Lane Meets Technology

I have a split personality: I’m am an organized, sentimental packrat.  I’m also analytical and have found an answer to my constant torment.

I’d accumulated knickknacks, clothing, books, toys, furniture, pictures, even dishes and kitchen gadgets not because I particularly liked the looks of them or that they were useful, but because they drew up precious memories from my past. Like the colander my mom used to strain pasta for Sunday dinners.  Dishes I got from the gang at work when I got married.  Trolls I’d been collecting since childhood.  The Boston rocker I sang my babies to sleep in.  Sweaters my grandmother had crocheted for me.  When you start having to cram five decades of junk into a single room you rent from friends, it’s time to thin the herd. 

What memories did I choose to part with?  None of them.  Follow me down memory lane and I’ll explain. 

I started with my camera.  Having pictures of every single item that triggered a memory, allowed me to either pass the belongings on to my grown children, or donate them to Goodwill.  Believe me, it’s a lot easier to store pictures than furniture and sets of china. 

I prefer to display my memories, not store them away in a box, so I organized a few unique and irreplaceable items that I want to pass down to my kids and grandchildren onto a single knickknack shelf.  In addition to the memory shelf, I chose about a dozen and a half pictures to frame and hang about my room. 

Then I bought an inexpensive little scanner and an equally inexpensive external 1 terabite hard drive (on sale for well under $100) and went to town with them.  I started off with six large totes of financial, personal, writing, and memoir files.  Every last scrap of that information is stored on my computer and external hard drive.  Believe me, when I have to look up banking information, a warranty for an item, or the character list for a novel I wrote in 1983, it’s much easier to plug in the hard drive and scroll through my files than drag out heavy file totes and paw through folder after folder of paper.  When everything was scanned in, saved and backed up, I shredded hardcopies and unloaded them into the recyclable bin!  What a liberating feeling!  Whew! 

Three large Rubbermaid storage totes of family photos (including all the photos of the belongings I’d taken) came next.  As I scanned them in, I saw pictures I hadn’t looked at in years because they had been so hard to get at.  Now they are all part of my slideshow screensaver.  They are not only backed up on my external hard drive, but I uploaded them onto my Facebook page and have shared them with distant family members who love them as well.  A digital frame was a lovely birthday gift for my mom.  Every time I take pictures of my grandchildren I send her a flash drive full of their happy little faces.
Suddenly shelf space opened up, and tripping over storage totes piled everywhere became a thing of the past.  Overwhelming clutter?  Vanished!   

Now I’m on a new mission.  As a writer I have hundreds of reference books in my room.  Being partially disabled, it’s difficult for me to constantly retrieve books from the shelf, prop them up around my computer and keep them open to specific pages while taking notes.

My solution: Scan in the books.  I started with the books I use on a regular basis, but now I’ve graduated to everything except books that are actually too wide for the scanning bed.  I scan while I watch movies or TV or listen to music.  Once the book is in my computer, I save it to my external hard drive, then donate the book to my local library. 

If I’m researching, all I have to do is plug my external hard drive into my laptop, and voila! Info at my fingertips! Toggling between screens trumps managing cumbersome books every time.  True, it’s time consuming to scan in books, but I can now fit my 100-plus book library in my purse. 

Scanning has given me a way to change my room from a disaster area to a comfortable living space, and put previously inaccessible memories and information at my fingertips.

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