Do you have any clue how many articles, books and blogs I have read about how to organize my stuff? Too many I assure you. Here’s just a few suggestions I’ve seen.
* Color coded file folders for each family
* Three ring binder for each surname
* Alphabetical index cards kept in a little metal box
* Scan and store on CD discs
* A box for each family, loosely organized
* Hire a professional organizer (my personal choice)
* Separate files for documents, photos, census copies, letters
I actually bought color coded file folders a few years ago, and plastic color coded page dividers, different colored ink pens and all kinds of little doodads to help organize my research. I am a stationary junkie and could spend lots of money in Office Max. The color coded file folders are still in the box but the page dividers and ink pens and most of the doodads have been used for other projects.
So why are we all so against strict organization of our research data? I would be ecstatic to see it all nice and neat and be able to put my hands on just about anything. But I just can’t seem to get started. I’ve got three file cabinet drawers full of just about everything genealogy that I own including magazines and books. I do have a hanging file for each surname but they continually end up mixed up and I have a ton of small pieces of paper with a name or a name and date or some important piece of information that I just had to save. Not important enough to organize in files however so I am always digging when I need to find something.
I think my major problem is understanding how to divide up the stuff by surname. If I put George’s stuff in one folder and Sabina’s in another, what about the things that have both their names on it like marriage certificate, census copies and such? Should I make duplicate copies and put one in each folder? That’s a lot of duplicates and much more paper and space involved.
And what about census records? I have them saved to my family tree as sources. Do I really need a hard copy of each report for each person? Or should I trash them since I have electronic copies. Before Ancestry.com and the available of instant census records, I was thrilled to print out a copy from the microfilm machine. Can I truly just abandon those now that I can see them on my own personal computer? Sure!!
It’s o.k. to throw things out. It’s therapeutic. It’s helpful to the de-clutter process. It’s cleansing to the soul. It’s SO HARD! But it’s o.k.
I think the mental exercise for me should be: Can I replace it? Can I see it online anytime I want to? Can I live without this piece of paper? If I answer yes to at least two of these questions I should toss the paper.
Being able to put everything on a long table and leave it out to continue culling through it all is important to me as well. Once I put it back in the drawer to continue another day, I won’t be inspired again for a few years.
Now that I’ve announced the intended purge and organize publicly, I think I’m leaning towards the color coded file folders since I already have the file drawers and I do have the file folders. I’ll just have to go to Office Max for some new colored pens, color coded page dividers and lots and lots of new doodads.