Paper is the bane of my existence, or What the heck happened to the paperless society?

What to do with all this paper?

Liuzhou, P.R.C. July 2011

This is a gripe post.
There, now you have all been warned, so no gripe-backs at me for ranting, not that it would really matter, it is my blog after all.  If I can’t spew vitriolic rage about some crazy thing that bugs me on my own blog, where can I?

I just recently won a minor battle in my continuous struggle against the paperwork; I finally found some files that I have been looking for since the move.  There is nothing like having all your stuff in your apartment in China packed up and moved to another apartment in China while you happen to be conveniently located on the other side of the planet in the US.  When it comes to finding things in our new apartment, we really don’t even have a chance.

Living dangerously: infrequently used files up out of the way on a high shelf, yet perfectly poised to attack from above!

So I finally found the file I was looking for and then a ton of stuff that I was NOT looking for.  Not only was I not looking for these papers, now that they’ve been discovered, I don’t know what to do with them.  Things like:  Social Security statements (do I save them?), old boarding passes (did I remember to claim those miles or not?), stuff printed in Chinese (I can’t read it but that doesn’t mean I won’t need it to show it to someone who can) and “Important information about your account” type things that are everything but important.

What is this? Looks offical! Also shows a need to write in English what things are before before file and forget!

So what happened to the paperless society?  Granted, we can do almost anything on the web these days, but as soon as you buy, transfer, register, order, or do! anything online, the last step in the process invariably is:


“Print this page for your records”

Aggh!  “But I don’t WANT toooooo!”, I say in my whining child voice.  And don’t even get me started on those credit card bastards.  If you’re not a client, they will relentlessly bury you in those super stuffed envelopes with fake cards in them, which I am convinced they do on purpose to prevent you from shoving the whole unopened thing through the shredder. And if you are a client you get those “We’ve changed our policy on screwing you, we are required to tell you how” which wouldn’t be such a big deal if they didn’t change interest rates so frequently.


Classic Brasilian paperwork: this one has 2 seals, 2 stamps, 1 sticker, and 1 signature.

Hopefully, one of these days, smartphones will release us from this paper bondage.  But electronic versions are susceptible to hacking, crashing, or the all too common occurance of drained batteries.  And bureaucracies everywhere will not easily surrender their love of official bits of paper.  Having lived in Brasil and China, I can tell you that they have raised it nearly to the level of art.  Really official documentation in Brasil requires: a signature, a seal, a sticker (often holographic), and at least one stamp.  Getting all these is by no means a simple process, which is why I am loathe to discard any Brasilian paperwork that has that much time and energy invested into it, just in case I need it again someday.

Which brings me back to: what do you do with all this stuff?  File it all?  I am quite sure that down that path madness lay.  Eventually, much of it is fated for the shredder.  But such is the sheer volume of sensitive paperwork created and collected, that we have killed a few shredders.  At one particularly cathartic purge before the move to China, we resorted to fire.  Sizeable enough to send a plume of smoke that attracted the attention of the Berkley police, who I’m sure thought we were destroying evidence in a metal trash can in the backyard.

And indeed we were.  Evidence of accounts created and cancelled, perks and points accumulated, and relentless, relentless advertising.  Like a gun used in a murder, personal paperwork is evidence of your life too incriminating to toss into the nearest dumpster for the closest identity thief to pick up.  Maybe the surest sign we are on the path to less paper is that these days most paper mail you get is from those you don’t want it from, who sends real mail these days?  Oh yeah, those credit card bastards, case in point.  Anyone you actually want to hear from can reach you electronically.  Like this blog!

This post is dedicated to all the brave shredders who have fallen in the line of duty in our household. 

Your selfless service shall never be forgotten!!

Wanderlust wondering by christystarfish.


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