“…just inside the door and I reached up for the ring but it was not my thing.  Mine will be throne like no other known- a place to end the tale; read the paper trail. A thousand letters telling me this is how it will be…”

Earth to Andy.  Oh, Earth to Andy.  While I realize you no longer exist, I still can’t get you out of my head.  Especially THIS song.  It’s called The Crown and there’s just somethin’ about it.  I can’t quite put my finger on it but…I could listen to it over and over and over…  Okay, I HAVE listened to it over and over and over!  Hundreds of times! This lyric is ESPECIALLY poignant to me this week though.  You know, choosing the opportunities that are right FOR. YOU.  Deliberately crafting a life that you love.  Having time to enjoy it; to look back on it all.  But more simply, the freakin’ paper trail.

PAPER.  YOU ARE MY EVEREST.

Well, not really.  I kinda love paperwork but for you normal people out there, I can feel your pain.

My husband and I moved from Charlottesville, Virginia to Franklin, Tennessee a little under two years ago.  As we were getting our home ready to put on the market, we realized that there were certain home maintenance issues we’d…ignored.  We’d built this pond in our back yard that was freakin’ fantastic but we had all this left over river rock that we kinda dumped in a pile.  Technically we made a “rock garden” but really, it was just an ugly pile.  With bugs and worms and who knows what else.  We knew we’d have to get rid of the pile before the house went on the market and guess who got the job of moving all those rocks? That’s right, ME.  And lemme tell you, I was not happy.  Not happy at all. I put it off.  I made excuses.  I almost convinced myself it didn’t look “that bad”.  Finally, a few days before the realtor was coming back, I gave in and started moving the rocks.  My husband was outside doing other stuff in the yard when I finally bit the bullet.  I cursed.  I belly ached.  I tried shovels, buckets, rakes, pots…Nothing I did made it any easier. Nothing I did made it go any faster.  NOTHING.  In the middle of a particularly colorful tirade (I’m pretty sure my husband was stifling laughter the WHOLE time.), I stopped.  It was like a light bulb went off in my head.  I sat back on my heels and turned to my husband and said “This must be what regular people feel like when they have to deal with paperwork!!”  He laughed.  I mean, straight up guffawed.  I dunno if it was the “regular people” comment or the fact that he’d just been holding it in so long that he couldn’t contain it anymore.   He laughed but I got it. I mean, I. GOT. IT.  From that moment on, my approach changed. Instead of cursing each rock I had to pick up and only focusing on all the rocks I hadn’t touched yet, I started to focus on the ones in my hands.  I dealt with one rock at a time.  And slowly- and I do mean SLOWLY- that dump of a rock garden got moved.  And I didn’t hate every single second of it.  I mean, it’s not like it was all rainbows and roses but the seconds no longer ticked by like hours.  My attitude changed.  I started looking at the work I’d already completed instead of all the stuff I had left to do.

The point of that little anecdote is that I felt about moving those rocks the same way you feel about dealing with all those papers.  Those piles of papers.  Years of papers. Papers upon papers.  (The funny thing was, it never occurred to me to tackle that pile of rocks the same way I tackle a pile of papers until I was in the midst of misery. And sweat.  So. Much. Sweat.)  The sense of dread.  The unabashed agony that sits on your chest when you allow yourself to really look at your paperwork/mail/filing situation.  I know you’ve tried strategies upon strategies to make it easier.  You’ve bought folders and bins and label makers.  You’ve taken hours to clean it all up, sworn that it’ll never get this way again, and then felt like crap because a month later you were right back in the same situation.

Take a breath.  For real.  Breathe.

I’ve got this paperwork situation handled.

Before we dig into the nitty gritty though, there are two things you need to know.  Ready?

  • Organization- at least GOOD organization- is simple.  Simple in the fact that it’s uncomplicated.  Good organization is straight-forward. It makes your life EASIER.  Navigating the organization in your house should NOT look like that scene in The Pacifier where Shane unlocks the Ghost.

  • Any organizational system in your life needs to work when you’re lazy.  If it doesn’t, the system is flawed.  Come on, if we were always motivated, always on top of everything all the time then we wouldn’t even need systems.  A successful system works even when barely put any work into it.

With that being said, every good system for managing paperwork starts with…

THE. MAIL.  

You’ve got to have a designated spot for your mail to land.  Okay, you need more than a spot.  You need a container.  It should be cute, accessible and not too big.  In my house, we have a cute blue and white bin on our “landing zone”  (That’s a fancy name for the table where our mail bin lives along with a container for loose change and another one for keys.) where the mail ALWAYS goes.

Always.  Always.  ALWAYS.

If you’ve had an absolutely TERRIBLE day, you’re not gonna wanna deal with bank statements and those coupon fliers whose pages seem to multiply like a Mogwai in a rain storm!  You just wanna drag your hiney through the door, maybe grab a beverage, and call it a night. If you have a mail bin then guess what?  YOU’VE BEEN SUCCESSFUL!  You haven’t just thrown it somewhere that no one will ever find it.  It isn’t all mixed in with those recipes on your counter.  And, best of all, if anyone asks where the mail is, YOU CAN TELL THEM!  Heck, they shouldn’t even have to ask!  And the best thing about the mail bin?  You ALWAYS have the option of dealing with the mail right then and there if you’re feeling industrious.  (Just so you know, that usually doesn’t happen at my house!  On a good day I might pull out out the fun stuff and then leave all the boring/annoying stuff in the bin.)

(Now I obviously don’t adhere to the “touch it once” rule.  You know, what I’m talking about right?  According to the “touch it once” rule, as soon as a paper touches your hand it should be dealt with immediately.  Wanna know why I don’t adhere to that rule?  Because IT DOESN’T WORK WHEN YOU’RE LAZY which means you’re setting yourself up for failure which in turn means you feel like crap about yourself on a regular basis.  And that’s never good.)

The one rule with the mail bin is that you can’t just leave the mail in it indefinitely.  Either when you find the motivation or on a designated day each week- whichever comes first- you have to make yourself go through the bin and clean it out.  This means opening everything, shredding or tossing the junk, cutting the coupons, and then moving the papers you need  to keep on to their next destination.  That post will be ready next week.  (I didn’t wanna COMPLETELY overwhelm you!)

Your job, between now and then, is to set up and start using a mail bin. I’d love to see pictures!

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