Monday, October 16, 2006

Paper Crisis

Those of you who have read my book know that my greatest nemesis is paperwork. I hate organizing papers, probably because I am so incredibly inept at it. I've come up with the best possible filing system (at least it's my version of the best possible filing system), but often I still get completely overrun by paperwork. Yesterday I was convinced that I needed another filing cabinet (don't even ask how many I already have). I've eliminated every bit of incoming paper I can by removing our names from the direct mail lists and by handling the household bills through a computer bill-paying service, but there was still a gargantuan stack of papers sitting around, waiting for me to do something with it.

Then it occurred to me that it was the doing part that had me bogged down, not the lack of storage space. In fact, I had half of one filing cabinet drawer that was empty and half of another drawer that had art supplies in it that could be moved elsewhere. So what is the problem? What keeps me from handling paper efficiently?

I (and perhaps you?) simply hang on to information far longer than is necessary. It is important to act on it in a timely matter or let it go. But it's the letting go that is sometimes very hard to do if you're trying to be "nice," or find things "interesting," or just want to "follow up" on something. This can be a deadly trap for those of us who are Organizationally Challenged and are usually already suffering from Stuff Overload. It can give us the illusion of control over our lives when in fact it creates a situation that quickly becomes out of control, i.e., piles of paper all over the place. Witness these few examples from my own stack of papers that I finally decided to tackle:

1. I found a notice I had kept about an acquaintance's retirement. I hadn't seen this woman for over ten years, but I enjoyed her company when our paths had crossed back then and I thought it would be nice to send her a card. She retired in August of 2004. I never sent the card. Let it go!

2. I found a catalog of the "rewards" offered by a credit card company for a card that we rarely use. It was dated Winter, 2005. The catalog is readily available on-line. We don't have enough points for a single reward. Let it go!

3. I found a menu for a lovely little cafe adjacent to a great antiques consignment shop where I had sold many of my smaller antiques during my major un-stuffing effort. I had intended to have a small tea party with friends at the cafe. The shop and cafe closed. Last year. Let it go!

I am embarrassed to say that I found many more outdated items as well as things that now need to be acted upon immediately because I let them languish in that stack of papers for so long. When I finally got to work on them, I ended up with a full bag of shredded paper and another bag of useless paper trash -- and plenty of room in my filing cabinets for what was left.

Conclusion? Don't assume that you just need to buy more organizing stuff to store the stuff you need to organize. If you dig into the stuff itself, you'll often find that you simply need to let it go.

© 2006 Cynthia Friedlob

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