Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Organization for the hopelessly disorganized

The Husband would be rolling on the floor if I told him I was writing a blog post on organization tips. He'd get up, wipe his eyes and wander off, chortling, "You? YOU?"

But I figure if something works for a congenitally-disorganized recovering Messie, it must be a pretty good tip.

I thought about all this as I was searching out paperwork over the holiday weekend and cleaning up my home office. If I could just do the things I was supposed to do at the times I am supposed to do them, life would go so much more smoothly.

I do have a go-to system for filing that worked beautifully until I, ahem, stopped doing it -- mysteriously and for no good reason in June of this past year. And this weekend's search for paperwork reminded me why I should redouble my efforts to get organized and STAY organized.

The supah-secret-solution to never having to hunt for important paperwork?

Forget file folders and filing cabinets.

Yeah, I said that.

Think about it: a file drawer could be a mini-tower housing the Bermuda Triangle under my tender care. I've had file cabinets that I jammed with so much stuff that I couldn't open it to put more stuff in, and I couldn't close it once I got it open.

Plus, file folders hold only a limited amount of stuff, and unless I use a binder clip (expensive and hateful), my papers can fall out or get disorganized. Or (and this is how it usually happens), I'd get in a hurry and take something OUT of the file folder and then, ahem, never put it back.

Plus-plus, with a filing cabinet, I tend to make too many sub-categories, which means I have a tough time remembering HOW I filed something. Finding anything turned out to be one gigantic game of Concentration.

None of that is conducive to encouraging good filing habits.

So instead I use the jumbo-size three-ring notebook binders, the kind that you can buy at your handy-dandy office supply store and slip a label on the edge of it. Bank statements, credit card statements, retirement account statements, royalty statements -- pretty much any kind of paperwork you get on a monthly basis that you need to keep up with.

I take a three-hole punch, skewer those statements and drop the latest one in on top. I don't have too many binders -- one for my bank, one for my credit card, one for Harlequin -- think BIG categories here. The resulting binders stack neatly on bookshelves, and their contents never get confuzzled.

The Sister HATES my system. She is a teacher, and apparently for every new gimmicky fad in education, teachers are given a new binder.

She is also Martha-Stewart-incarnate, so "Martha" that she hides her microwave in a cupboard. The Sister hates how my binders look on a shelf, as there's no possible way they can be disguised to look like fine works of literature. She'd rather tuck all that ugly in a filing drawer -- her filing cabinet is made of dark cherry and looks like something you'd find in a super-organized office in the 1800s.

The Sister, however, has a better memory than me, and she can actually find things that she files. She was exhorting me just to go back and get a new filing cabinet (I tossed mine years ago when it appeared to be a purgatory for dead trees) and try filing once again.

Nope. The best tip of all when it comes to organizing yourself is to realize what you will or won't do -- because organization, like eating healthy and exercising, is a life-style choice. I have to find my limits, find what I am willing to do on a consistent basis, and then stick with it.

And you know what? My system works for me. It may not work for you. It may drive my sister crazy. But for this anti-filing gal, it's the secret of my success.


Stephanie McGee said...

LOL. You have to find what works best for you. For me, I'm a combination of you and your sister. I have file cabinets and such for a lot of things. But when it comes to my works-in-progress, I have binders. And spiral-bound notebooks. It just works. Thanks for sharing!

Tawna Fenske said...

Amen on finding what works for you!

I'm a file cabinet gal myself, but I'd never insist that's the end-all-be-all of organization. The husband is a hopeless pack rat, and no matter how many times I tell him that the TOP DRAWER of the file cabinet is packed with HIS STUFF and that it's all neatly LABELED and ORGANIZED, he can still never find anything I've put there for him.


Linda G. said...

Exactly -- different organizing strokes for different folks. Mine would probably be incomprehensible to anyone else, but I can always put my hands on whatever I need, so I guess it works. And, on the plus side, it makes me indispensable around here. ;)

Cynthia Reese said...

Stephanie, for my WIP, I usually just keep everything all nice and digital ... makes it easier to C&P. But so much of what I get as far as the business end of writing is all on paper ... my downfall.

Tawna, it took me decades to admit that, uh, maybe filing cabinets don't work for everybody. And to realize that specificity is my enemy when it comes to filing.

Linda G, I've never thought about it, but maybe THAT's the reason I don't file ... knowledge is power, and knowledge of where that all-important paper is -- that's ABSOLUTE power!

Anonymous said...

I'm so disorganized it drives my father, who's obsessive compulsive when it comes to filing, crazy. However, I think your way would definitely work for me! :)

Jamie D. said...

LOL - People would be less than impressed with my filing system. I do have a filing cabinet...chalk full of old story ideas and research, contracts for loans (house, car, etc), titles, and passports. None of the day to day stuff though.

Every January 1st, I start a new box. Yes, a box.

I have a drawer in the kitchen just under where I store the bills waiting to be paid and open the mail. Anything all year long that needs to be saved goes into the med. sized cardboard box (I get them from my Avon lady) that lines that drawer. Receipts, invoices, bank statements, tax documents...all just gets tossed in that box. It takes the whole year to fill it up. Then I replace it, mark the top with the year, and store it in the basement. I have to dig through it at tax time (or when I need anything else), but at least everything is all there in one, well, box, so it never gets lost. And the tax return copies go in there too.

The ultimate in lazy filing...but it works for me. ;-)

Sharon Axline said...

I like file cabinets - they're good for hiding stuff. Um... I'm probably the most disorganized messy (aka slob) you've ever met. If my desk at work is clean as in nothing on it I start shaking. It's just not right Dangit!
Binders though...hmmm...must ponder those.

Kathi Oram Peterson said...

I use file cabinets. They've helped me a great deal. But I'm always open to learning something new. Thanks for the good organizing tip!


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