Monday, December 13, 2010

Clutterbusting, Part 1

[Note: This is the first, in an occasional series on this blog, devoted to helping/inspiring you to get rid of clutter in your life. Heaven knows, most of us have too much of it! --Juli]

It all started with this gift:

A pad of pretty notepaper, a coordinating pen, and a lucite paper holder, tied in a red ribbon. (Thank you, M.!)

But then I tried to put the paper-and-holder combo in one of my desk drawers, and I found this:

Eeek! and this:

Yikes! and this:

Oh, man. There's just no room. So I poked around my desk drawers to see what I could axe. What's not pulling its weight? What makes no sense being in a drawer? And I found this:

Sheesh. It doesn't take a genius to realize a shallow drawer right above one's lap is not the best place to store papers. A LOT of papers. Two inches' worth of papers, as it turns out:

I have a pretty good paper-storage system. I've got four hanging-file drawers, and they hold vertical files with all sorts of stuff I've deemed to be too important to throw out. (Maybe a little too much stuff.) But they're all a standard size, and they're labeled, and--most important--the files are alphabetized.


I think that's pretty good for a person whose neatnik side constantly wars with her hoarder heritage.

When I see a stack of papers two inches high that hasn't been filed into my nifty system, I've got a problem. Either 1)I don't know what files to put the papers in, or 2)I need to create some new categories of files, or 3)I'm a lazybutt who hasn't gotten around to her paper filing recently.

Or, all three.

This time, it turns out it was mostly option #2--I need to create some new categories of files.

Quickly sifting through the paper mountain, it looked like I had four or five categories all mixed together. So, I cleared the decks on a counter top and put papers in piles, one pile per subject. I used little yellow sticky notes to avoid getting piles mixed up.

Turns out I had four new categories, plus some miscellaneous stuff that defied pigeonholing. Ignoring the miscellaneous for a moment, I made four new files:

Then and only then, I went through each file and tossed out stuff that was redundant, unnecessary, or simply out of date. For instance, in the "Writing: things to write about" file, I had notes and handouts on how to get published--from a writing seminar I attended 15 years ago!

I think the publishing industry has changed just a *little* bit since then.

Once all the files were winnowed down, I popped the four new files in the hanging-file drawers. Yay! I'm happy. And look how skinny the completed files turned out to be:

A personal file system--as opposed to one for work--can be as quirky and arbitrary as you want it to be. It's just for your use, after all. No need to impress the boss or co-workers.

For instance, I have a file called "Dogs and Folks." It's filled with scraps of paper describing dogs and owners I've met on my walks, whose names I want to remember.

Some of these folks make the jump from passing acquaintance to fast friend. I won't be needing this card any more:

...because C. and her Cavalier King Charles spaniel, "Charlie," are good friends now and walk the canyon with Pao and me twice a week.

So, go ahead. Make yourself a file called "Awesome Photos of Old Cars," or "Sentimental Sh** I Refuse to Part With" or "Recipes I'll Probably Never Try" or the ever-eloquent, ever-mysterious "Misc."

Just get those papers in a file, and put them somewhere vertical with other like files.

Then sit back and enjoy a job well done. And, in my case, enjoy a place to put my pretty new notepaper:

Now if I could only force myself to weed out that pen and pencil collection....


  1. FIRST thing on my to-do list after the Christmas Crazies are over is to tweek my filing system I worked on this summer when we remodeled our home office; you've given me some GREAT ideas for making it productive, user friendly, and all MINE! Thanks! xoxo

  2. Yay! I'm glad of it. It was a revelation when I realized my personal files didn't all have to be like "Contracts, Pending" but could be totally tailored to my life and idiosyncracies.



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