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Project: Simplify presents: The Paper Trail

May 13, 2011

As I have said before, I am by nature a very organized person.  But somehow having a baby, trying to start a new business, and trying to keep up with the house have become things I can’t seem to manage all together.  Months ago, literally, I took this picture of my office desk (in what we somewhat ironically call our “library”, even though we have books in nearly every room in the house):

Not even half the stuff that needs organizing or filing is shown here.

I was drawing on the urging of the Simple Mom blog to get myself going on cleaning out, refiling, finding a home for, and all the other tasks that needed doing regarding our paper lives.  In an era where we are supposed to be paperless, why do I still have just as much paper as I ever did?  I get a few less bank statements and certainly less catalogs.  Yet there are always small piles everywhere that need something done with them.  But they sit because, well, what do I do with them? When I get started with one pile, inevitably that leads to the next pile that I also need to go through, and I get about halfway through each of four piles before I get distracted by my son, or my need to find my water glass, or the phone or something.

What is all this stuff that lays around beckoning to be dealt with?

  • piles of notes about items that need doing for my new store
  • ads we’ve gotten in the mail that we want to figure out how to stop, and so have to call or email someone about
  • newsletters and reports from our financial institutions that I feel bad pitching without reading, but never really understand and so never finish
  • books or magazines that got started but were interrupted and set down for the next spot of free time
  • manuals, articles, flyers that have information I want to read but that isn’t urgent, and so, can wait, and wait, and wait…
  • wedding, shower, 1st birthday, graduation party reminders that we need to keep out to remember to RSVP, or buy that present…

Nearly always something needs my attention, but I want to do it later, not now, and so it goes into the piles.  And the later just gets later, until the pile gets bigger and dealing with it more onerous.  Why is this so hard to reign in?  I’ve seen it recommended that you put everything into three piles immediately upon receiving said item:

Pitch it, file it, process it.

Then, you pitch the first pile, file the second, and put the last into a pile that you handle on a schedule – once a day, or once a week, or whatever suits you.  But I don’t understand how to really enact this super-simple plan because the things that go in that “process it” pile need different things!  Some need a phone call, or to be read in more detail, or to be filled out and returned.  Some need to be discussed with my husband, compared against something I’ve already gotten before and filed and need to find, or need to be further researched.  Some just need to stay front-and-center so we don’t forget whatever it is talking about.

How I Feel Most of the Time

I actually did spend about 6 hours one day filing, piling, tossing, shredding, and for about two days had a pristine and clean desk.  Today I have five active piles just on this desk.  Not to mention the bills in the bill basket and the two random baskets that are overflowing with stuff that needs some kind of mental attention.

It seems like I never make much headway on getting ahead in the paper game.  Do you?

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