Paper Clutter Disaster: the six-month update

A few months ago, I shared my secret shame, my piles of disorganized household papers that were making a mess and causing me constant stress. If you missed it, here’s a link. The problem bothered me because I am extremely organized at work and overall pretty neat.

As of that blog, I had been practicing a new system for about three months, and I’m happy to tell you that at the half-year mark, my paper clutter is still under control, thanks to this very easy organization method.

IMG_6486Every new paper that comes into the house goes into fabric box I keep on my writing shelf. There are only four “active files” in my box, standing up in the back. For me, they are:

1. Goals/Projects/To Do – where I put random lists or ideas

2. 2015 bills/claims – anything for tax purposes

3. 2015 writing receipts – I keep my writing business paperwork separate

4. Gift certificates/shopping/coupons – I pull this file out as needed for household purchases

Anything that doesn’t fit into one of those folders goes into the pile at the front of the box. Once a week, I go through that pile and file what needs to be saved in my filing cabinet, make calls for appointments, or handle whatever else is in the pile. It never gets overwhelming when I keep up with it weekly.

IMG_6489I’ve found the most papers come from my two sons’ schools. There are pictures, permission slips, artwork and other mementos they want to save, and information on upcoming events. The papers we will need in the future go in the main pile. For keepsakes, I bought a Hefty clear plastic box with a locking lid for each son and enough envelopes for each school year.

It took us some time to sort through previous years’ papers and art, but once those were all in envelopes, the rest of the organizing has been easy. I’ve put anything we might want to keep on top of the envelopes in their boxes, and now that school is over we will sort through and keep enough to fit into one envelope.

Each envelope is labeled on the front with name, grade, school year, and school name. When they are ready for them as adults, I will hand over their boxes, all finished.

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One of the keys for finding more satisfaction in my life is feeling like I have some control over the little things. I constantly felt like I was failing because I couldn’t keep up with my paperwork. This little victory has allowed me to feel so much more relaxed and peaceful when I’m at home.

If you enjoy reading my blog, please check out my first novel, Giving Myself Away, about a divorced mom making tough choices and a fresh start.

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The broken cup

I am a person of routine. I wake up at 5:40 without an alarm, make a cup of coffee, toast two pieces of raisin bread, spread two tablespoons of peanut butter on my toast, then have my toast and coffee with the same cup and the same plate every morning.

As you can guess, the cup is the one that’s all smashed up in the picture above.

One morning I used a different mug to make green tea because I wasn’t feeling well and I knew the tea would be soothing. My son was reaching up over his head in the cabinet to pull out a cup for his own breakfast and wouldn’t you know it, my favorite cup smashed all over the floor. He was extremely apologetic, and I told him it was okay, but I had to go into the other room where I burst into tears.

This was a cup that my mom had bought for me. It was handmade glazed pottery. It felt smooth in my hands and it was the perfect size and the perfect color. If you have a favorite coffee mug, you know the feeling I mean when the cup is just the right weight and the handle fits just right with your hand. This cup felt like it was made for me. I loved the soothing color of the glaze. I loved that it was a gift from my mother that I used every day and enjoyed so much.

My son picked up the handle from the floor and said, “This piece doesn’t have any jagged edges. We could put it in a special little box and save it.”

This is the moment I snapped back to reality and was thankful that I had a son who needed my guidance on how to handle broken things, because life is full of broken things.

“We’re going to pick up the pieces and throw them out,” I told him. “If we save the handle, every time we look at it, we’ll remember the broken cup. It’s just a cup and we can’t make a shrine to a cup.” Of course, I had to take a picture of my cup. I never would have thought to take a picture of my cup when it was intact because I took it for granted that it would be there to use every day. But after a few days, I deleted it from my phone, realizing I needed to let it go.

This happened a few weeks ago and I’ve moved on. I have a new favorite cup. It’s made in China and it’s not very attractive and I don’t feel like looking at Christmas lights in the summer, but it holds coffee and it does the job. I figure this cup will get broken someday too, and that’s okay.

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If you enjoy reading my blog, please check out my first novel, Giving Myself Away, about a divorced mom making tough choices and a fresh start.

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