Papers I – KonMari

Starting with papers may have been a bad idea.

The benefit to starting with clothes is probably that you have comparatively instant gratification. You can see the results pretty quickly.

Papers are hard.

New plan: after papers: clothes and then books.

On the other hand, I now totally get why Marie Kondo commands suggests that you find absolutely everything in that category first. It’s because every time you realize you have more, there’s this horrible sinking feeling of doom.

To quote Stephanie Pearl McPhee, “ask me how I know.”

I started the paper project with great enthusiasm. I hauled out the three file boxes, expanding envelope, and then the tray in which the recent stuff sits and started going through it.

And then it hit me…

I have a 2-drawer filing cabinet in the office. Other than occasionally stuffing my IRA statements in there 4 times a year, I don’t really go in there. 2 huge drawers stuffed to the gills.

After dragging all of that out  and about halfway through the process of chucking stuff, I remembered that I have a 12 inch stack of used legal pads in my main closet. And later, I looked down into some of the baskets in the living room and found more there still. At that point, I just ransacked everything. I know I still have some storage containers with “papers,” but I’m 99.99% they’re of the sentimental type. That’s in the last category so I’m safe there.

Haul ALL of the category out first. Lesson learned.

When I was a kid, back before they’d discovered fire, my dad kept all of the family’s personal financial papers in these small file boxes in the basements. Every week, he and my mom would sit in the kitchen paying off the bills. They had a system. Dad kept most of the stuff in these smallish manila envelopes. On the top would be a grid where he’d write the check number, amount paid, date paid etc.

That worked great in the 60s through the 00s. In the first place, very few people had personal computers. For quite a long time, there was no Internet. And even after there was, putting your personal data online would have sounded insane. Even now, there are very valid reasons for not putting your data online.

When I moved out of the house, I copied Dad’s system. It was all I knew and it made sense. It worked for a while. He kept a lot. So much so that when he died, my mom spent a very long time trying to figure out what was what, what could be purged, and what had to be shredded.

This doesn’t quite show you the full horror of me using Dad’s filing system for the past 20 years, but I’m hesitant to post pics that show any of my personal information.

I thought I was ruthless with paper. People at work will vouch at how I can be when I see clutter. But I think the problem for me is that when I’ve gone through papers in the past, I’ve just kept everything in situ. You pull it all out and it’s a whole different story.

Apparently I thought it was necessary to keep every single paper I wrote from high school through graduate school. In a way it was oddly fascinating to see how technology has progressed in the time I’ve been alive. I had neatly hand-printed papers, then the typewritten stuff, then (hold onto your hats) laser-printed papers, papers written with the exotic WordPerfect, and finally stuff from library school written on whatever version of Word was in back then.

Handled each item. Some of it sparked joy, at least momentarily before fading away, all of it is waiting to be hauled out on Friday with the recycling. We’re talking easily 3-5 feet of paper.

There is also a 3-foot pile of material to be shredded. I have just learned that there are companies that will do this for you for a fee. I may investigate that. Some I want to shred myself–for example, every single pay stub from the extremely toxic job I held for 8 long years. I think that will be a very cathartic experience.

Kondo talks a bit about warranties and instruction booklets. She’s not a fan. A few years ago, I invested in that shallow box depicted above, found all my manuals and warranties and put them in it. And it’s worked well. She may not look to manuals, I do. But when I finished sorting (that will be a separate post), I went through all the manuals and warranties, tossed all the extra sales material, the ones for items I no longer have or need. And now it looks like it does above.

This has taken me several days. In my next post, I will have everything sorted and you can see the results.

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