Conversations on Filing

“An office stores documents. It’s up to us to organise them.” That’s what my father thought of filing.

I remember my first job in the office when I was about 12 was filing in the big Lever arch files, placing them in the metal filing cabinets. Each document had to have a section in which it belonged. The holy of holies for filing, the strong room was out of reach for me in those early days. This is where the important files were kept: company financials, insurance policies, deeds and plans and my father’s important personal files.

The family passports and identity documents were always stored at home in the safe. Also in the home safe was his will and some historical documents relating to my grandparents. In the office strong room he stored his speeches and personal letters.

The files in the strong room were always carefully labelled. In the days before computers, they were stencilled on, colour coded in keeping with various subjects.

It is a strange personality trait that I have inherited, to look upon organised files and feel satisfied. In the computer age I save time by not labelling cardboard files nor punching them, and by storing digital copies that are searchable on my computer and backed up on the cloud, in case of the proverbial fire. The scanned documents are placed in boxes for each year and in 5 years now I have yet to go back to one of those boxes. My boxes do not feel as powerful as the files in the strong room. They use up less space, and are hidden from sight as I reference only off the computer. It’s a bit like having an e-reader and missing turning the pages of a book.

My father’s filing system failed at home next to his bedside. He accumulated newspapers and financial magazines for months and would wade through them when he wasn’t too tired. I supposed  he would file the information away in his brain. My mother fought ongoing battle trying to keep the pedestal clean.

Filing was a bit like collecting information for statistics. That was one my father’s favourite topics.  He often said: “Statistics are like bikinis.  What they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital.”

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