Because Being A Responsible Adult Dictates NOT Filing Everything In File Thirteen

Well, that pretty much sums it up, don't you think?

No? Okay. Then here's a post.

I hate paper. Not really. I mean, I actually love paper - stationary, paper with designs, pages of books, toilet paper (arguably THE best kind of paper). But I do hate the stacks of paper that have accumulated around Quaint Cottage because nobody knows quite what to do with them (what's the statute of limitations on banes of one's existence?). Since I truly can't trash it all (dagnabit) there has to be, once again, a winnowing and a system implemented. So here we go again.

I tend to not want to conform (read: stubborn streak) to any particular system(s) of someone else's for pretty much anything. I guess I subscribe, at least in part, to the idea that I need to try to custom-make ideas and systems so they best suit my personhood and those of the FabFive. Sometimes that's peachy. Other times it's nothing more than reinventing the wheel and, truthfully, a bit sanctimonious. I realize there are times when I need to bump custom-making and choose customizing...taking someone else's already-thought-through, very good idea and tweak it only enough to fit our lives and purposes. This realization is serving me quite well in accomplishing the annihilation of paper piles (I.like.alliteration).

Having fought this paperwork battle for long days, a couple of years ago I worked hard on setting up a two-drawer filing cabinet. I was very thoughtful in what I made a file folder for in an attempt to keep the filing system from being overwhelming (custom-made). Everything does not need a file folder (read: movie stubs from every movie seen in 1993). In addition to the file cabinet each family member has a mementos box for things that don't necessarily need to be filed, but want to be held on to for sentimental reasons (read: movie stubs from every movie seen in 1993).

This part of the system, the resting place for all of the papers, is well intact and really set up nicely. But guess what (chicken butt)? Nothing ever gets to the filing cabinet. Guess why (chicken thigh)? Because there's no system at the entry level of the paperwork process other than to stack it all until it falls over and somebody gets angry enough to, well, usually, just stack it up again. Angrily. Grrr. Hmph. Argh. Sigh. (That's the sound of the poor sap who's addition to the precarious paper pile finally made it tumble, and is therefore responsible for picking it up...in case you were wondering.)

Clearly, if I knew how to custom-make a workable step at the front end of the paperwork system I would have done it by now. But I don't, and I haven't. So I did what all self-respecting persons needing some sound advice do in times of need: I googled it. Here's what I found, this awesome six file fix. In a nutshell, here's how it breaks down (STOP! Hammertime!):
Comprised of six files labeled as follows -
-Bills (for only unpaid bills)
-To Be Filed (for papers that have a folder in the file cabinet)
-Dated Information (for anything that is time-sensitive)
-To Be Read (for those letters or articles or newsletters that you intend to read at a later time)
-To Be Given Away (for letters or articles or newsletters that you intend to pass along to someone else)
-Unsure (for those papers that you aren't sure you need to keep, but aren't sure you can throw away)

Here's what I did. I created these folders and put them in a small, portable file box.

The file box lives under the computer, bottom left, which is now in the corner of the kitchen (instead of the laundry room).

I also reworked the recycling system so that there were smaller bins by the trash can for our recyclable paper and plastic (the additional, oh, I don't know, 12 steps it takes to throw the recycling in the bins in the laundry room were apparently too much). The contents of the smaller recycle bins are transferred to the large recycle bins when they are full. In addition, I put the paper shredder at this trash/recycle station (out of Little Big Man's reach, I assure you).

With these changes made I can now IMMEDIATELY throw away unwanted paper(s) into recycling, shred sensitive documents (doesn't that sound mysterious?), and then use the six file fix for everything else. And remember, if there are any papers being saved simply because of sentimentality (cards, letters, awards from school, etc.) they get put into the Us's momentos box.

I took a stack of papers that I promise you was atleast twelve inches high, and was able to completely winnow and properly file it in less than thirty minutes (that's why the picture of the six-file box looks full already). Since "unsure" is the label we could've stuck on over half the papers in the stack, I didn't let myself use the Unsure folder. If I was unsure I made myself get sure because enough is enough. That was liberating!

A couple of special notes...If the system is going to work, the To Be Filed Folder has to make it to the file cabinet to BE filed. There needs to be some sort of regular reminder to check the Dated Information file so things are not overlooked, forgotten, or neglected. And if anything is filed in the Unsure folder, you are to date it and THROW IT OUT if nothing has been done with it after three months.

I took it one step further and applied the six file fix to my email, too.

Bills became Blogs, Bills, Passwords
To Be Filed became To Be Printed and Filed
To Be Given Away became To Forward
...and I eliminated Unsure from the choices (only on email).

To additionally cut down on paper, I signed up for e-billing on everything I possibly could.

So there you go. A customization of someone else's really good idea. Afterall, sometimes my efforts to try to come up with solutions someone else has already found is a lot like chaff. And we don't want that now, do we? It's also nice to be reminded sometimes that I can be full of garbage, full of it; that I could use some help; that I don't have the best way or all the answers; that somebody else's good idea may be the best idea.

Hence, hats off (or trash can lids) to the six file fix! Quite a fix, indeed.

Happy sifting, homeskillets.


  1. Ok, here's my question: How do you get your Luffin' Man, aka, your husband, on board with these new systems?? If he's been "doing it his way and it's been working" for years, how do you get him to realize that a) the system is broken and b) the new system will work, but only with his help?

    Can you tell my "attach the paper day" did not go so well?

  2. Ah, yes. The "ain't broke, don't fix it" angle. Gotcha.

    Well, I guess if Ma Luffin' Mayun actually had systems that were working I would try to follow them (ouch, that sounds like man-bashing, but t'ain't). At least for us, we both can see that systems-we-lack, and therefore, sometimes, chaos-r-us. It also may be easier for me to work in a system that he doesn't shirk since we both have lived all but maybe one year of our adult life married to each other. Neither of us really had any systems for anything prior to life together.

    Having said that, it does still all boil down to those stinkers communication and give-and-take. Does his system work? If so, try to use it maybe. Is his system broken? Lovingly and kindly point out the flaw and see if you can give your system the ol' college try.

    Aside from "lovingly and kindly", half-naked might help, too.



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