Going (Back To) Paper: My Digital Disintegration

It had to happen at some point, I suppose. I recently took 2 weeks away from the Internet and used that time to contemplate life, the universe and everything. I re-read Walden by Henry David Thoreau, for instance, so you can imagine my state of mind. Reading Walden made me yearn for simpler times, times when I didn’t  have to spend a few minutes each day scanning in paper, times when I could instead lick my fingers and spend hours digging through a filing cabinet looking for a document. I yearn for that kind of simplicity, and what is more simple than paper?

Before I left my house this morning, I filled my printer with a few reams of white bond paper, and set up a script that will cycle through each and every one of my more than 6,200 notes in Evernote, printing out each note and any attachments associated with said notes.

I know what you are thinking? How on earth will you file all those notes? Simplicity itself, my friends. I plan on using the exact same “filing” system I’ve used in Evernote. If a note has more than one tag, it will get printed out multiple times, once for each tag. Then, a copy of that note will be filed away in a folder containing the tag name, so that if something was tagged, say, “taxes” and “writing”, I’ll be able to find that document regardless of which folder I look in.

Of course, printing out so many notes will require some changes to my home office. I’ve done the math (using my trusty slide rule) and placed an order for 7 four-foot filing cabinets. I believe this will be able to hold most of the paper that gets printed today. The rest I’ll simply stack in corners until I have more space for filing cabinets.

Yes, but what about searching? I’ve got that covered as well. I’ve started training my kids to act as a personal search engine. I ask them to find a particular document, they go filing through the cabinets and whoever comes up with the results first gets a cookie.

True, I cannot access my notes and papers easily when I am away from my office, but I find that being able to pull up a document on my iPhone or iPad in just a few seconds doesn’t impress people–it annoys them. They give me that hey fella, you’re making us look bad look. And the last thing I want to do is make anyone else look bad

Yes, Thoreau had it right. Simplifying is the way to go. And that reminds me, I’m considering starting a mailing list for my (newly re-titled  Going Paper posts. Send me your mailing address (your actual mailing address, not an email address) and once a month or so, I’ll print out copies of the latest post, stuff them into envelopes and send them off to you. It’s as good an alternative as any to the demise of Google Reader.

Happy April Fools Day, everyone!


  1. Love it! Absolutely hilarious! I was concerned reading the first few sentences but thankfully figured it out quickly 🙂

  2. After reading 2 lines, I thought “Is he gone nuts in those two weeks?”, so I went straight to the “bottom-line”!

  3. Wise decision Jamie! Which do you consider most likely— Another Carrington Event or an EMP attack by North Korea and/or Iran?

  4. Hmmm. This is clearly pre-Snowden. It is interesting that it rose to the top of a Google search, when I was seriously considering bagging 20 years of digital data and going back to paper. My concern is not government spying, as much as it is the demise of PC-based software such as Quicken and proprietary databases. My business is suffering.

    The Cloud has my data now and if I am not nice to my cloud-based providers, what will happen to my data? My accounting and merchant account systems have crashed more than once. They really don’t care, as long as they get my monthly subscription payment. I can’t cancel, because they have all my data.

    I am very, very tired of taking care of my software, hardware, and everything that goes wrong with it almost daily. I own a small business. I am not an IT person. I can no longer AFFORD to do everything on my computer.

    I am seriously considering going back to paper, because at 63, I DO remember operating my business solely on paper. I used to ride my bike on weekends and go out with my friends on week nights. Now I spend hours, every day, on my laptop. My social life, my family, my body, and my business are all suffering.


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