Saturday, March 10, 2012

Conquering clutter one bedspread at a time

“How would you organize these papers if you didn’t have a queen size bed to put them on? When you find an answer, do it!”
My own sign glares at me.
Some people talk to themselves. I go one better—I write a conversation between conflicting parts of my brain and hang it up.
I should be drafting my column, but I’m torn—should I clean my office, once a children’s bedroom, or ignore the chaos and write?
It’s a terrible decision for a woman married to clean freak. I know how he’d vote.
Stacks of paper litter the room’s bed and my desk. It gets worse: as our children moved out, I moved boxes and files of paper into closets: papers I collected, papers my husband and I collected, papers I inherited from my mother.
Everyone but me is moving into a paperless world. Idaho’s next earthquake will come when the continental shelf shifts under my stockpile.  
My phone keeps ringing—somebody with the odd last name of “Hoarders.”
My excuse? Paper is the stuff of family history.  That 1969 funeral program could provide the name of a long-forgotten cousin.  Those scribbles on theme paper can teach me how Mom dealt with four deaths of close family members, including her mother, during the year she gave birth to my sister.  
Historic papers, photos, recipes and other surprises lurking in boxes will provide documentation for projects that I must complete—if I ever get them organized so I can find them when I need them.
Maybe the Internet has the answers.  
The site “Women’s,” says:  
“According to Susan Silver (Organized To Be The Best! Adams Hall Publishers, 1995), when it comes to files and piles, people have three fears.
Afraid to make a decision. If you don't know what to call a piece of paper, you'll end up calling it nothing. If it doesn't have a name, it doesn't get a home. Such orphans collect in unnamed stacks, piles, drawers and in-boxes. Afraid to discard anything. Heaven forbid you should throw anything out—you might need it someday. Afraid you'll never see it again. Filing an item in some systems is like flinging it into a black hole. If that describes your system, stacks and piles are indeed a lot safer.”
With all three fears, I have “papyrophobia: fear of paper,” according to the “The Phobia List” website.
Women’s Media site’s article, “First Step on the Road to Paper Control,” says:
“1.) Schedule a block of time when you can work without interruption. Be sure to have large trash containers close by. Get yourself mentally ready to attack.
“2.) Scoop everything together in a central location. Ask yourself…’Do I really need this?” No…Then toss it or recycle (that’s what the trash containers are for); no…cancel the subscription; no...if you ever do need it, you can find it elsewhere; no…it’s old or out of date; no…you can delegate or pass on the information.
“If your answer is ‘Not all of it…cut out the article and throw away the magazine; if it’s maybe…toss into a big box to sort through later. [Whoops—that’s what I did with my Mom’s stuff two years ago!]  If later never comes, then guess what? …toss it in the trash or recycle; if it’s yes…when? Only immediate action paper goes back on your desk.”
It sounds exciting—plowing through the paper mess, setting myself free to soar, to create, to achieve.  My husband will be thrilled!
I’m going to do it, too—after I shove these piles of paper aside and take a snooze on this handy bed.

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