I just shredded years of my life

I am on a relentless quest to get rid of the paper clutter that’s bogging me down. Last March, I took an entire day to sort all of my papers and create a new, simplified filing system. I’m happy to say that nearly a year later, it’s still working. You can read about it here. And the six-month update is here.

IMG_6485

tidyingNow that I’m keeping up with new papers coming into the house, phase two is eliminating all of the old clutter I let accumulate over the past twenty-five years. I recently read and really enjoyed this revolutionary little book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, by Marie Kondo. I followed her advice to take care of clothing and books before moving on to paper clutter. I had success with this, which you can read about here.

One of the keys to her system is putting all of the items you’re sorting into one room so you can evaluate it all at once. This way, you know how much you’re dealing with. Then when you finish your sorting and discarding, you keep all of that item in one place. I had papers in four rooms of my house. Here’s what I started with when I put everything together, although you can’t see all of it because of a filing cabinet and a few stacked boxes:

IMG_8006

At first I felt completely overwhelmed by the task ahead, but Kondo’s advice is to tackle a category all at once rather than a little bit at a time for a more emotionally satisfying experience and to prevent relapse. I treated myself to a large coffee and pretended it was a party (as you can imagine, this took some imagination).

The next step with paper clutter is to separate non-sentimental papers from those that you consider sentimental. This was the part that really gave me difficulty. Besides old bills and receipts and other nonessential paperwork, she recommends getting rid of all lecture notes. I have most of the papers I’ve written since high school, along with notebooks, syllabi, and other evidence of my education. They shouldn’t be sentimental; I’ve never looked at them again, so obviously they’ve long outstayed their usefulness. But it seems anything I’ve ever written is sentimental because “writer” is the essence of me and it feels like I’m throwing away a part of myself.

The task went faster when I put these items into my sentimental pile and instead moved on to boxes like this:

IMG_8011

Shredding ten years’ worth of phone and electric bills was oddly satisfying (except in that fact that my local recycling center doesn’t take shredded paper.

When I was all finished (I think about six hours later), this is what left my house:

IMG_8019

Unfortunately, this is what’s left for sentimental items:

IMG_8032

About half of that is my kids’ stuff, and the rest is letters, history papers, old calendars, greeting cards, workout logs, and other miscellaneous stuff I never look at. I will save the next installment of my clutter journey to explore why these items are so hard to part with.

I highly recommend Kondo’s book. Check it out and please let me know what are the toughest material possessions for you to manage.

Thanks for reading and take care,

Grete

 

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.

cropped-givingmyselfawaycover.jpgAmazon button

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

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.

IMG_6488

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.

cropped-givingmyselfawaycover.jpgAmazon button

The paper clutter disaster that was dragging me down

FullSizeRender (4)Everyone who knows me knows I am super-organized. At work, I can pull out any file, piece of paperwork, or email you might need in a minute or less. I’m compulsively on time, and everything goes into my calendar.

But beneath the veneer of the put-together version of myself was the stress caused by a teetering mountain of papers covering half of our dining room table that got scooped up and shoved into my bedroom closet when we needed the whole table. Coming home from work to look at that overwhelming stack of bills, receipts, school papers, and who-knows-what was disheartening. Every night I said I’d deal with it and every night I threw the day’s mail on top of the pile and ignored it for another day.

I made it a goal for this year to once and for all tackle this little nightmare and, yes, this new year’s resolution took more than two months to cautiously say I think I’ve got it licked. I reached the point where having to shuffle through months’ worth of papers to find the form my son needed for school the next day or to remember to pay that bill on time felt worse than the daunting work of fixing it. “Filing” for me meant periodically throwing out papers that were no longer relevant and sorting the rest of them into some semblance of priority.

FullSizeRender (3)

I took an entire day from breakfast til dinner to salvage my sanity (and our tabletop). I started by sorting everything into piles (school, tax receipt items, upcoming bills, etc.). Things that needed to be filed but didn’t need ready access got put into my office filing cabinet. I made a few files for papers I expected to be filing regularly in the upcoming months.

I bought a cute fabric box that fit on my new writing bookshelf (because I’m girly and I feel more inspired to put things away in a cute box than a metal filing cabinet). Every day I put in any papers that can’t be recycled, and once a week I have to deal with everything that’s in the box, whether it’s filing to the office filing cabinet, making an appointment, paying a bill, or whatever else might be in there.

IMG_5831I’ve felt such a load lifted from my shoulders in the past few weeks as I come home from work to see a beautifully clear dining room table, ready for family dinner. I feel at peace when I look at my file box, knowing it never has more than a week’s worth of papers in it.

I’d love to hear what you’ve done to lighten your own load. Please comment!

 

 

Please check out my first novel, Giving Myself Away. Divorced mom Adrienne gets pregnant after fooling around with a lonely mortician. He wants to marry her and raise the baby together, but she has other ideas. 

cropped-givingmyselfawaycover.jpg

Amazon |  Barnes & Noble | Apple iBooks |

Kobo Books | BAM | IndieBound | Powell’s