one resolution

Note: I had a real hard time phrasing this post properly .. some pictures would probably help clarify.

I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions, since I’m big on making resolutions all the time. But, when I’m gone for a long time (Christmas vacation) and come home, I tend to have a new perspective on things.

When I got home from vacation, I had a fresh approach on how things were setup in my apartment. I could look at it more objectively since I hadn’t been living there day to day for a week. In my living room, I have a card table where I throw all my incoming mail and just general stuff. I hate organizing and filing paperwork, whether its bills, receipts, things to do or archive or whatever. What happens is I just lump them on my desk and tell myself that I’ll get to them later. Later usually meaning anywhere from next week to next year.

I took one look at my desk and thought, “this system isn’t working. I’m going to completely scrap it.” So, I did.

I realized that the stuff I had sitting around falls in one of very few categories:

  • Bills I need to pay
  • Papers that I think may be important so I want to hang onto them (warranty information, updated insurance stuff, whatever)
  • Receipts
  • Mementos (movie stub tickets, cards, drawings, stuff I wanna keep)

Aside from stacks of ads and newspapers and junk mail that was lying around, that was it. So, I decided that instead of trying to save it all and eventually get around to it, I’d try a new system where I just have a place to put all of it, or get rid of it. Essentially it comes down to four options: deal with it, file it, shred it (or throw it away) or recycle it.

As far as stuff to deal with, that’s just bills. I looked at the ones I hadn’t paid yet so I checked out if I could do online billing so I wouldn’t have to worry about them anymore. That’s already helping. The rest, I just write checks for and send em off. One thing I always do, as well, is I keep my old bills for everything I get sent (credit cards, insurance payments, phone bills, whatever) and archive them in a file folder. I decided I’m not doing that any more. I always hang on them because of this vague sense that someday I might need them or something’s going to happen where I’ll have to look something up. Screw that. That *never* happens. If something does come up, just get on the phone and call them up. I figure I’ll let the corporations do the record keeping, I’m tired of cluttering up my desk and my life dealing with paperwork of stuff that’s routine and isn’t gonna change anyway. I do keep the important ones, like my credit card bill and my credit union statement, but everything else is easy to access and I’ll never need them again. Into the shredder they go.

The recycling stuff is easy, too. I get some junk mail, not a lot, but most of it’s already targeted for me so a lot of times I’ll hang onto it thinking I’ll look at it later. What happens though is I never get around to it, and instead if I need to find something I just use the Internet anyway. So, I just have a small box that sits next to my front door where I immediately throw any junk in there so it gets recycled. That’s done with, too.

There’s also my little mementos. I already have a small tin jar where I keep memorable stuff and keepsakes, but it was getting full, so I found a shoebox and just started using that. It’s big enough to hold everything, and it works great.

Finally for the stuff that’s “important” but doesn’t really fit in a file folder all its own, I just decided to get a set of folders and label them monthly only. That way, if I ever do need them, I can just look back to the month when I think it came up, and I’ve already got it. And I don’t get nervous knowing I threw something away just because I didn’t wanna find a place to file it.

So far, my new system is working great. The biggest problem I had, I realize, is that I completely overestimated the value of some paperwork. Realizing that I hadn’t ever gone back to look up stuff at all, ever (minus financial stuff) really helped put that in perspective. I really hate the feeling of having too much paperwork in my life. I cleaned off, threw away or filed all the clutter on my desk and I can soon get rid of it completely and just have a few boxes on my floor where I deal with all the incoming mail from the moment I get it. Minus the bills, of course. I’m still working on a system for that one.

Best of all, that’s one idea that’s been coming up lately that has been really helpful. Too many times when I have a system that isn’t working, my initial reaction is, “well, you just need more self-control.” That’s just a recipe for disaster because you’re constantly coming up short. It takes some thinking outside the box and using your imagination to scrap the system and start over, but almost everytime I do it, it just works out much better and far more efficient than I could have supposed. It really takes some perspective to see that the entire thing isn’t working, though, and then have the strength of character to start over. It’s worth it, though.

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