So you've removed yourself from all those catalog mailing lists. Your newspaper now arrives digitally. Congratulations on stemming the flow before it has a chance to enter your home! Doesn't it feel great?
Now your inbox is tidy, but you're left looking around at the boxes of backlogged papers. You know the drill: "Today's the day I will get rid of those papers from 2012 because I'm so tired of seeing those boxes, and I need the space for a larger workspace!" You sit down with a cup of coffee, open the first box, and then your heart sinks. "Oh yeah, there's that old will that I can't toss yet; that reminds me that I still haven't updated it." Onto the next paper: "Shoot, here's a card I wrote to Sarah that I really should have sent because it was important. Should I send it now? Maybe she would appreciate the sentiment. But maybe it's too embarrassing to send it at this point? But I put a lot of effort into writing it. I don't know." You set that paper down. On and on it goes. Now you have a new pile outside the box, almost as haphazardly arranged, except for the fact that all the papers are now more neatly arranged. "That's progress, right?" you ask yourself. You notice the time and realize you have to be on a call in two minutes. You chuck the papers back into the box with a resounding thud. With an air of defeat, you vow to take care of that box over the weekend.
Sound familiar? Many clients describe that scenario (or some similar version) playing out as they tried to organize on their own before deciding to hire me. They were trying to make decisions on papers in at least ten categories simultaneously: bank statements, birthday cards, home repair bills, legal files, diplomas, parking tickets, letters from loved ones, multiple versions of resumes, IRAs and roll-over instructions for the retirement account yet to be rolled over, and all those articles torn out from AAA Via Magazine so you could recall which road trips you wanted to take. Are you tired just reading all that? Perhaps you felt like a ping pong ball bouncing back and forth among all those categories. It's no wonder organizing papers can be exhausting when done alone and without a structured plan of attack.
Now imagine the weekend rolls around, and you have committed to tackling that box again. Now you're laser-focused. You bring the box to your dining room table and try something entirely different because you're tired of feeling exhausted in a mere matter of minutes. You decide to sort the papers first so you can see what's going on. You create broad categories:
Doesn't that seem a little less taxing on the eyes? You've reduced the categories down to a manageable number, and related papers are together. Now you can deal with each category, one at a time. You've successfully laid the foundation to make decisions as to what to keep. It feels more manageable and less chaotic. You're now well on your way to emptying that box and filing the few papers you want to keep.
Author: Judith Dold
Musings from yours truly about all things organizing.