I have a confession to make: I am a paper hoarder. I hoard scrap paper.
I wouldn’t say that it’s out of control (hoarders usually don’t describe their hoarding as “out of control”) but I seem to be afflicted more than the average person. As I write this, at my desk at home, I am not surrounded by mountains of paper. The only things on my desk are my laptop and a few pharmacy journals that I’ve been meaning to read since a few months ago (I’m also good at procrastinating, but that’s a problem for another post). There’s also a notepad and a pen, but that’s it. I like to keep my desk neat and clutter-free. I’m the same at work, and I’m sure that my co-workers would attest to that.
However, if you look to that table beside my desk, you will find a neat little stack of paper about 10cm high (granted, these are sheets of A4 that have been folded in half, so it’d really only be about 5cm high if they were unfolded). These sheets are all printed on one side, blank on the other. They have served their primary purpose, and are no longer needed. Yet, something in my mind tells me that, instead of throwing them straight into the recycling bin, I should keep them because I can probably use the blank side to write something – a list, a note, a reminder.
If you take a closer look around, you’ll also find more paper – in a maroon folder, and in a red clipboard (what can I say? I’m a Queenslander). These each hold maybe a 1cm stack each of old school/uni worksheets or notes that are no longer needed. I’ll never read these again, but I can’t throw them away without scribbling something on the reverse.
I wish I could stop there but, unfortunately, there is more. There are notepads, notebooks, mini notebooks, and post-it notes. I don’t think I’ve ever bought any of these myself; people just gift them to me (or sometimes they’re freebies at expos or conventions). Some of these are completely empty, some are half-filled, some just have a few pages of notes. I reckon this category of paper is not as bad because they each have a set purpose (well, most of them do). One book is for recipes, one for blog post ideas; I use post-it notes (although sparingly) to remind me of important dates or information; and I have a notebook for writing down interesting points in the books I’m reading. And the empty ones are for… well, when I run out of pages in the ones I’m currently using…
At work, it’s a similar issue, but at least I have thoughtful colleagues who help keep my paper hoarding in check. To be fair, we always need scrap paper at work, and we always need post-it notes (my goodness, we use so many post-it notes!). If someone has to take clean paper out of the printer tray to use as scrap paper, I cringe a little inside.
I learnt recently that, in Australia, we use on average about 230kg of paper per person per year. 230kg! In hindsight, this probably wasn’t a great statistic for me to learn because I might end up hoarding even more paper… But I’ve always been careful about paper usage. I’ll print duplex if appropriate; I’ll scan and email documents rather than copy and send physical copies; I avoid printing things unless I absolutely have to; and I try to condense/limit what I print to the lowest number of pages.
And in case you’re wondering, I do use my stacks of scrap paper at home: I jot down recipes to test (which will be transferred to the recipe book once successfully completed), I copy out my work roster so that I don’t have to print it, I scribble notes about things I need to do (emails to send, events to look up, etc), and sometimes I just doodle randomly because I’m too mentally exhausted to read or write or do anything other than move a pencil back and forth across a page to create odd shapes. It’s just that I accumulate paper faster than I use it.
I have wondered about how this habit developed, and I have a few theories. First, in grade six, we spent a significant part of the year learning about the environment and the plethora of ways in which we are killing the earth. This was potentially mentally scarring, and caused me to become overly concerned about paper conservation (re-use and then recycle!). Another theory is that, all my life, I’ve seen my mum write grocery lists on scrap paper, and even on used envelopes (the ones that bills get sent in, where the return address isn’t written on the back), so I subconsciously developed this idea that scrap paper is very useful, and I must keep all of it. Another theory is that I’m just a bit weird, and this is just one of those weird things I do.