I’m planning on moving out of California within the next year or so, and I don’t particularly want to move 6+ boxes of craft paper, ephemera, old magazines and book pages. That means I need to downsize!
And this fits in perfectly with switching to digital collage vs. paper collage. It’s much easier to store piles of paper on my computer instead of in my home, and though I’ll miss the feel of old book paper and fancy art magazines, I’ll enjoy having less physical stuff to deal with.
That said, it’s taking me forever to actually sort through my ephemera collection. Honestly, I hate cleaning. I procrastinate as much as possible to avoid doing it, but now I need to grab the bull by the horns (so to speak) and actually get some work done if I really do want to move without worrying about lugging along my entire ephemera collection.
Here’s my plan:
1. Organize paper into types.
The easiest step in this whole plan! Like goes with like. Art magazines will be in one pile, old books in another, clippings and paper pamphlets in yet another pile.
Obviously the books and magazines will just be stacked somewhere out of the way until I can get to them, but the clippings and smaller individual papers will have to be stashed in a box (or five) until I can get to them.
My main concern is to get EVERYTHING into a pile (a la Marie Kondo); I keep finding small stashes of ephemera and old books in unexpected locations, which isn’t conducive to being organized. I’ll really need to dig into EVERY nook and cranny to find ALL my ephemera.
2. Immediately get rid of anything that doesn’t wow me.
This is easier said than done. I have a lot of old ephemera from years and years of collecting, and some of it’s so old now that I feel nostalgic about it. Even if it doesn’t suit my current art style, it’s really hard to get rid of because I remember finding it 10 years ago on a trip somewhere.
But I’ll have to be strong! If I can’t see myself using it in the next six months, into the recycling bin it goes. Or, well, into SOMETHING it goes. If it can be donated, gifted, or traded, I’ll do that first.
The important thing is to remember that I don’t have to keep everything, even if it’s old. My sentimental heart may cry for a bit, but if I haven’t used them in 10 years then I’ll probably NEVER use them and they need to leave the house.
3. Go through one pile a week (dividing pile into smaller piles as necessary).
I don’t actually know if this schedule will work for me or not, but I’m being kind of lenient and just assuming that I don’t have more than 52 piles of paper. Also, if the piles are too huge, I’ll divide them in half and sort those instead.
The bound items will be a little more difficult, since there’s so much more paper in them. So here’s my idea: If there’s an entire book I don’t want, I will donate or recycle it. If there’s only a few pages I want, I’ll rip them out and put them into a new pile. If I want the entire book, I’ll set it aside and go through it later.
4. Scan the papers that I DO want.
I’m planning on doing this after finishing sorting through a pile (or maybe two piles), so I don’t get too far behind. Obviously I still want to use my ephemera in my art, but since I’m making digital collages now…I’ll have to digitize them!
It’s a pain in the butt to use a scanner, but if I want to make any progress in my decluttering then I’ll just have to suck it up and do it. (I’ll write another post about my process of digitizing collage elements soon.)
To keep track of which images came from where, and to make sure I don’t have any copyright issues, I’m planning on creating folders for each source. It’s not the best way to organize digital collage elements, but for right now it’ll be good enough. I can always go back and re-organize things later. And obviously I’ll be uploading the best pieces to my Canva account to use in a future collage!
5. Get rid of the physical papers once they’ve been scanned.
Once an item has been scanned then it should be fine to leave the house. Again, I don’t particularly want to trash EVERYTHING, so I might end up giving them away on a crafting Facebook group, or a local artist collective. Sometimes schools can use old magazines and books for art projects– but with the current situation, I don’t think that’s a good idea at the moment.
And that’s my decluttering plan! Hopefully by this time next year I’ll be (nearly) completely paper-free.
Have you ever decluttered a paper ephemera collection before? What did you do with the clippings you no longer wanted?