Fear of Filing
I knew from working with this client before in other areas of her home that she definitely suffers from the “out of sight, out of mind” syndrome. She is afraid that if she puts something away in a file, she might as well just trash it because she will never think of it again. So she has stacks of papers on the coffee table, on her desk, on her office table, and randomly elsewhere. The clutter bothers her and the fact that when she finds something (ex. papers about her father’s health plan) it is usually just a part of what she needs to start her research and make calls so she just postpones the task. This worries her as some of the tasks are time sensitive.
Sooo….What to do?
First we gathered all of her papers and put them in one spot.
Then we used the “verb” system to do a rough sort. I would ask her, “What is the first thing you need to do with this information? Is there an action required or do you just need this paper for reference?” While going through all of the papers she found a significant amount that she could now just let go to the recycle bin. She had a reason in the past to keep them but not so much now. The categories she came up with for her stacks were:
Do this task this week
Do it when I can
Wait for the right time or someone else’s response
Ask my husband about these papers
3. We then looked at what papers did not really fit into any of those categories and we found:
Current information about her clean streams work
A project she was working on for her dad
Directions and warranties for items in the house
4. We found homes for all of these categories. Normally when I make desktop or action folders I like to use a cascading vertical file holder. We had tried this system earlier in her office downstairs. It obviously was not working. She had recently purchased an attractive file folder with a lid that clasped and had a handle. This has a much better chance of working because it can stay by the coffee table in her living room and this is where she sorts her mail and does many of her projects. The handle allows her to lift it up on the coffee table or couch when she is working. We relabeled the tabs with all her “verb” categories and the one on streams. Coupons were housed in the kitchen. Memorabilia was put into a memorabilia box. A project box was found for her dad’s project. Warranties and directions already had a file elsewhere but she put the directions for the TV in the cabinet below the screen and the directions for her heart monitor in the box it came in as she accesses these frequently.
5. Since we had a lot to file, we used her existing systems to file those items now. Moving forward she can put items in her file section of her folder until it gets too bulky.
6. Last we did the most important task to make this work. She scheduled on her calendar times to look in this folder. I encouraged her to make it the same day every week so that it would eventually become a habit. Ideally this would be every week but some weeks she is gone so we just skipped those weeks and scheduled the next good time after she returned home.
As we finished up our session, she was really pleased with the results. But she held one small set of papers in her hand. “I really need to do this today,” she said. “Do I need to put it into this file?” That’s when we talked about Judith’s “Hot Spot”. She designated a place on her coffee table for any paper task that needed to happen immediately.
I think her fear of filing might be gone!
Jonda S. Beattie Professional Organizer