I spent some time organizing my office the other day, but if you look at the room, you can hardly tell.
In spite of emptying several boxes and finding places for tons of things, I still have stacks of boxes lining the walls, baskets of samples and projects, and piles of papers.
I blame filing.
For me, filing gets placed below wallpapering and barely above cleaning out a moldy old refrigerator in the list of activities to avoid at all costs.
I know. Filing seems innocent. A boring but necessary part of our daily lives. We file at the office. We file at home. We file away our paid bills and our check stubs and manuals and magazines and photographs. Categorization and organization flows through our world, a bureaucracy necessary to even the smallest household.
But for me, filing is insidious and taxing in a mind-numbing way.
Suddenly, pieces of paper become the record of an action. A bill paid. An idea. Instructions on how to work a piece of equipment. The importance of a receipt for the materials used to fix the sink becomes a quest for the perfect folder to hold it. Knowing that I had a stack of receipts just like it, I purchase a box of envelope folders.
Now that I have the means to keep them, each slip of paper becomes a question. Do I need this for taxes? Do I need it for our personal record-keeping? How much do I love this idea I noted on this slip of paper? When I decide to keep something, where do I put it? Does it get filed in a place I know? Do I have to invent a new category?
Cue my brain exploding from the combination of exertion and boredom.
I allow paperwork to pile up into giant towers of credit card receipts and legal documents. Boxes of papers overflow when I put off filing (which I do as often as possible). Years worth of paid bills and check stubs fill wine boxes and bus tubs. File cabinets burst at their seams with old-as-anything paperwork needing to be archived or even discarded.
That’s the sneaky part of filing that no one ever tells you about: once something is filed, then you must maintain the files by archiving files from the previous year in a box to be, yes, filed away in a safe place just in case you get audited. Finally, once your financials age long enough (keep at least seven years in case the IRS ever gets around to you), you unfile them completely and then recycle or shred them.
Yes! That’s the prize! Un-filing and recycling. Or shredding.
And that’s just for the financials.
The ubiquitous “they” recommend keeping the manuals and assorted flotsam and jetsam from appliances, computers, televisions, and assorted household equipment and electronics.
Being good little homemakers, we do that. Or rather, Stephanie likes to do this and I love her so…I file the manuals.
What I do for love.
Here, I have to give appreciation to “them.” The method keeps us from madness. Filing the manuals (and bits that came with the device which we may need) allows us to easily find the instructions for proofing bread in our new oven or finding out how much time a dishwasher cycle should be taking or replacing that screw that fell down into the crawl space with the extra screw that came with the appliance.
I mean, I wasn’t really paying attention, but Steph noticed that our new dishwasher ran for over two hours! One little check of the manual confirmed that we could reduce that time by turning off the drying setting.
Handy, right? But whenever something gets replaced, the manual must be pulled and discarded to make room for the new one. And the file folder has to be evaluated for wear and tear. Can it be reused? Does it need to be recycled? Did we move that box of envelope folders? Can we make one? Where’s the nearest office supply store?
The questions continue.
As a writer and knitting designer, I keep records of my old projects and associated notes, design and story inspirations, initial patterns for designs which have been put on the back burner, story ideas that never went anywhere, swatches from different yarns. Flat folders and envelope folders and even additional accordion files for keeping certain projects more mobile than others all get pulled out and used.
The decisions! Which projects go into the small rolling file cabinet that lives under my desk? Which ones into the tall filing cabinet in my closet? Which projects need to be mobile? Which ones get to go into the antique cherry filing cabinet?
As I continue to organize my studio and integrate our office equipment, I file. I know, in my brain and my heart and my soul, that if I keep up with the task, I’ll keep it from overwhelming me as it does. The pile will never grow and may even disappear sometimes.
However, I just don’t think I’ll ever be able to embrace it as I should. The fascination and allure of a perfectly organized filing cabinet eludes me.
Maybe I could find a good reward! Bribery works well for me. I find it easier to confront a task if I know a taste of chocolate waits at the other end. Or a splash of scotch.
Perhaps a new skein of luxury fingering-weight? Or a new mystery novel?
As I think on it, I believe I’ll stick with the consumables.
At least they don’t have to be filed.