Sunday, February 5, 2012

My Future Self: Home Office Excavation: Week 4

So you've read about the shifting strata creating mini-avalanches in my home office. These were mounds of stuff that roughly took up 48 cubic feet of space in my home office. It has been daunting to tackle; but I made steady progress this week-end by clearing roughly half of it. I've been shocked at The Paper Demons that have been taking up residence in my Mom Cave! Last week, I mentioned the stamps and envelope thing; but there are other Paper Demons:

Receipts: I saved receipts of everything! There are three reasons:
  1. Upbringing: My mother is a hoarder, a legacy of the Depression and I learned this behavior from her. My Mom not only saved the receipt, but the original box to a major home appliance that stopped working one day before its 30-year warranty expired. The snarky customer service rep told her that she would only get a refund if my Mom had saved the original box. My Mom got her refund and the last laugh besides;
  2. Paranoia: I used to think that something bad would happen to an ex-boyfriend or someone else I didn't like and I would be the police's number one suspect. I envisioned scenes where the officer would ask,"Where were you on the night of March 8, 1993?" And I would be able to whip out a receipt and playbill and say, "I was at The Shakespeare Theatre seeing Hamlet being performed by Tom Hulce!"
  3. False Sense of Historical Importance: I envisioned a future anthropologist digging through my stuff and oohing and aahing over the fact that s/he had discovered that I had a Big Mac on January 4, 2012 at 1:15 in the afternoon, effectively forgetting that upon my death, my immediate/closet of kin or a marshall would not care about this and throw it all out way before some historian had a crack at it. I blame this False Sense of Historical Importance upon Anne Frank, who kept a diary of her quotidian routines and inculcated a love of journal keeping and artifact retention in countless little girls, myself included.
Coupons: Again, this is something learned at my mother's knee. In years past I have clipped coupons, saved receipts with discount offers on them, and even kept used/expired gift cards. The problem is, I never use coupons. I shop at a grocery warehouse that doesn't accept coupons and, even on the rare occasions I go to a "real" supermarket, I forget the coupons at home.

Lists: Oy, the lists. I have fought with this particular Paper Demon for years! I have tried to become the person who is not tethered to lists; but I'm afraid it's a part of my neurotic, compulsive self. I make endless lists every day, on Post-It Notes of every size, backs of envelopes and papers, memo pads, (not to mention google docs and Notes app on my iPhone!) What's on these lists? Titles of books, audiobooks, challenges, series and, quotes; timelines and schedules of all sorts; lists of people and contact info; things to pick up at the grocery store, hardware store, wherever. I create the lists and then they get eaten up by the Great 48 never to be seen again and so, to be re-constructed yet again on another piece of paper.

What do do with all of this stuff and make sense of it all?

I started by dumping sections of the Great 48 into white bins, labeling the dining room table into six categories and sorting through every single piece of paper:

  1. Important Papers: Bank statements, medical receipts, tax-related materials and insurance papers...
  2. Memorabilia: Ticket stubs, playbills, photographs, personal correspondence (letters and cards), artwork & drawings of my child's
  3. School Papers: My child's report cards, returned homework and tests and, school artwork
  4. Recycle: Old catalogues, newspaper clippings (heck, even whole newspapers!), lists that were written on index cards...
  5. Shred: Credit card offers, alumni and Church appeals, receipts that had rather detailed personal information in them
  6. Trash: Paper with any sort of adhesive on them (Post-It Notes, envelopes), used up and expired gift cards, three-dimensional artwork and artwork created from foodstuffs, food wrappers...
After a couple of weeks of this, my DH insisted on re-claiming the dining room table so The Important Papers, Memorabilia and School Papers each got assigned a much smaller blue bin (I discovered five of them in the Great 48!) and later I will break down each bin even further. At that point, I'll talk about storage solutions.

There was one other category that I hadn't planned on but which became quite the consideration, and that was the Donate stack! Besides papers, I was finding a lot of "artifacts" as well. Some of these things got put back where they belonged and others ended up in a couple of bags to donate to local charities. Next week I'll talk about donations.



The picture on the left was taken at night (actually at about 4:00 a.m.) and appears a little murkier than the picture on the right, which was taken during the day.

See Also:
My Future Self: Home Office Excavation (wherein I talk about the impact clutter has on me, both physically and psychologically)
My Future Self: Home Office Excavation: Week 2 (wherein I talk about the effect light has one the space and me and; the importance of planning)
My Future Self: Home Office Excavation: Week 3 (wherein I talk about momentum)
Flashback Friday: The List (to see an example of a list I kept. Imagine about a thousand of these lists! That's the nature of the beast I'm contending with. BTW, I came across that very list at about 2 o'clock this morning and it was put in recycling)

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