Filing for the Organizationally Challenged

No one has ever accused me of being neat. My middle name should be Packrat. I haven't met a piece of paper that was easy to part with, that didn't make me say, "I might need this someday!"

So you can imagine that papers have overrun my house. And they have. There used to be so much paper, I was afraid my family was just waiting for the appropriate time to call the team from Hoarders. But now, I can say, I am on the path to taming the paper beast. I am getting my documents and papers under control. I am making progress, even though I am far from perfect.

Here are some suggestions that are working for me:

Stop trying to fight the piles—contain them!

If you are like me, then you have piles of papers around the house. My piles are very organized, at least in my head. I can tell you which pile an important document is in and approximately how far down in the pile it is. I can also tell you that the receipt I am looking for is next to the yellow flyer for the local pizza joint I have been meaning to try.

I can locate the piece of paper in the pile with the precision of a bloodhound or a smart drone. That is…until some well-meaning person (a parent, spouse, child or housekeeper) comes along and umm…"helps" me get organized.

This person will put my paper piles into one neat pile, or horror of horrors, throw some of it out without my knowledge or permission. Then, I will be in a state of disorganized panic for weeks until I can put it back into some semblance of order that makes sense to me. Of course, the "helper" would say my ensuing panic is proof that I was totally disorganized in the first place. To that I say, I was fine until he or she came along. Please don’t help me anymore.

To make sure no one else offers help, I have started containing my piles in colorful document or file boxes. They look neat to the average person, but they really are just piles. It helps to put labels on the boxes. I like to make broad categories, i.e. children, money, house, etc., so that I have flexibility.

In the handy file boxes, my piles of paper are more mobile. I can take them with me to different rooms when I am working on a particular project. To be truthful, I own a lovely, sturdy file cabinet, but could never find the time or motivation to use it properly. The document or file box system works for me. No more unsightly piles of papers laying around.

If you can’t beat 'em, file them traditionally!

If, however, you must use a traditional file cabinet (I am not sure why you would, but I am certain you have your reasons), try not to let it intimidate you. Put your document piles in vertical files instead of boxes. Again, broad categories with attractive labels work better for me. I might actually put paper in the file cabinet if I don't have to figure out its specific place in an extremely complicated system.

If in doubt, throw it out!

Get rid of what you can, but don’t let anyone tell you what you have to throw away. Only you can really decide what is and is not necessary. I make it a rule to go through the pile boxes once every 2 months. In that time, my perspective changes a little. I notice I can let go of some documents after a couple of months.

Shred it!

Shred what you discard. Identity theft. Enough said.

Revel in the organized space!

Once you slay the paper dragon, there will be less clutter, and your blessings will have someplace to land. You will feel calmer. You will be better able to locate important documents and amaze yourself and others with your newfound organizational skills.