March 10th, 2016


this century's incredible surplus of file folders

It's common knowledge that the term "paperless office" is a running joke, right? Back in the 70s, with the advent of computers, futurists predicted that electronic information would drive the end of our need for paper. Everybody believed it. Xerox totally freaked out.

But in 2016 there's still paper everywhere. One IT guy I worked with joked that "electronic routing just means everyone prints out his own copy". I've seen it. It's just too hard to think on a computer screen. I even do it myself. I consider myself a tech savvy, internet generation kinda gal, but when I am faced with a technical problem that I feel stunned by, I have a go-to move: start printing shit out.

The part specs, the manuals, the email with the description of the problem. Then I get out my highligher and colored pencils, I write notes, I NEED that paper. It makes the information clear in my head and I can find a next step.

A month after the problem is solved, I encounter that pile of paper and remember the fabulous conclusion that I summed up in my email response. And all the paper goes into a recycle bin.

You know what we are getting away from?

Filed papers.

We still love paper, but we don't store it, at least from what I'm seeing. For reading, thinking and reviewing, we love paper. For searching, storing and retaining, computers are winning the battle.

This has lead to the file-less office. We file very few things. We used to file everything.

So you know what our supply rooms are full of?

File folders.

Those dark green ones with the metal tabs so you can hang them. Sometimes new colorful ones. Sometimes black.

Usually dark green.

In every stage of wear and tear, or brand new, there are drawers and drawers of empty file folders from the days long ago when we filed things.

And so this leads me to the purpose of this post: if there's one thing that you should not buy new, it's file folders. I can't believe manufacturers are still making them. It's offensive that you can go to staples and find evidence that we just killed another tree for these things. They are everywhere.

If you want to file something, and don't have an office worker in your life, go to ebay. People are selling used file folders by the 100s. I am not alone in encountering the drawers full of them.

If we stopped making file folders now, we'd have enough to last us the next 200 years, at least, until they decay. I bet the ones I'm finding are from the 1950s and they're holding up just fine.

There are just so many - where can they all go?